What You Need To Know Before Hiring An Event Photographer

What You Need To Know Before Hiring An Event Photographer

I'm Pittsburgh photographer Don Orkoskey and I'm going to tell you exactly what you need to know before hiring an event photographer. Lets walk through the process for some valuable tips that you might not have thought about before. As an event photographer with more than twenty years experience I can help you to find and select the best event photographer for your event.

What You Need To Know Before Hiring An Event Photographer

When it comes to what you need to know before hiring an event photographer there are two categories of knowledge. I've broken down this article into two sections to address both categories. The first section will cover what you need to know about event photographers to help you choose a photographer that works well for you. This second section is full of helpful things that you'll want to know in order to tell potential photographers you're looking to hire.

What you need to know about event photography

Here is everything you need to know about event photography and hiring an event photographer. I've summed it all up into an easy to understand article to help you find the best event photographer to meet your needs.

What Makes A Photographer An Event Photographer

Not all photographers are cut out to be event photographers. What makes a photographer an event photographer is not only their willingness to photograph events but their knowledge of how events generally unfold, their ability to quickly capture action, to keep the schedule of events handy, to anticipate opportunities, and to understand how to interact with event attendees.

Wedding photography is it's own specialized type of event photography and takes some extra specialized knowledge and skills. Look for a future article on what you need to know before hiring a wedding photographer because there are a lot more things to consider than what is in this article.

How To Choose An Event Photographer

Choosing your event photographer is critical to the successful capture of your event. If you choose an inexperienced or unprepared event photographer you may end up with nothing to show for it. I've heard countless horror stories from photographers not showing up or failing to deliver any photos. The stories I've heard of photographers refusing to answer calls and emails after an event are heartbreaking. I've been told about event photographers showing up, eating their weight in food for attendees and taking only a handful of mediocre photos. None of this is okay.

Choose A Good Event Photographer

Your event deserves a professional event photographer. Here is how to choose a good event photographer that you can trust and rely on:

  1. Check their reputation.
    1. Look at their website, is the work good and consistent?
    2. Review their list of clients or ask for a list if they don't have one posted.
    3. Read their reviews on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and elsewhere.
    4. Check their social media accounts for professionalism and consistency.
  2. Ask about their business practices. A good event photographer isn't just a good photographer, they're a good businessperson.
    1. How soon will they deliver the photos and how will they be delivered?
    2. What is their backup plan in the event that they become ill?
    3. Do you carry liability insurance?
    4. Are they a full time working professional or is this a side gig?
    5. How do they bill and what forms of payment do they accept?
  3.  Interview them and ask questions that will tell you more about them as a person and professional.
    1. Ask about their experience with events such as yours.
    2. Try to get a feel for their personality, are they positive or negative?
    3. Are they friendly and respectful or do they talk over you or act rude?
    4. Ask about their problem solving abilities, problems happen and professional photographers have backup plans and know how to handle the unexpected.

Tips From A Seasoned Event Photographer

Here are my best tips to help you pick an event photographer that you can feel confident in.

I'm biased to experienced pros like myself but don't look past a newer photographer if they've got the right stuff. If they've worked under other photographers they have possibly learned enough to do a solid job. Some new photographers who are just starting out on their own may understand all of the above information assuming they had a good mentor.

A professional photographer should be able to take payment in many forms. Today the options for credit card processing are plenty so they should accept cards, checks, and cash at least. A serious photographer may also accept ACH, or even more modern forms of payment such as Venmo, CashApp, or Zelle.  They should also have a tax id they're using for their business. Asking for a W9 will help you determine if they do.

Getting a feel for a person from interviewing them is crucial. I hear from a lot of clients that I'm more active than other photographers they've hired. At events I move around, am constantly taking photos, smile, and make small talk when appropriate. Otherwise I remain as unnoticeable as possible. You're probably not going to be able to assess that from a phone call or zoom meeting.

You should be able to tell if they're personable, polite, energetic, and positive. In my experience, negative people tend to have problems follow them and few things are their fault. I'm keen to avoid folks with black-clouds following them around.

What Your Event Photographer Needs To Know From You

The first things you need to know before hiring an event photographer may be a bit obvious. Knowing your date and venue are critical. Before going any further I ask potential clients what date their event is and where they're hosting it.

Date and Location

Event photography is all about specific dates and times. Our schedules are less flexible than portrait photographers for example so knowing the date and location will help us both to avoid wasting time. Any photographers that you reach out to will greatly appriciate you sharing this information up front.

Schedule of Events

Knowing the date and location are critical but having at least a rough schedule of events is also helpful. You don't need to know the exact hours you need your photographer but a general idea of the events of the day and approximately how long your event will last is very helpful.


Most event photographers charge based on hours or a day rate. Understand your budget and don't be afraid to share those numbers. Letting the photographer know up front the amount you have set aside to spend on photography will save you a lot of time.

Oftentimes when event planners are reluctant or don't know their budget we end up going back and forth a bunch. If you know what you're setting aside then share that. If you don't know and are trying to determine that by speaking with several event photographers there's nothing wrong with that. However, don't be surprised at the rates you're quoted being wide ranging. An an event photographer in Pittsburgh I know a lot of my competitors but we don't compare rates. Additionally, I set my rates based on providing the high quality work you deserve.

Event Photo Usage

Know what you'll use your event photos for. This can impact a price quote. Your event photographer needs to know if they should charge you to use the photos for promotion or marketing. Professional event photographers charge for commercial use of their photos. If your planning to use the photos for promotion, advertising, or other marketing needs tell your photographer that. If they don't charge a usage fee that may be a sign that they're inexperienced.

Event Photography Scams

Event photography scams take up a lot of my time in the office. I receive calls, texts, and emails all the time and a great many of them are scams.

Why do you need to be aware of these scams?

There are things you can say or do that might make an event photographer think you're just a scammer. I want to save you and the photographers you reach out to from starting off on the wrong foot so here is some helpful information about these scams.

Event photography scammers usually don't like to commit to a date for their event. Their goal is bating a photographer into their scam. They'll either refuse to say when and where their event is or offer a string of dates. These scammers are fairly transparent. Some have begun to offer specific dates and then to call back with another date should the photographer be booked.

The scam works by them sending a check for an amount exceeding the agreed upon amount. They will then ask for the overage to be returned before the fake check they've sent to you is found out to be fake.

Event Photography Scammers

If I suspect I'm dealing with an event photography scammer I will offer a price well above my usual rate. Scammers don't care about the price because they're not actually paying. If you get a quote that seems incredibly high you might want to make sure the photographer knows that you're not a scammer. If you ask them to double check that amount and to jump on a video call they'll likely offer you their actual rate. No scammer I've talked to is ever willing to show their face.

I've never fallen for a scammer or sent them any money but I have gone along just enough a few times. I've agreed to accept a few checks (but never tried to deposit them) with the hopes of alerting the USPS to the fraud. Sadly the postal inspectors never seem too interested in stopping these. However they typically use checks stolen from actual businesses or mailing labels they've stolen. This means I can alert these companies to make sure they lock down their stuff.

To avoid being thought of as a potential scammer it's best to offer a concrete date, location, and even a budget amount. Even if the budget I'm sent is below my rate I'm happy to respond and let people know what my rate is to try to work with them on the hours, usage, or to see if that budget is set in stone. If you have a business email it also goes a long way towards convincing me that you're not a scammer. Of course if you do get mistaken for one, even after reading this, offering to jump on a video call will immediately clear things up.

Your Ready to Hire An Event Photographer

Now that you've read my how to you know everything you need to know before hiring an event photographer. If you're looking for event photography in the Pittsburgh area or thereabouts please contact me and share your date, location, and some more information. Feel free to visit my event photography page first to check out my work.

If you're not in the Pittsburgh area or I am booked I highly recommend using the Find A Photographer feature at ASMP.org which is a professional photographer's association I'm a member of.

October 5, 2022 | Don Orkoskey
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