Is it better to hire a local photographer or someone from a larger town?
Everyone hates to hear this answer, but "it depends". Let me explain why.
What kind of photographer do you need?
Some photographers do what is known in the industry as "niching down". In short, it means they are trying to be a specialist in one specific type of photography. Others, like myself, prefer to cover a broad spectrum of photographic styles and subjects. The question being, is there a photographer in your area that knows how to create the type of work you need? Example: If you desperately need real estate photos to put your house on the market you don't want to hire a photographer who only shoots professional headshots and never leaves the studio. Much the same as you wouldn't take your car to the paint shop to try to get the transmission rebuilt. Yes, both shops will gladly work on you car, but they specialize in very different things.
Sometimes Gear Does Matter
If you need drone shots as well as ground shots for instance, and the photographer doesn't own a drone, you are either going to have to hire a separate drone photographer, or find someone else who offers both services. So although gear is normally the least important aspect of hiring a photographer, it does matter.
Quality is King
Is there a capable photographer in your area? Not all photographers are created equally, and some are farther along the road of mastering their craft than others. Is there a photographer locally that can produce the level of work you require? If not, then you have to look outside of your local area to find a photographer who can produce the high quality work you require.
Price is Important Too
Photographers in you area may be cheaper than hiring one from out of town, especially if travel charges are incurred. If there is a photographer of quality in your area, it will almost always be cheaper to hire the local. One reason is they won't have as far to drive for the photoshoot. A second is that any in-person meetings will be a much shorter commute for them. This saves the photographer time and money, all of which can be passed on as savings to you.
I have packages based on travel to anywhere within a certain distance, however, I will often offer discounts for shoots that are literally in my backyard.
Local Photographers know the area and what Challenges are Common
Someone from out of town will not have direct insider knowledge. A google search will not reveal every cool nook and cranny of your local area. Even many locals won't know all of the cool spots in your area! Also, weather and local customs have a huge impact on a project, and some things like culture and weather have to be experienced to be fully understood. Most photoshoots can still go smoothly with a well prepared traveling photographer, but the local will always have the slight advantage of knowing the area.
Do you like this photographer?
A photographers "vibe" is very important. Not everyone in this word will be the best of friends, but everyone can have friends (insert theme song here). Not everyone will get along with a certain photographer. This doesn't mean there is anything wrong with said photographer, just that they weren't a good fit for you. Some people we tolerate because we have to, others are a great pleasure to spend time with. Finding a photographer that gels with you can make a HUGE difference in how comfortable you feel on your shoot, which in turn makes a HUGE difference in how the final images come out. It will also effect how you feel about the final project as a whole.
Clear Communication is Key
Again, communication is key! Sometimes just communicating specifically with your photographer about what you really want can make all the difference in the finished product. I recall a video by the fantastic photographer Jason Lanier, where he said he had spent half a day with a couple shooting a really fun and funny engagement photoshoot.
After seeing the photos the bride contacted him and said they weren't sure they still wanted him to shoot the wedding, because the pictures were too "fun". Jason convinced them that he can definitely shoot more serious photos at the wedding, and that there had just been a miscommunication between them about what he thought they wanted as a "fun couple", and what they actually wanted. He shot the wedding, and everyone was happy with how it all turned out. This example really drives home the point of how important clear communication is in any artistic endeavor even when working with highly skilled professionals.
If there is a photographer in your area that is capable of creating the quality and type of work you require, and you feel comfortable with them, then you should definitely choose the local photographer! But, if you can't find a photographer locally that checks those boxes for you, then it is probably time to expand your search and look out of town.
Let me know if there are other factors you consider when trying to decide between hiring a local photographer and someone from out of town.
Jason Lanier Photography (I couldn't find the specific video I referenced)
About the Author
Hello, my name is Johnny Lee and I'm your friendly neighborhood photographer. 😉 I LOVE telling stories!!! I adore traveling, exploring, and leaning new things. I hold myself to the highest standards, and try to make people feel comfortable in their own skin. I find the beauty others don't see in themselves, and can help you share it with the world. This is your story, but I can help you tell it.