PR TECHNIQUE PHOTOGRAPHY: The art of choosing a freelancephotographer - Quality of work isn't the only consideration when pickinga photographer. David Ward reports on what to look for

PR agencies try to keep writing in-house as much as possible, but

few, if any, have photographers on staff. Instead, they take advantage

of the huge pool of freelance talent for everything from corporate head

shots and product pictures to event coverage.

But finding the right photographer involves more than just picking one

who takes nice pictures. It requires giving equal consideration to

factors such as reliability, rates, the location of the shoot and the

photographer's ability to make the client feel comfortable.

"Finding the right photographer is like finding the right hairdresser,"

says Tasmin Bayless, CEO of Los Angeles-based IDEE Public Relations.

Bayless says that once you find someone you can work with, you should

use them whenever possible.

"It ends up being worth it to stick with the right person," she


"If you use them over and over, you ultimately give your clients a

better value."

Others, however, prefer to match the photographer to the event. When

Weber Shandwick's Miami office needed pictures of a promotional event at

a luxury-car dealership, client service director Tadd Schwartz says he

chose a photographer because of the quality of his work on a glossy,

south Florida magazine and his casual personal style.

"This was a very young, hip, 35-and-under crowd, and the photographer

came in jeans and a black T-shirt, so he fit right in. I wouldn't use

him for a formal event, but for this he was perfect."

Schwartz adds that the photographer's connections to editors at various

media outlets helped get the pictures placed as part of a news


"People that know the photo editors and have dealt with them are a lot

are more likely to get their stuff picked up," says Chicago-based

freelance photographer Lee Balgemann.

If wide distribution is one of your main concerns, Medialink WirePix can

place photos in newsrooms around the world. It also offers the services

of its large stable of photographers.

GCI Group SVP Nancy Tamosaitis says a photographer's most valuable

quality is his or her ability to make clients feel comfortable. "It's

important to make sure that the client likes having the photographer

there and is confident that the picture will look good," she says.

New York-based photographer Denise Winters made her mark taking head

shots of actors, but she says her business has expanded into the

corporate world as agencies learn the importance of executive pictures

accompanying releases and annual reports.

"A lot of companies want more than the standard company head shot,"

Winters says. "They want executives to look more like people."

It's important to let clients know that good photography costs more. The

average day rate for a freelance photographer starts at around dollars

500 and can cost thousands of dollars for a higher-profile name.

"There's no one-size-fits-all pricing strategy," says Aline Parrish, EVP

at Springbok Technologies. "You've got to look at what you're


Parrish says she has a pool of about 100 photographers. One of her

favorites is Dallas-based Bill Crump, who takes head shots, as well as

product and annual report pictures, but is best known for his

photographs of jets in flight for companies such as American


Having one favorite doesn't stop Parrish from being on the lookout for

new talent. "If I see an annual report with pictures that I like, I call

the agency responsible and ask who they used," she says.

Sometimes you need photographers at out-of-town events or in multiple

locations. "It's rare to have a budget that allows for thousands of

dollars in travel costs," explains Michael Donnell of Chicago-based

Donnell PR.

"But if you shop around, you can get good photography locally."

Donnell suggests searching the Internet to find local PR and advertising

people to call for recommendations.

Jill Lublin, head of Promising Promotions, based in northern California,

suggests that you also tap your network of professional acquaintances

when looking for out-of-town help. She says contacts at chambers of

commerce have proven especially helpful to her.

Balgemann suggests calling local newspapers or AP bureaus, as well as

local chapters of the American Society of Media Photographers, for


It is also important to keep up with the latest technologies, such as

digital cameras, and other issues that could impact your cost, such as

unlimited-use fees.

"It used to be that a photographer looked to make his money off selling

prints," says Donnell. "But with the rise of digital photography,

there's no longer a big print business. So a lot of photographers are

adding fees for unlimited use, which allow you to use photos for a Web

site, brochure or newsletter."

Unlimited-use fees vary widely. "Some people charge 100% of the day

rate, others a lower percentage," explains Balgemann. "Still others opt

for a per-use fee," he adds. "But most photographers worth their salt

won't do an all-rights buyout. I give my clients one year's unlimited

use, and if they want to use it a second year, then I charge."

Michelle Grossman, senior media relations executive at Ketchum in

Chicago, says once you've chosen a freelance photographer, show faith in

their abilities by not giving too much direction.

"We normally brief the photographer about the event and the key people,"

says Grossman, whose clients include the fast food chain Wendy's. "Then

we count on them to capture what went on at the event. Sometimes the

shot you're planning is a dud, but because they're professionals, they

can get a great shot of something different."


1 Do keep up with the latest technology and business practices

2 Do remember you get what you pay for. Shop for the best price, but

remember a bad corporate head shot is never a bargain

3 Do try to match the photographer to the shoot - some work best in

formal settings, while others excel at casual events

1 Don't judge a photographer just by his or her portfolio. Reliability

and the ability to make your client comfortable are just as


2 Don't over-direct. Let photographers have some flexibility to find and

take the best shots

3 Don't hesitate to call PR firms or ad agencies for recommendations.

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