How do you choose your doctor?

According to the Dictionary, a doctor is someone who is “skilled in or specializes in healing arts”. This is a person who “restores, repairs, or fine-tunes” for their client. A doctor is usually chosen based on their experience with the ailment, their location, their reputation, their skill set and their quality of service.

I find it an interesting parallel that most people want to choose a photographer based on similar qualifications.  Plus, depending on the circumstances, finding the appropriate photographer can be as vital as finding the right doctor.

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Imagine if you had severe abdominal pain.  You describe it to a friend who then produces a scalpel and says “This is the best scalpel money can buy; let me help!”  Would you have faith in his ability to help you?  Wouldn’t that be like hiring a friend with a nice camera to photograph your wedding?  Granted, you won’t die from the result of bad photography but the pain could be very similar!

EXPERIENCE:  I think most people in need of a serious operation would want a surgeon with years of experience compared to an intern.  Not only would they have the experience to do it right but also know what to do if things go WRONG.  A great photographer will not only have the extensive experience but also know what to do if they encounter, say, awful lighting conditions.  For example, did you know that when you go from shooting outdoors to indoors (like a church dressing room with flourescent lighting,) that the colors will change drastically if the photographer doesn’t know how to compensate using the proper camera/flash settings?  If they don’t know what they’re doing you could wind up with sickly green skin tones.

LOCATION: A photographer should also be within a certain proximity to their client. Let’s say you plan a destination wedding.  Would you be comfortable trusting a photographer who you can’t meet until the day-of?  Not only that, how do you verify that they have the skills needed?  Many destinations or resorts have a staff of photographers that will work cheap enough so the resort can mark up their services to make their own profit.  Great photographers simply don’t work “on the cheap.”  I feel the worst part is when you return home your images are still thousands of miles away and your recourse is extremely limited if there are ever any problems.  It would be almost impossible to get any personalized customer service unless your photographer lives in your town.  Imagine how much better it would be when you can get to know your photographer as a friend but then still meet with him AFTER the wedding when your album is ready for proofing.  How about when babies come along as well?

REPUTATION: The photographer you choose for any shoot should have a good reputation in their community.  If you are looking for a wedding photographer, you can check with other wedding vendors.   A vendor recommendation can be extremely valuable; even more so than a friends referral.  For example, I’ve worked with some great DJs but also some terrible ones.  At one wedding the DJ was so bad, the venue coordinator told me she was putting him on the black list.  Later, though, I heard a guest request a song and he played it.  She thought he was the best DJ in the world; apparently for that reason alone.  What if she referred him to YOUR wedding?  You actually can’t predict what a DJ will do on your special day but OTHER VENDORS can give you insight that nobody else can.

SKILL SET/SPECIALIZATION: Keep in mind that a photographer who is great at one thing might not be great at others.  A great portrait or nature photographer will not automatically be great with a wedding or a bar-mitzvah.  These two life events have aspects that happen so quickly and will often be missed by someone who doesn’t have extensive experience in that event; many parts of these events can’t be re-shot.  Not only that, the ability to anticipate what will happen and “knowing where to look” in a wedding only comes after scores and scores of previous weddings.

TURNAROUND: Would you see a doctor whose patients take way longer than average to get well?   I know of couples who still haven’t seen their wedding images 3 months after the wedding and some don’t get their album for a year!!  Thanks to help from my assistant, Chelsea, we’re excited to have your album done the first week after your wedding and the images ready for viewing the second week!

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