Nearly a year ago, I published an “Hiring a Pet Photographer, a Customer Checklist.” The article was a clean version of a brochure that I had produced and distributed at some of our Hawaii Pet Events. As we move ever closer to the Holiday Season, I thought: “What better time to revisit the Pet Photographer Checklist, here?!”
I will admit, that I have motivation. I seem to be answering an increasing number of questions regarding hidden costs. The gist of these discussions is that some local photographers are charging almost nothing for a sitting fee and then charging exorbitant amounts for product. Another complaint, at least two local photographers are charging a very low price for the first half hour, and then the cost leaps up thereafter.
So, here are my “things to ask when hiring a pet photographer:”
1. Does the pet photographer photograph pets (and pets with their people) exclusively?
- A photographer who photographs anything and everything (weddings, families, newborns, etc) may not understand that a dog or cat may not be inclined to stay in one place. Human beings get that. Dogs and cats have smells to sniff and balls to chase.
2. Do they have pets of their own?
- Pets are very special beings. Until you have one of your own, you never truly understand them. Your pet’s photographer should relate well with your special furry friend. Natural-looking photographs are created when your pet is at ease.
3. What are the photographers print prices?
- Beware of “free portrait sessions” (contests excluded) and incredibly cheap portrait session fees. Let’s face it; photographers have to earn a living. If the photographer isn’t charging you up-front they will charge you higher print and product prices. REMEMBER: Ask to see their print prices before booking a session.
4. Is there a minimum print order fee?
- For example, your portrait session may have only cost you $75.00, but if the photographer requires an order of at least $350.00 in products. You have now spent $425.00, and you may not even like the photos. Look for a photographer that does not require you to order a certain dollar amount of product. REMEMBER: Ask if there is a minimum print order fee.
5. Does the photographer charge a minimum reorder fee?
- When re-ordering additional photos, sometimes photographers charge a fee in addition to the price of the print. REMEMBER: Ask if there is a fee and how much it is to order prints after you initial order.
6. Do they put a time limit on a photo session?
- My experience is that dogs will be dogs and cats will be cats. They do what they want to do and they really don’t care if the clock is ticking. Let’s say you book a “mini” 30 minute session, and right when the photographer says time’s up your pet does the most adorable pose ever. Do you want that shot to be missed because you were on a time limit? I don’t want that pressure and I won’t put it on your pet’s session. Also, how much are they going to charge if they continue after the 30 minutes.
7. What does the photographer’s website look like?
- The web-site may actually answer Question 1. If you open the site and the cover photo is a newlywed couple on a beach in an embrace, that is a clue that the photographer does not concentrate solely on pets. Also, in terms of the photos on the site, these are the best photos that the photographer has to offer. Our best work is what we show the World Wide Web. If you are not thrilled with the quality of those photos, chances are good that you will not be thrilled with the final product.
8. How much work does a photographer put into your pet’s images?
- Be cautious if a photographer is willing to hand you a multitude of images on a DVD. Are these images as is, slightly enhanced or really cleaned up? Slightly enhanced takes a click of a button whereas really cleaning up an image and giving it that professional look can take hour or more. If a photographer offers you 50 images+ and they claim the images are really cleaned up. Do the math; that is 50+ hours of work.
9. What kind of camera and lenses do they use?
- If you are paying for a professional photography session, you deserve a high-end camera with the best lenses available. Cameras that you can purchase yourself at a large package store may take some wonderful family photos but they can’t compare to the top of the line products offered by Canon , Nikon and other well known camera manufactures.
10. Do you like the photographer, do your pets like them?
- Your photo session should be a fun comfortable event. You don’t want to hire a photographer that makes you and your pet feel uneasy.
11. Do they offer an on-line proofing gallery?
- An on-line proofing gallery allows you to look at it in the comfort of your own home. You do not have to go to their place of business to view your proofs. Worse yet, the photographer could insist on coming to your home to show you the proofs. The pressure of them doing that “favor” for you puts you in the uncomfortable position of having to critique the photos in front of the photographer. In either their office or in your home, you should expect pressure to order immediately.
12. What are the product price comparisons?
- Compare photographer product prices-How much is an 11 by 14, how much is a book, what size is it etc. Photographers should be able to provide you with a price list.
13. Where do they get their photographs processed?
- Photographers in the digital age have many options. They can use a professional photo lab or at a large package store like Sam’s Club or Costco or the local Long’s Drugs. Again, nothing against those places, but that is why you hired a pro. You can see the difference!
WHY I WROTE THIS:
When I got married, I hired a fantastic photographer. Her session fee was a bit high, but I believed that she would produce great photos. She did. The problem: Her print prices were so astronomical that we could hardly afford to purchase any. Five years after the fact (when I had a little bit more money) I approached her to purchase additional photos. Her prices had gone up. So there my wedding photos sit in a file drawer of a small photographer’s gallery, meaning nothing to the photographer and a lot to me.
I want you to have the photos of your pets, that’s why I charge a reasonable session fee and keep my product prices low.