Event Photographer

Jacob Cohen poses at the Hilltop chapel at the Gindling Hilltop Camp in Malibu, California, in 2015, after becoming a bar mitzvah. Cohen and his family are members of Temple Chai.

A yad skimming over the black letters of the Torah during a bar mitzvah is an image you probably want to always treasure.

Once-in-a-lifetime events, like b’nai mitzvahs, should have photos that reflect their significance.

With professional event photography easily costing hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars, you want to make sure you end up with photos you love. According to several photographers, you should make sure the person you hire is someone you feel comfortable with, is available to take your phone calls and is good with people. And, of course, that their style reflects your personal taste in photography.

“I love providing a family with photographs that they can love and cherish forever,” said photographer Debbie Zak Cohen, who said she particularly enjoys photographing b’nai mitzvahs. “It makes me very happy.”

A quick Google search of local photographers will turn up countless choices, so Cohen recommends starting a search by asking friends who they’ve used for event photographers and pursuing the people they recommend.

Cohen said that a client should make sure the photographer has the highest-quality equipment to capture the best photos and that the client feels comfortable with the photographer.

“It’s a very intimate thing, to be photographed, to put your trust in someone who can capture and provide you with what your heart thinks you’re going to get,” she said.

Gal Abahel, owner of Galara Photography, suggests someone looking to hire a photographer should first ask to see samples of the photographer’s work. She noted that people have different tastes in how they want their photos to look, so just because a friend recommends a certain photographer doesn’t mean that you will also like that photographer or his or her style.

Abahel then recommends talking about the price. She suggests asking for a starting price and then seeing if there is any wiggle room for paying less. A client, she said, should stick within the price range he or she feels comfortable paying.

Sasha Aleiner, a freelance photographer, said clients should find out about a potential photographer’s background working with people, how easily the photographer takes directions and how creative they are.

“The photographer should have a good sense of when it’s appropriate to interact, and when they really shouldn’t be intervening,” he said. “A photographer can come in and greet the participants and ask if they care to have their picture taken. Generally, that’s the best way to interact.”

Abahel has photographed weddings and bar mitzvahs, in addition to corporate events, portraits and marketing events, for eight years. Before the event, she likes to schedule a meeting with the client so she can get a sense of the client’s vibe and even do a test shoot. At that first meeting, Abahel also prefers to write up a contract.

Cohen and Aleiner also like to meet with clients beforehand. They said they want to get a clearer understanding of what exactly the client wants and to work out the logistics.

“What I get when I ask, that varies from ‘get a little bit of everything’ to ‘mainly this, this and that,’ and everything in between,” Aleiner said. “Most of the time, I’m basically left to my own judgment to make that decision. What I like to do is get the most clarification to make sure I know that I’m doing what they want most.”

Abahel values availability in photographers.

“I would really recommend for the client, if it’s a wedding or bar mitzvah or any personal event, to make sure you and the photographer [are] on the same page,” she said. “If you’re not sure about a question, ask again. Call as many times as you need. Make sure the photographer will be able to take those phone calls and provide you with patience, understanding and any answer needed.”

On the day of the event, Abahel makes sure to arrive early. Many clients are nervous at big milestones, so photographers should be relaxed and try to help out the client, though the client should not expect a photographer to fulfill event planner duties.

Cohen said one of the most important qualities in a photographer comes after the event, in the editing process. She tries to pick out photographs that she herself would feel she looks good in.

For clients, seeing the photos of their events often allows them to relive the experience through another set of eyes.

“I do not like having my photo taken,” Cohen said. “I do not like photographs of myself, so I’m very sensitive to how people will feel when they see their own photograph. For me, I feel as if people are paying me for photos, they’re going to look good. … I want them to feel good when they see it.” JN

This article originally appeared in Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.

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