Being an independent event photographer doesn't have to mean getting every gig on your own. By partnering with professional event planners, you can ensure far steadier streams of work while still working (mostly) on your own terms. Plus, the right event companies can help you to find the gigs you like and ultimately improve your portfolio and potentially your profitability. However, there are a few things you need to know going forward. Here are five top tips on creating lasting, lucrative partnerships with event planning companies.
1. Find the Right Firm
Have you already established a niche in a particular industry? Are you looking to narrow your focus? Consider carefully where you want to take your business before partnering with another. Lots of event companies stick to one or a few industries: corporate gigs, weddings or graduations, for instance. If you're looking to specialise, you'll want to find a firm whose expertise aligns with yours. You'll also want to find managers and creative directors who agree with you artistically, and who won't procrastinate over the particulars of every shot.
2. Master your Marketing
Getting gigs may become easier once you're in the door with an event planner, but making that good first impression can be tough. Unlike many one-off clients, professional planners will almost always have a keen eye for quality photography, so your portfolio had better be up to scratch! If you want to work with professionals, market to professionals. Put up a well-designed website, display your best work and present yourself as a serious and experienced worker in the events industry.
3. Take Direction
Even if your partner companies give you great leeway in your work, you'll need to take a lot more direction than if you were working on your own. They know what their clients want, they understand the bigger picture of each event and they have their own reputations and relationships to protect. Be firm with your own artistic opinions, but defer to your partners' judgment when necessary. If you find yourself in frequent disagreements, then you may not have found the right firm.
4. Develop Your People Skills
Good people skills are crucial for any independent photographer, but they become even more important when you're working with other professionals. You not only have to mingle with your subjects at events – you've got to foster ongoing, positive working relationships with your partners. One of the best things you can do is to get a clear understanding of your responsibilities and restrictions on directly dealing with clients. Some event companies might want to put you in direct contact with their customers, while others will prefer you always stay on the sidelines. Crossing these boundaries will inevitably lead to conflicts.
5. Use Contracts
Never go to a gig without first signing a contract! You need to clearly stipulate your pay and responsibilities, and you must determine who has what rights to the final products. Are you going to be allowed to put the pictures in your own portfolio? Do you have to give credit to the event company, as well? If you don't get any rights, will you get a compensatory increase in pay? These are questions you need to answer before you even get out your camera.
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