It’s May, and it’s time to start booking your photographer for holiday pictures. Popular photographers book out several months in advance, especially for holiday portraits, so if you don’t have a go-to photographer already, it’s time to start looking. But, with so many photographers how do you know which one to choose for your family? Below are some tips that can help you decide which photographer to invest in for your family.
1) Get referrals – Your friends and family will be the best place to start your search for a photographer. They can give you candid and honest reviews of what they liked and disliked about their photographer. Ask them how the photographer was to work with, did they work well with kids, how long it took to get their images back, were they happy with the images they received, and, most importantly, would they book that photographer again?
2) Photographer directories – Websites with photographer directories are not a bad place to find a photographer. But, keep in mind; photographers aren’t necessarily listed in them because they are the best. Often photographers have to pay to be listed in those directories. Do your research and don’t just book a photographer because they are featured on a website or blog.
3) Consistency – Take a look at the photographer’s blog. Is their style and editing consistent? A photographer’s website will show the best of their best work. But, their blog will give you a better sense of what kind of work they are producing on a session by session basis. Some questions you should ask yourself when looking through a photographer’s blog and gallery are:
If you are worried about consistency ask to see a real client’s gallery. That will give you a better feel of what you can expect from your images.
4) Style – Do you like formal pictures or more candid and lifestyle photography? Be honest with yourself. What images would you want to be hanging on your wall? Don’t book a lifestyle photographer and expect to get a lot of images where your family is smiling straight into the lens. You will get better images if you let a photographer do what they do best and not expect them to conform to what you want. I can tell you from experience that I need to be inspired to create the type of photographs that my clients expect. The best way to kill a photographer’s inspiration is to send them your Pinterest board of images you’d like them to recreate. You hired your photographer for a reason. Let them do what they do best.
5) Budget – Just like photographers’ styles vary dramatically, so do their prices. You need to be sure that you are investing in the right photographer for your family. Because family photos are an investment. What are your end goals? Do you really need the digital negatives? Or are you okay with prints to display in your home? Just because you want it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need it.
You also need to know what is included with the session fee? How much will prints cost to purchase a la carte? And is there a minimum order fee? All of these things should be told to you upfront.
Remember, cheaper isn’t always better. Often times, you get what you pay for. If you want an experienced, professional and talented photographer, you can expect to pay for it. If a photographer can charge higher prices it typically signifies that they are in demand, which means they are able to produce a good product while giving their customers a great experience.
6) Make sure you understand the photographers policies BEFORE you book. Read their pricing policies and contract carefully. Are the digital negatives included? How many images will you receive in your gallery? How long will your gallery be live? What are the a la carte print prices? Every photographer does things differently so don’t expect your new photographer to do things exactly like photographers you have used in the past.
Your family portraits are an investment! Treat them as such. Do your research and find an experienced photographer that clicks well with your family. And when you find that photographer that works well for your family, stick with them! I find that each time I work with a repeat client our shoots just get better and better once I know the dynamic of the family and they are comfortable with me. Plus, I love seeing my repeat clients year after year and getting to see their families grow!
At the end of a wedding last weekend, I was making my usual rounds, thanking the bride, her parents, and the groom for hiring me as their photographer. I feel it's a real honor to be the person my clients rely on to capture and immortalize this most special day in their lives. So, to thank them for that privilege may seem odd to them, but I really mean it.
This particular couple expressed to me they weren't very comfortable in front of a camera, and as such never really had any photos of themselves. I completely understood their feelings. It's funny how some people are completely o.k. with a camera pointed at them, and some not.
In all our wedding packages, we include an "engagement" photo session. The best images come from a relaxed, supportive atmosphere and a photo session before the big day is a great ice-breaker. The couple gets to meet me and get a feel for how I work. I get to meet them, and figure out lighting and posing strategies that work for each couple. It's a win-win situation for all concerned. It is a very low stress situation and always provides excellent results, both during the engagement session and later, on the wedding day.
So as I was thanking the bride, we both had the same thought at the same moment; I said to the bride how it felt that we had been through a lot together. She immediately agreed, emphasizing that yes, we had been through quite a lot together, and now, it was all complete. It was an amazing moment for me. Sometimes, I think I'm just this hopeless romantic, and no one else really gets all emotional about stuff. Then, something like that happens, and I realize that I played a pivotal part in this couples lives for a little while, and now we were all going back to our respective lives.
I've been mulling that over for this past week, and it occurred to me that that is what a good photographer can and should do, not just take some pictures and take the cash, but actually help and guide the couple through this crazy event known as the wedding day. After all, I've been to many more weddings than any bride could hope to see. I know what's going to happen, and I know what matters. So, keep that in mind when shopping for a photographer, whether its for your wedding or commercial project. A true professional is really more than the sum of the parts, they are your collaborator, confidant, adviser. Choose wisely!
Thanks for reading!