by Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM | December 01, 2007

Hiring the right photographer for your event is an important part of the planning process. Along with providing a visual record of the proceedings, it’s a major investment, as well. Here are some guidelines for getting the most out of this key professional.

Take Stock

Determine what you will be using the photos for and what style (conservative, candid) format is appropriate. Among the possible uses:

* On-site newsletter and web pages

* Corporate archives

* Planner’s sample books/websites

* Future materials (marketing documents, next year’s brochure or incentive promotion, etc.)

Other considerations to keep in mind include whether photos should be taken in black and white or color, and film vs. digital. If you choose digital, determine the format you will require.

Be Detailed

Work with all photo stakeholders (planning department, client, company president, director of sales, head of human resources, etc.) to create a list of photos that you need or would like to have. Create a matrix for the photographer that includes a chronology of when the events will occur, notes about each session’s or subject’s importance, as well as basic information on the location, a map of the venue and, if possible, a program guide with photos of VIPs so the photographer can take some opportunistic candid shots.

Choose Well

When you are ready to hire the photographer, make sure you weigh the following.

*Go pro. Don’t be tempted or pressured to hire a friend or the buddy of an executive who is “a great guy for a really great price.” You have only one opportunity to properly photograph the event.

*Find a specialist. There are all types of photographers. The one who did a super job for your wedding is in a different area of the business. Hire a photographer who specializes specifically in convention photography.

* Pick someone nice. Photographers who work conferences need to be personable and respectful. You need someone who will be discreet when taking photos in public areas and who understands the specific limitations and param-eters of the organization and the facility.

* Favor full-service. Photographers should be willing to download pictures and/or provide well-organized CDs of photos on-site, especially if you are publishing recaps during real time.

*Consider the coverage. Is one photographer enough? In cases where there is just one photographer, but there are concurrent sessions or many pictures that need to be taken in a small amount of time, consider hiring a second professional.

*Nail down the charges. Most photographers charge by the day, plus expenses. Before agreeing on a final figure, make sure you know all of the following: What will you get for this day fee? How will the photos be sorted? Will you get your own web page or DVD copies and rights to reproduction? Do you want your attendees to have access? What is the turnaround time for a final album, if requested? And how will photos be sorted (be prepared to give direction on this point)?

Get It In Ink

Before the final sign-off, be sure the following is stipulated in the contract.

* Who owns rights to reproduction?

* Who is the backup if the photographer gets sick or is unable to attend?

* When will the photographer be paid? Many require 50 percent up front.

* If you are covering travel and expenses, spell out what is included, such as meals, hotel rooms, etc.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,is senior event operations manager with George P. Johnson Experience Marketing in San Carlos, Calif.