If you are considering hiring a professional photographer, you should expect 3 things at a very minimum: Experience, Quality And Backups. A true professional provides much more than the minimum. But let's explore the minimums.
A professional photographer will have experience on his or her side. There are some things that only experience can teach someone because being in a real world environment is far different that what books, videos and even a classroom can teach. It's true that everyone has to start somewhere, but ask any photographer that you are considering hiring about their experience especially as it relates to your specific needs.
With digital technology and post editing, it is relatively easy to produce decent quality. As a matter of fact, even a phone image may be acceptable for some of your needs like social media. However, there comes a time when true professional quality stands out and sadly some photographers show work that is not there own. One way to make sure the quality you are seeing is what the photographer can produce is to read online reviews. It's true that some reviews can be faked, but most of us know how to spot fake stuff at this point. If the photographer has 20+ reviews, it's a good possibility that most if not all are legit. Another way to help you feel better about the quality you will get for your needs is to ask the photographer to describe his or her process. You can likely tell when a true professional talks about quality that he or she is not just blowing smoke.
It has been my ongoing experience with part-time photographers that they often DO NOT carry backup equipment because they only have a minimal amount of gear. Yes, I get it. They are part-time and they are likely just getting started in some cases. However, a photographer that shows up to a one time event like a wedding, corporate event, headshot of the CEO that flew in from across the country, etc., should never show up without backup gear. Any photographer that chooses to do photography of things that do not have the flexibility of being rescheduled because of equipment failure should not take on that kind of work until they have a backup plan in place. Even the things that can be rescheduled because of equipment failure will most likely not leave the client feeling very good because their outdoor family portrait on a beautiful days has to be rescheduled because the photographers XYZ failed.
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