Choosing a photographer for your session can be kind of tricky. If you live in an area like I do, it may seem like photographers are a dime a dozen. There’s a dozen or so advertisements on Facebook promoting sessions (guilty!) to try and draw potential clients, so how exactly do you choose who is right for you? Just because someone has 1,000 Facebook likes that doesn’t mean they are professional or even know what they are doing. Marketing is marketing, and we pay services to put our name out there. A good photographer will have the work to show you and back up those likes!
When choosing a photographer there’s a couple of factors that play into this scenario. First of all budget- how much do you have/are willing to spend? I know that a lot of families are on budgets these days and the economy is still in recovery mode, but you shouldn’t skimp out on photos and go directly for the cheapest photographer or one who gives the most discounts. Yes, some great photographers are sometimes just starting out, or are way underpriced for their area. But sometimes you get exactly what you pay for, so be wary of that. If a photographer charges $45 a session and pushes bookings you may just get photos worth $45. You should look at family photos like you would like at any other purchase- if it’s something that means a lot to you and something that you absolutely want done then set a goal. Start saving for it, just like you would a new pair of shoes, or a car, or a new television. Photographs are an investment and you should be satisfied with your purchase. Did your friends/family members use a great photographer but maybe got them through a promo that was running at a more affordable rate? Check with the photographer and see if they will run another one within the next year. If not, start saving so that you can book with them! A lot of photographers offer payment plans, I know that I do. It’s easier for my clients to do this because it splits their fees into smaller portions. However, they do not get previews or products until the balance is paid in full as stated in my contract.
Next you need to find a photographer within your target price range that fits your style. Are you looking for a themed session, do you want a family photo session, do you need newborns? Some photographers only do one type of thing so you need to figure out what it is you are looking for and narrow your search field. Are you looking for bold colors, or perhaps a muted and toned down look? Find photographers in your area that have online portfolios and devote an evening to looking through them. If you find someone who has amazing photos but maybe their editing style isn’t quite what you are looking for then you should email them and ask questions. I also can’t stress enough about pre-session consultations. Do you get one? Is your photographer going to go over the fine details of what to expect from them with you? A good photographer will do these things and answer any questions you may have. I personally do not post all of my client photos online, and offer more in my regular portfolio. Some families are strict about posting photos on the internet and do not want their families showcased online, so even if it seems the photographer has a small client base this may not always be the case.
What kind of products do they offer? Are you looking for a photographer who offers prints but the one in your price range only offers digital files? Then you may be out of luck and have to find someone else. This also goes the other way, a lot of photographers will only offer DVD’s of the session (and by this I mean 15-20 edited photos is usually the standard amount) and not prints or other products such as canvas wraps, standouts, albums, etc. This is also something to ask a potential photographer if you don’t see this information on their site. A lot of us can do more than we offer on our sites, we just have basic standard prices for the most popular products ordered. I offer more sizes and different products and go over all of this with my clients in their pre and post session consultations.
Are you looking for a wedding photographer but you are on a strict budget? Ask around, just because a photographer doesn’t charge $2,000 for a wedding doesn’t mean that they won’t give you fantastic results. Some clients don’t need a wedding photographer for 10 hours or maybe their wedding doesn’t even cost as much as photographers listed on page 1 of Google web results. I have a base package for weddings that runs around $1500 for a 6-8 hour day with a DVD and print products for my client. I also taylor make wedding packages for clients that may only need me for a few hours, only want a dvd, or may have a very small bridal party/wedding venue size. A lot goes into pricing weddings, if it’s indoor there are usually lighting restrictions where you probably can’t use flash, so a special lens will be needed for this and a better preforming camera will need to be used. Are we going to be restricted as to where we can shoot from? A lot of indoor venues only allow photographers in one certain area during the ceremony so again, a special lens to get close up shots will be needed.
You also need to find out if your photographer has a business license, makes you sign a contract, is insured, etc. Ask for references if you need to. Don’t be discouraged by our prices, they may seem high but there is more that goes into your session than clicking a button. I shoot on manual mode, not auto, so I know my camera inside and out. I shoot with professional gear- very expensive camera bodies and lenses. I charge by how much time it takes me to edit photos, computer software, backup drives, the upkeep of my gear, the cost of new gear, insurance, taxes, business license renewal, product costs, business cards, gas to and from a session and mileage on my vehicle, advertising, owning my own web domain, website fees, etc. I’m sure you get the idea now. We run a business and we have to be successful at our business, especially if this is our only income.
Also, be very clear with your photographer on what you are looking for. Don’t book a session and afterwards ask for unedited or RAW photos and state that you’d rather edit them yourself. Most photographers WILL NOT do this as it is not correct evidence of our work. If this is something that you are looking for you need to be very clear about this before you even book a session. Every photograph is a business card, and it only takes one bad one to turn potential clients away. Also, once we click that button we own that photo, it is copyrighted to us. That goes for every photo ever taken by anyone, so unless you get permission to edit afterwards you could be facing a lawsuit.
I hope this information has helped in your quest to find the perfect photographer for you!