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By: Ted Villegas, TedV Studios, Guest Blogger

When hiring a Professional Photographer or Videographer … why are the fees so different from one company to the next? And, how do I know that I’m hiring the right company?

The #1 Burning Question

This may possibly be the #1 burning question in many clients’ minds when it comes to hiring a Professional Photographer or Videographer. Well, as a general rule, we all know the old saying “You typically get what you pay for”. Now let me clarify this further by saying the highest cost Photographer or Videographer doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they will do the best job over and above any of the lower bidding vendors. It’s like participating in a blind wine tasting only to find out that your most favorite wine was the least expensive one!  Your challenge is to hire a quality photographer/videographer while still getting the most bang for your buck all the while achieving the highest level of quality for your project.

Here are a few pointers that will help you narrow down the search for a quality photographer/videographer. By the way, these steps can easily apply to hiring other vendors as well, such as a copywriter or even a marketing agency. Since the advent of the Internet, many clients surf the Net and make a judgment call and make a decision based on what they just saw online. Hmmm … OK, that’s interesting. [Note: that’s a good second step (Yes second) to take but there are at least two additional steps necessary in order to make a well-educated decision. For example, as a Professional Photographer, of course, I’m only going to showcase my best stuff online! So you must dig a little deeper.

Step 1: Ask Your Peers

Ask your peers first for any Photographer or Videographer referrals. Specifically, you are looking for ones that they have had positive experiences with. This is an excellent first step to take because your peers already have sifted through a number of vendors before landing on the one they currently use for their projects.

Step 2: Surf Online

If you don’t have any referrals and must start from scratch, then it’s okay to start surfing online. One online resource is the Professional Photographers of America. They have a free service that includes a database of over 30,000 talented photographers across the United States.

I would choose several possible vendors (at least three) that you’re highly interested in based on their portfolio. Do your best to make your decision based on the content of the photographs. Were the images composed well? How was the lighting? When all technical aspects have been achieved by the photographer, the image should move you! See my article about Three Key Components to Obtain a Great Photo.

Step 3: Meet With Prospective Vendors

Contact the vendors that you are most interested in and set up an appointment to speak with them in person. An email isn’t enough. When you have a one-to-one meeting with them you will be able to ascertain other decision-making factors not visible by just viewing their online portfolio. In my opinion, in addition to their outstanding portfolio, the photographer must be a great listener and an awesome communicator. There is often great talent out there but every now and then you can run into an individual that’s simply difficult to work with because they lack these important social skills.

You can also find out how they price their work since pricing is typically not shown on their websites. Take notes, because obviously, all vendors will vary in pricing. Many times a photographer’s fee will be based on usage rights of the images.

The price of an image that will be used in a local publication will be quite different for an image that is placed into a national publication. Some photographers may grant “Unlimited Use” or “The Rights”) of the photographs. So, you must inquire about these details in your meeting so you know and understand exactly what you are purchasing before you commit and sign off on the work estimate.

Compile the Data From Your Search

In closing, as you compile data on your vendor selection, you will probably notice that, in general, most of the photographers/videographers are equally capable of getting the job done. For the tiebreaker, look at the three price ranges (Low, Medium & High). You most likely will throw out the lowest and the highest bidders. Interview the vendors in person and in-depth to help you make a wiser, more educated decision.

If you have the time, you can always throw the vendor you have selected a small bone first by hiring them for a smaller-sized project to see how good a fit they are for your company. You will witness firsthand how they work and communicate. I’ve been a recipient of a small bone with a first-time client and was eventually awarded a big bone! LOL! Trust me … there probably is nothing worse than having a prima donna photographer on set making it that much more difficult to get the results you need. For a photographer, having the proper social skills is equally important as knowing one’s craft in the world of photography.

Ted VillegasTed Villegas is a graduate of the prestigious photographic school, Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Illustration & Advertising Photography. He started his photography career working for Robinson’s Department Stores in downtown Los Angeles. His photography work was also featured in the LA Times as well as on billboards. After many years of catalog work, he became involved in photographing more high-tech products from clients like Western Digital,  Hitachi, Q Logic, and Lantronix. Ted also is an experienced videographer and does both shooting and editing. Ted can be reached at TedVStudios; Phone: 714-403-3603; Email:

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