Most conventions have a number of photography needs. Prior to the conference you might need pictures of the conference site for advertising or campaign material. Your program will have portraits of your key executives and guest speakers. Once the conference begins, you will likely have photographers on site shooting for a closing candid module, a memento booklet, or even photography the attendees can buy on an optional basis.
Getting the Shots: Your two best options are buying stock photography or hiring a photographer. Stock photography is available from a number of companies such as WestStock and The Image Bank, which publish catalogs of images you can order, or which will conduct a search for you for a nominal fee. Some stock houses are now providing catalogs on laser disks or photo CDs. Buying stock photos is often quicker and cheaper than hiring a photographer, but it's not always the best solution. Buying a stock photo of a Kauai beach would be simple enough, but you probably won't happen upon a portrait of your CEO in any stock catalogs.
Choosing a Photographer: Don't panic when faced with hiring "a creative type." First, list your exact photographic needs. This will be the key to what kind of photographer you will hire, and will also dictate how much you'll have to spend. Then locate a photographer whose skills match your particular needs.
Photographers tend to specialize. If you need really good photography of a building, look for a photographer who specializes in architecture. If you need a photographer to take a picture of a crystal eagle--so that you don't have to ship 25 eagles to Sydney--you want someone who specializes in shooting objects. This photographer will likely be different from the one you would hire to shoot the awards ceremony.
You may already have working relationships with local photographers. If your city has Professional Photographers of America or American Society of Media Photographers chapters, those organizations can help you find photographers. At your conference site, the hotel, destination management company, and CVB can refer you to photographers they have worked with.
Once you narrow your choices, set up meetings to discuss your needs and review portfolios. Cover the following: What is the photographer's experience shooting the kind of photography you need? Get contacts from two recent jobs. How compatible is he with the people he'll be working with? You may find the greatest photographer in the world, but if he can't get along with anyone, choose someone else.
You will often find that the difference between a "great" photographer and a "good" photographer comes down to people skills--how well she communicates, how she responds to your concerns, how well she offers creative suggestions. Last, but not least, the photographer must be dependable. You need her to be on time, to deliver the photos when they're due, at the set price, and to invoice you in a timely manner.
What it Should Cost You: Most photographers have hourly, half-day, and full-day rates. Typical day rates run from $350 to $2,000 or more. Don't assume that a $500-a-day photographer will be cheaper than a $1,000-a-day photographer. The latter might be experienced enough to finish the shoot in one day, while the "cheaper" photographer takes three days. And even though the day rate is a helpful comparison, don't forget that the total job cost will also include expenses, and the rights being licensed.
The Question of Rights: An essential portion of the photographer's fee is the compensation for usage. The more extensive media exposure a photograph receives, the higher the compensation. (This is also true for stock photography.) Consequently, the client and photographer need to agree ahead of time on who will use the photograph, for what purpose, where it will appear, and for how long it will be used.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Be up-front and honest with your photographers, and they can help you meet your communications challenges creatively and cost-effectively.