Let’s face it, there are a lot of photography options out there. How do you identify and decide which photographer is the right one for you?
How people think about and approach photography varies from person to person, but keep this in mind as you search for one and as you read this post – photography is an investment! When all is said and done, these images are going to be what you look at through the years and ultimately, what you leave behind – make sure they are good ones, and selfies don’t count!
First, figure out why you are looking for a photographer. That’s right, why do you need a photographer? Are you looking to have pictures taken just to have everyone in the pictures? Or is it a particular milestone in your life (engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, special birthday, annual family portrait, etc.)?
Second, what will you do with these images once they are delivered to you? Will you keep them safely on a USB or in “the cloud”, or will you print and display them around your home? Will they be used for an announcement? Printed or digital? Will they be shared on social media? Will they be given as gifts?
Third, where would you like to have your pictures taken? In a studio, outdoors, at home, on a farm, beach, etc.?
Fourth, what is your budget? Yes, budget! Identifying your reasons as per above and what you will do with the images after they are captured, will help you determine how much you are willing or able to spend on a photographer. If you do a search on how much you should pay for professional photography the answers will vary, but a common theme is that “you get what you pay for”. Make sure that you take into account printing costs as well photography cost. It kind of defeats the purpose of having professional pictures taken and then getting them printed at your local drugstore or online discount printer. The quality of the print will be much better from the photographer with the correct colors, correct saturation and detail levels. A good pro will have a relationship with a printer they trust and one that will provide a quality product.
Next, once you have identified the above, ask your family and friends, the ones whose opinion you trust, the ones that know you and the ones whose pictures you have seen and loved! Ask them about their experience, the photographer – were they easy to work with, did they have good customer service, will they use them again in the future, are they happy with the final product?
Once you have identified a few potential photographers, take a look at their website and social media posts. Are they a “good” photographer? Remember that what you see posted on their social media is their best work – is their best good enough for you? Do they have creative vision? Do you like their style, composition, use of lighting, backdrops, angels, editing, etc. Is it just a nice picture or is a great picture? Does the image illicit any emotion (make you smile, tear up, wonder what the subject was thinking) … Are they able to catch real moments or is every image “over posed”? If you had an image like that of your and your family – would you proudly display it in your home?
Many people overlook this next part, mostly because they don’t know what to look for, and I don’t expect everyone to be a photography expert, but here are some key things to look for while trying to determine if the photographer produces technically good pictures. Are there weird shadows on faces, trees or buildings growing out of peoples’ heads? Is the image properly exposed or is too light, too dark, in or out of focus? Do all of the images look the same (same angle, filter, location, just different faces)? Do the images have depth or are they flat? Do the poses look forced or natural? Do the images look finished (edited) or do they look like something your cousin Eddy would take with his camera?
Lastly, make sure that you speak with the photographer before booking them! Ask them all the questions you may have about the session, their process, turnaround time. Do you like them? Do they meet your needs, goals and budget?
While you are speaking with the photographer, make sure that you understand what is included in the package (digitals, prints, both or none)? Many clients think that they should get all of the images on a disk the next day. Let’s step back for a minute – do you really want 150 (or more) images, many of the same pose, some with eyes closed or not so flattering expressions? Will you be displaying all 150 of them or just the ones that you love? Also, if you get 150 images the next day, chances are that little to no editing was done. A good professional photographer will take the time to cull (the process of reviewing and selecting the best images), edit and present you with the finest images from the session. More doesn’t mean better, especially in photography. Quality images take time to produce, and you deserve quality, not quantity.
So remember – you get exactly what you pay for and if the prices sound too good to be true, then they often are. Pictures are SO important; they are worth the investment. Think carefully and choose very wisely before you spend your time, your money or, most importantly, your memories and moments with someone that is not going to give you what you want.
I know that it sounds like a lot, but just as you would do the research on a new car you want to buy that will last you for the next few years, you should do the research on the person that will be capturing those special moments that will be displayed in your home for many years to come.
“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving, what you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind