When you first start looking around for equine photographers, you will find there are a lot of them out there. There are some critical questions to ask a horse photographer BEFORE you hire them. And while there is a photographer out there for every budget, every style, and every photography experience, it’s important that you get answers to these critical questions to before you book so you aren’t unpleasantly surprised during the process.
This is Part 1 of a two-part blog post about the 16 Critical Questions to ask a horse photographer before you book them. Part 2 will be published next week.
Do you have a contract?
This is probably the number one most important question you can ask a photographer.
Contracts are designed to protect both the photographer and the client. A contract will spell out exactly what is expected of both parties and by when.
As the person being photographed, the contract spells out for you what money is owed when, what is legally allowed for you to do with your images, what the photographer is responsible for, and what the timeline is for when you should expect things to happen.
A contract is a legal way of spelling out in exact details who does what when so that all parties know what is expected of them. If you contact a photographer and they don’t use a contract, I would suggest continuing to look for one who does for your own protection.
Do you have insurance?
This is another huge one. Let’s take a minute and consider that we are talking about photographers who work with large animals who have a mind of their own.
Animals that could bolt, shy, bite, kick someone, break something, break their leg or more. And while we in the equine industry go into each horse activity with the best of intentions and with an eye on safety, it doesn’t stop accidents from happening.
Insurance can give peace of mind to both the client and the photographer by providing protection against legal actions that arise from injuries, accidents, and other claims.
Side note: Many locations do not allow you to photograph at their locations without insurance so make sure that your photographer has the required coverage to shoot at a specific location.
How much of a retainer do you require and when is it due?
Each photographer works differently when it comes to retainers.
It’s important to find out how much your retainer is and what you will receive for that money. Some photographers use the retainer to just hold your spot on their calendar, some use it to pay for their time, talent and/or travel, and some have that money cover the receiving of some or all goods.
Make sure you know what the retainer covers and when it is due to the photographer.
What forms of payment do you accept? Do you have payment plans?
Depending on your photographer, the acceptable forms of payment will vary. Some only accept checks, others take checks and credit cards. Some accept cash, credit cards, checks and online payments such as PayPal. Some photographers even offer payment plans.
Make sure you are clear on what options you have to pay for your photographic services. Nothing like showing up for your session with only a credit card to discover your photographer only takes checks and your bank account has $54 to last you until payday.
If your photographer offers payment plans, make sure to verify the terms of the payment plan. How many months do you have to pay off your balance, does interest accrue, when do you receive your products, etc.
Also, make sure you know when payment is expected. Before the session, at the session or when you place your order?
Do you shoot on location or in a studio? Who handles the paperwork?
This is sort of a two-part question. First, make sure to do your due diligence about your selected photographer’s style of shooting before you book them. If you love studio photography with bright backgrounds and studio lights, you are going to be disappointed if you hire a photographer who only shoots natural lighting outdoors.
It’s easy to do research on a photographer you are considering. Check out their website, look at their portfolio, visit their social media pages – especially Facebook and Instagram as those are both visually driven social media platforms. And, if you still aren’t sure, make sure to discuss it with your photographer.
Secondly, ask your photographer about location requirements. If you are taking your horse off-location to a new place, many locations, such as wedding venues, farms, parks, and beaches, require advanced proof of insurance or special permits to do photography sessions, especially ones that include animals.
You may also need to supply health certificates (if crossing state lines) and Coggins test results. You need to know who, the client or the photographer, is responsible for getting each type of certain paperwork together.
How far in advance do I need to book?
Depending on the photographer, you might need to book far in advance. Each photographer’s schedule is determined by the photographer and many factors can go into that decision.
When dealing with animals like horses, the seasons will probably play into how far in advance you need to book. Fall is an especially popular time of year for images as most horses look gorgeous with the beautiful autumn colors. So, if you are planning for fall, it’s best to contact your selected photographer several months in advance in order to get on their schedule.
Additionally, some photographer’s base their business on volume. They bring in client after client and turn them out quickly. Others build their business as a more boutique style and only work with a few clients a month, walking each client through the entire process from start to finish.
Then, of course, you need to consider that your photographer is a person just like you and has personal and family obligations just like you. As a general rule of thumb, the more time you can book in advance the better.
What type of finished products do you provide?
Again, this varies by photographer and it’s important to know going into your photography experience what your result will be. In general, there are two major groups of photographers.
One group is commonly called Shoot & Burn Photographers (S&B). These photographers usually shoot a session, put the images into an online gallery, a thumb drive or in Dropbox or another file sharing program and let you download them. The end product is your images in digital form and (hopefully) a print release for personal use. You would then take your images to a consumer lab for personal use printing as you wish.
The other type of photographer works with professional imaging labs to produce your images into many different end products. These can include wall art, such as framed art prints, acrylics, metals or canvas, custom albums, folio boxes, and more. These photographers usually also have digital files and print releases as well.
You need to decide what type of photographer you would like to work with, and what type of experience you would like to have with your photographer. In most, but not all, equestrian scenarios, a S&B photographer will have less interaction with the client outside of the actual shooting time.
Whereas, the second type of photographer tends to be a more boutique experience with more one-on-one time with your photographer as they guide you through the process of designing your session and your end products.
Do you have a list of references or link to reviews by people who have worked with you in the past?
In the world of Google and Facebook, reviews are readily available online for the most part. Many photographers also have testimonials listed on their websites.
However, it’s always good to ask your photographer for a list of references so you can speak with people in person about their experiences especially if you want to get a good idea of what the process of working with that photographer is really like.