Hiring a photographer.

Contracting with photographers can be complicated. All photographers are not created equally. The knowledge and experience that a photographer possesses can vary from a beginning freelancer to a seasoned pro and anything in between. At the same time, years of experience are not a guarantee that the photographer is capable of producing the level of skill or creativity hospital marketing requires. Photographers have differing focuses and are not all suited for the same types of assignments. Some are great portrait photographers, but are lacking in ability to stage more complicated lighting. Others may be great with the technical aspects of a shoot but may be lacking in their “bedside manner” or may not possess the people skills to bring out the personality of their photo subject. A photographer’s creative eye may not match that of the hospital staff and his style can conflict with the “look” the management desires. 

Choosing a photographer involves studying his work and style, making sure abilities and work are a good match for the hospital. 

The healthcare setting has circumstances that set it apart from other photographic situations. An environment where people are ill or dying requires a sensitivity to the patients and staff that is more important than “getting the shot”. A number of times I have been shooting in the Emergency Department when staff get hurried and it becomes clear photography is not important at that moment. I’ve had to back up and wait for things to settle. 

Once I was photographing in  hospital when a manager asked me if I knew a certain photographer. I answered that he was one of the top photographers in my city. She responded that he would never work for her again. She said he was photographing in the radiology area and was ordering people around to get the best shot, but was not sensitive to the procedure being done or the staff trying to work on the patient. In his defense, if a photographer doesn’t take charge to some degree, creative photos will not be the result.

 Whether you have one photographer you call, or whether you use various photographers for different tasks or availabilities, hiring photographers with hospital experience is advantageous. The hospital setting is like no other. Take time to orient a photographer to the healthcare arena, educating him to the limits of his freedom to create, the sensitivities of the areas he will invade, and the specific decorum required to work in the hospital.

 The perfect situation is to have photographers in your employ who are comfortable in the hospital setting, who you trust to represent you and your staff to your varied publics, who have the technical and creative skills you desire, and who you consider to be “part of your team”.

Photographs copyright 2011 Jim Lockman/Click!

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