There are many different kinds of photographers out there! There is a huge spectrum when it comes to experience, price, quality, image quantity, product offerings, etc. It can be overwhelming when it comes down to deciding who to hire when it finally comes down to it. Don't just settle for someone local! There are so many photographers in the industry and there are ones that are definitely worth a little extra drive!
I'm going to give you a few tips that I had found helpful when it came down to hiring a photographer! I hired a photographer to capture my family not too long ago. (The session is for the spring time, so it hasn't happened quite yet, but it's booked!) It was easy to find the perfect photographer for me after I knew exactly what it was that I was looking for!
Do your research!
Each photographer is unique! No two are the same! There are some truly incredible photographers out there! Some have been in the industry for years! Others are just starting out! With anything, there are businesses that are run legitimately while others are run as a hobby. Some work full time, while others work part time and may even have another job. Some struggle to be creative and may copy other photographers' work as well as copy website information. Fortunately, it's not too often you find a photographer that has the gall to steal and copy others! It's one thing to be inspired by another photographer, but to take their work and claim it as their own is just not ok. I try to avoid that kind at all costs. I'm looking for a service that is high quality since I'm investing my hard earned money into something I highly value! I don't want a watered down version, I want the real thing! How can I trust someone with my money that publicly does things like that to another photographer's business? I also don't want the same setup as everyone else. I want something special and unique designed specifically to my family. So, when shopping around for photographers, I made sure to find someone who was creative, natural, interested in getting to know me and my family, someone who has a little something special to offer, and someone who valued me as a person and not just a client with money to spend! These factors might not be things you value in your session, and that's ok! Once you figure out what it is that is important to you, then you will be able to start the search to find the perfect photographer for you and your family!
What is it that you want out of your session?
This question encompasses a lot of concepts when it comes down to the details. Do you want an indoor session with bright backdrops, wood backdrops, neutral backdrops? Or an outdoor session in a field, in the city, in the woods, at your home, on the water, on a mountain, during sunset, during a specific season, etc. Depending on the season, and the photographer, you may have to book well in advance which is another thing to consider. Did you want a combination of indoor and outdoor? Does the photographer you have your eye on have the space to accommodate both? Do you like posed smiley family photos or do you prefer less posed and more organic photos? Were you interested in a lifestyle session? If you aren't sure, consider asking yourself what you want to use these images for? Did you just need to update your family photo for an album? Did you just move and have walls to fill? Do you need photos for invitations or thank you cards? Christmas Cards? Did you need them for a gift you were making? Wedding decor? Etc. Think about what you want them for, then decide what style will work best for you! (If you wanted to hang your images in your living room that is decorated in shades of cream, white, and blue then you probably don't want purple floral backdrops...or maybe you do. :) If you wanted these images for first birthday invitations that match the theme you chose you might want to ask what the photographer can do for you as well as turn around time so you have plenty of time to not only get your photos, but create and order the invitations.)
Not all photographers offer all the services above. Maybe you're just looking for a few family photos to share on social media and with friends and family! So it's important to take a peek at the photographer's social media, as well as their website, in order to gauge exactly what it is that they offer. Some photographers will do everything and anything and offer a ton of different services. Others choose to specialize in one or a few areas and perfect that. Check out the props and backdrops on their page. Does this match the style that you had in mind? Would the images match the decor in your home (assuming you may want to order prints of your images to hang)? Please make sure you reach out and ask questions (no matter how silly they may seem). Maybe you saw a backdrop they used on their website that would go great with the color scheme in your living room. Ask if it's still available for use because style is always changing, they may not even have that backdrop anymore! Asking questions will help you get a good idea as to whether or not that photographer is for you! And this will also give the photographer a better idea as to what you would like and they can make sure you have the best experience with them. If you bring a Pinterest board to a photographer with a bit of a different style, I'm sure they will do their best to be inspired by that idea, but you may not be happy with the end result if it's different from what they usually offer.
Make sure you work with a photographer that has a clear contract! Read the contract over, do not hesitate to ask questions for clarification! It's important that you are valued as a client and have an agreement, as well as a CLEAR understanding as to how your money will be spent and what you will get with that money.
How much are you looking to spend?
Photography is an investment. Pricing varies greatly! Some photographers shoot primarily on location because they do not have a studio space. Some photographers rent a studio, while others have an in-home studio or separate building they own. These are all things that are calculated into the photographer's pricing. So, if you are on a budget, maybe look into a photographer who doesn't have a studio space and primarily shoots on location. This will almost always guarantee a cheaper session fee because the costs the photographer takes on to run his/her business is a little bit less than one that may rent or own a studio space. Families on an even tighter budget may want to keep an eye out for photographers who are just starting out! They are so eager to find families to practice with! Some may charge a small fee but it's generally a very reasonable one. But just remember, they still have a lot to learn. Even experienced photographers are still learning or "practicing". If you find a newer photographer offering newborn sessions, I would just ask if they have taken any workshops or classes on newborn safety or if they have experience with newborn sessions through a mentor program. Newborn safety is so very important and it takes experience to understand the fundamentals of a successful newborn session. Newer photographers are naturally going to be cheaper than more seasoned photographers. Seasoned photographers have had longer to make money that they invest back into their business so their equipment might be of higher quality. Newer photographers to the industry might have good equipment, but may have less to offer if you were looking for props, outfits, hair and makeup services, etc.
Don't shy away from that photographer that you love because of their price! Most do offer payment plans and will deliver your images, wall art, and products on receipt of final payment!
What would you like to happen after your session is over?
Do you just want digital images? Do you want to be able to choose your images or are you okay with your photographer choosing? Do you want wall art? Do you want books, albums, or other products? Do you want all of the above? Are you ok with, and have the time for, pre and post consultations when it comes to ordering prints? Some photographers offer this service which is a little time consuming, but well worth the extra attention to detail and this will most definitely give your photographer a clear idea of what it is you are looking for in your session! Once you narrow down your photographer based on price and style...see what it is they have to offer! A professional photographer who owns a business can get exclusive access to professional grade print companies. These print companies will only work with professional photographers and do not accept orders from other such customers. The quality is to die for. The ink lasts forever and never fades. The paper will never turn yellow, crinkle with age, or dull. Depending on the print company your potential photographer uses they may also offer prints on metal and wood. They may offer custom framing for your prints. Your photographer may even offer services where they will come to your home, measure the wall, and help create a collage for you! Just ask! This service is invaluable! You are guaranteed to get beautiful, flawless, work delivered right to you, ready to hang! (That is, if that is what you want!) If you are going to invest money into professionally photographing your family, then why wouldn't you invest in printing these images professionally? Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Costco, etc. are NOT professional printing companies. These are machines that do not care if the color is slightly off or if the paper is cheap. Invest in a photographer that will give you access to professional print companies! Printing photos at cheap labs is almost like buying prime rib and then cooking it in the microwave! You would NEVER do that! Professional printing companies not only print the images true to color and of high quality, they also inspect every image, fix anything that may need fixing, and GUARANTEE 100% satisfaction. However, some photographers only offer digitals which might be something that you're looking for right now. So, if quality prints is something you want with your session, it is something to ask about prior to booking!
Are you looking for a long term photographer?