This is the season where Brides are booking weddings and business people are updating their marketing materials, websites, and families are thinking about portraits for spring, graduation and Valentine's Day.
Something to consider when you are hiring a photographer is that they have the right tools to do the job you are hiring them to do for you! A Camera, a Lens and a Business Card are the tools you might start with but there is so much more to being a photographer.
Someone I know contracted with a photographer to do some headshots and contacted me yesterday because the photographer gave them a special price. The problem is that the photographer doesn't have the right place or the rights to shoot the headshots - or the equipment since they don't have a studio, studio lights or backdrops to do those headshots. So that special price really isn't special if the client is looking to obtain the right tools from another photographer to create what they've been contracted for. A true professional photographer knows their limitations and won't accept a job that they don't have the right tools, equipment or even the rights to use the property.
Location and Property rights are very important. If you are contracting with your photographer to shoot at the beach or at a major theme park or national park, or even the local mall, office building or shopping center, the photographer needs permission to do commercial work on the property. They either need the permission of the property owner, lessee or they need a location permit from the park, beach, municipality.
If you are having an event at a major venue - like a hotel or location, your photographer should have liability insurance. Even if they are doing a family portrait. What if the light stand fell on your child?
If you are getting married or having an event, you would want to ask about lighting - not only in the sanctuary or hotel ballroom because the lighting the photographer can use can greatly affect the final photos. A professional and experienced photographer will have more than just an on-camera flash. They will also bring some strobes to add to the light so that you get great photos. If the photographer is limited to where they can photograph as is common in many ceremonies due to religious requirements, then they need to have a "long lens" of 200 or 300 millimeters to be able to get some closeups far away and they need lenses capable to open up to let in the light from the room without flash in many cases.
A really critical tool that a photographer should have is the ability to communicate with their clients. They should offer to educate you on what you are buying. You may only commission a photographer periodically so one of those tools in the camera bag should be honesty about their ability, their equipment and a lot more than a business card, one lens and camera.