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hiring an

Official Photographer

An Official Photographer (OP) is a photographer, or photography service, who has been granted the exclusive rights to photograph an event, and sell, display, and distribute the images captured, in accordance with a number of mutually acceptable terms, between photographer and the Event Organizer (EO). This may or may not include, or be limited to, an upfront vendor fee, paid to the EO by the photographer, or a share in the pictures sold during and/or after the event, or simply providing the EO with a copy of the highest quality images taken. An OP is usually hired when the need to photograph all the activities at an event is of the upmost importance.

Having an Official Photographer or designating one, may be the best option to properly cover certain events, although there are a number of pros and cons worth considering. Listed below are the main points to consider by the (EO) or the Club Manager, the OP, and the Customers who ultimately view and purchase the photos.

(Whether or not an EO designates an OP, it would be advisable for the EO to either receive a signed photo release waiver from each participant as part of their official entry status, or ensure that the equivalent terms have been clearly communicated during the participant entry process, well in advance of the event start date)

Official Photographer pg top

from the perspective of the
Event Organizer (EO)


  • The EO may receive an upfront vendor fee from the OP or a share of all images sold during or after the event, or, at minimum, receive a copy of the images taken to help offset the cost of the current, or future events, or be used in future promotions respectively.


  • The EO has a signed contract and along with it, the knowledge they have secured a professional photographer that can produce images available for internet viewing on the EO's website and social media platform(s) and for viewers to purchase those images from the OP's website, both during and after the event, which may contribute to increased attendance at the current event, or participation at future events respectively.

  • The EO does not need to get as involved with coordinating a number of individual photographers’ assignments, as that typically falls under the OP’s umbrella of responsibilities.

  • It makes it easier to define the venue’s safety procedures, including safe places to access certain events, and to communicate activity scheduling changes or expectations with a single OP, rather than a number of photographers working independently under direction of the EO’s media coordinator.  


  • Securing an OP usually means the EO accepts the task of monitoring those in attendance and policing those who may be taking pictures without written permission, with professional cameras bodies mounted with lenses typically longer than 70mm (i.e. 70-200mm zoom or longer zoom or prime lenses) It is not fair to an OP, who has paid a vendor fee for exclusive rights to take photos at an event, to have to share sales of images taken by other photographers who have not paid a vendor fee or other form of compensation to the EO)

  • The EO may have to immediately refund the exclusivity or vendor fee to the OP, should the contract be voided, due to the presence of other photographers taking photos without permission, or found beyond the designated barriers. If preventing the presence of other professional photographers that do not at least have authorized Media Credentials, is not possible, despite being previously agreed upon, the EO risks the OP also not meeting their obligations to photograph previously agreed upon events, due to unfair competition and a reduced profit margin.​ 


  • The EO, in addition to the requirement of obtaining a photo release waiver from the participants, may find it beneficial to erect signage clearly stating that no professional cameras are permitted on site, without written permission from the Event Organizer. This will assist with helping deter other professional photographers from attending without written permission. Signage may include instructions to the other photographers to remain behind fences or restrictive barriers.  (It is not the Official photographer’s role to confront other photographers on site to determine what their intentions are for being present, but they may advise the EO of the location of a suspected, unauthorized photographer for confirmation of authorization, or removal)

  • The EO risks not having an available photographer, if the OP (and their team of photographers if applicable) cancels due to unplanned circumstances or leaves prematurely, since other professional photographers may have opted out of attending, if they have previously been told they cannot sell the images they take, (This is why the organizers of larger venues, often secure secondary photographers; or require the OP to have an adequate number of photographers on their staff)

  • If one of the competitions at a larger event, has a change in start time or date, it puts more of an onus on the EO to immediately communicate the changes to avoid conflicts with another competition time which could jeopardize photographs from being taken of a competition, in comparison to an event without an OP where capturing all activities may be less regimented.

  • Having secured an OP does not necessarily mean you can expect to receive the best quality images. (There may be other local photographers, who are not yet widely known or recognized, available to produce as good or even higher quality images, with newer tech equipment, who are capable of offering their own services. The EO must always confirm the calibre of photos they can expect to receive from a photographer, by viewing the on-line galleries of previous jobs the photographer has been involved with)

from the perspective of the
Official Photographer (OP)


  • The OP has the exclusive rights to take all the photos at an event, as well as the permission to sell, display or distribute those images, or some other mutually agreed upon terms with the EO, without needing to obtain individual photo release waivers from the subjects being photographed. (this function or an equivalent e.g. part of the terms of participation in the event information package, has been performed, or communicated by the EO, prior to the start of the event.  

  • If the OP does not employ enough photographers to cover an entire multi-day, multiple location, multiple competition per day, event, the OP may negotiate with the EO which activities they will photograph, with the understanding they will only maintain their OP status, and exclusivity terms, on the activities or location, they are covering.


  • The OP may be required to pay an upfront or vendor fee, or a guaranteed percentage of sales during and after an event, regardless of total sales, to ensure the exclusive rights described above.

  • The OP may have to pay a tendering fee to initially submit their application, as part of the advertised competitive process, to secure the OP status for an event.

  • The OP inherits a level of risk of not breaking even, since sales aren’t guaranteed, especially if they have had to obtain additional equipment unique to completing a particular job, including the temporary hiring of secondary photographers to cover the volume of competitions in a large event.

  • The OP has an obligation to capture photographs of all competitions at a larger event, or as stipulated in the contract with the EO, and engage in each with equal enthusiasm and diligence as the more popular events, including those activities that may typically draw fewer spectators.

  • The OP may risk losing their OP status, and their ability to get a refund of their vendor or exclusivity fee (if applicable), if they are not able to fulfil the terms of the contract, that may result in the EO having to retain the service of another photography service to ensure they have a photographer for all competitions.

  • The OP’s also risks a loss in reputation, (reduced success in bidding on, or retaining future contracts), if the OP is unable to perform or complete a current job with the thoroughness expected by the EO.

from the perspective of the


  • Customers have the convenience of communicating with a single photographer.

  • Customers have the convenience of viewing photographs from a single website, or social media page.

  • Customers have the convenience of purchasing photographs from a single website.


  • Customers may have a smaller selection of photographs to view and purchase due to the likelihood of there being less photographers.

  • Customers have a selection of images, that may only provide a single photographer’s particular style, with only one or two photographers.

  • Customers may not find any professional photographs of a competition they may have been interested in, should the OP not be represented at a particular event due to an event’s schedule conflict, or other unforeseen reason.


Whether you are an Event Organizer or a competitor’s parent, who you hire depends on what the event is and what you want to get out of it.  Would you be best served by single Official Photographer, or one or more independent photographers?

Is it a single competition of short duration, on a single day, at a single location, held inside, or outside, OR does it include multiple competitions, of varying durations, over multiple days at multiple locations, held both inside and outside? Do you require digital image files, or printed, and do you need them asap or is a couple weeks okay?

Whether the event is a single, regular season hockey game requested by you, for a single photographer to photograph your child, or a multi-day, multi-field Canada-wide National event requesting a team of photographers to photograph multiple competitions of 100's of participants over an entire week, it is always best that both parties communicate their interests. Deciding what terms must be included in the agreement to best suit their respective concerns, will help ensure that both can deliver on their promises. 

We hope this article helps with your decision making process.

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