These days, it’s hard to tell who is a real photographer and who has a Wal-Mart SLR and a Facebook page. Here are some questions you can ask a potential photographer to help you determine how “professional” a particular photographer is. If you ARE a photographer, this is a great way to see how you stack up to the real pros, who score in the high teens or 20.
1. How do you make prints for me?
Right Answer: I Edit, Retouch, resize, and use a high-end printer or lab. Then I carefully package and deliver your prints to you.
Wrong Answer: I don’t do prints. I give you a disc and you can go to Wal-Mart.
2. What types of artificial lighting do you routinely use?
Right: On camera flash with modifiers, off camera portable flashes, triggers, studio lighting, reflectors.
Wrong: “I’m a Natural Light Photgrapher”, I use the pop-up on my camera if it’s too dark.
3. How can you stay in business when you only charge $100/session?
Right: I’m super efficient and manage to grow and prosper on minimum wage, OR, I don’t charge $100/session. I charge far more, and here is why…
Wrong: I’m doing this as a hobby, I pass the value on to you!
4. How do you manage White Balance and Color Calibration?
Right: I use a white balance card, custom white balance in the camera, RAW exposure, and regular monitor and printer calibration
Wrong: What’s white balance?
5. What kind of backup cameras, lenses and storage do you have?
Right:I have a backup body, lenses and flashes in my car (or right here).
Wrong: Ahh, who needs that? I’ll just reschedule your wedding, or flee the scene.
6. How do you plan a session with your clients?
Right:I understand their motivations, discuss portrait needs, clothing, setting and other details.
Wrong: We meet at the park and we go from there.
7. Do you pay taxes on your income?
Right:Yes, I reserve 35% of my revenue and pay estimated federal and state taxes.
Wrong: Can we move on to the next question?
8. What types of insurance do you have?
Right:Liability for accidents, Equipment for my gear/studio, and Errors/Omissions insurance in case I have a client that is not completely satisfied.
Wrong: My car is insured!
9. Do you charge Sales Tax on your products and services?
Right:Yes I do, for in-state products and services. I report and pay it regularly.
Wrong: Nobody does this, plus then you would have to pay me $106 for a “shoot”
10. If I want reprints in 10 years, how will you support me?
Right: My images are archived in three places. I will retrieve and print your images, because I intend to be in business for the long haul.
Wrong: Hey, I gave you the CD of the images. That’s your problem.
11. Where is your website? Can I see it on my iPhone/iPad/Droid?
Right: Here’s the URL. It works on all tablets, phones and browsers.
Wrong: Um, here’s my FACEBOOK PAGE. Please LIKE ME!
12. What kind of training do you have? Do you attend seminars?
Right: I went to school for photography, OR I have attended these seminars/classes/workshops.
Wrong:I have a NATURAL TALENT. My friend/mother/cousin told me so!
13. What camera modes do you use most often?
Right: Manual, or Aperture/Shutter for changing conditions. I use a light meter.
Wrong: What’s a mode? Oh, It’s on P for Professional!
14. What is the fastest lens in your bag?
Right: f/2.8 or 1.8 or 1.4 or 1.2 lenses. And yes, I know what those numbers mean. Primes, and pro-level zoom lenses.
Wrong: Well, the lens that came with my camera lets me zoom REAL FAST!
15. What kinds of model releases and contracts do you use?
Right: My contracts and releases protect the subjects and spell out our mutual obligations.
Wrong:We don’t need that stuff!
16. Where is your studio or indoor working space? How do you deal with bad weather?
Right: Here is where we go, and what we do for indoor or inclement weather.
Wrong: We reschedule, because Mom said I can’t use her basement anymore.
17. How do you support your community through photography?
Right: I offer classes, donate sessions and prints, and network with vendors and my peers.
Wrong: I take pictures in the community, does that count?
18. What is your image processing work flow after your session?
Right: First I back up the images, then I select, global edit, final edit and provide proofing or review sessions for you.
Wrong: I take the chip and put the files on a CD. Then I give the CD to you.
19. What products do you offer in addition to prints and/or digital files?
Right: Canvas prints, mugs, totes, posters, collages, tiles, clothing, you name it!
Wrong: You can do that your self on MPIX or at the grocery store.
20. Do you belong to any professional organizations? Certifications or merits?
Right: I’m a PPA/WPPI member. I have CPP certification. I have these awards/merits, which indicate that I care about my craft and that I create work that my peers respect.
Wrong:Who needs that stuff? Let’s go do a shoot!