Hiring a photographer can be overwhelming. There are so many options and hard to know what the right fit for you is in this season, especially if you have never hired a photographer before. Here are just a few things to consider before you hire your next photographer.
Ask for Recommendations
Chances are your friends or family have hired a photographer in your area. They may have had amazing an amazing experience or a subpar experience. Thats why you ask your friends. More than likely they will give you their honest opinion without bias. I wouldn’t recommend running to a local moms group on facebook and asking for the “best photographer that won’t cost an arm and a leg” or a “good photographer that won’t break the bank” I wouldn’t even ask for a photographer that is “reasonable” because what is reasonable to you may not be reasonable to the next person. Also when you ask for those types of recommendations, chances are you aren’t getting the names of seasoned photographers (we will talk budget in a bit) or even probably the best photographers in your area. I’m not just talking skill I’m also talking licensed business, customer experience etc. Again, ask your friends. I bet you would be surprised to find that you have a photographer in your circle that you didn’t even realize. Why wouldn’t you want to support a friend or a friend of a friend?
Ok, at this point we aren’t talking editing. We will get to that. What I am talking about is, are they a traditional portrait photographer? A Lifestyle photographer? Is their style more Documentary? Blah blah blah…. Do I sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown? This is important so listen up. These words and “styles” may be meaningless to you at this point but I can tell you it is really important when it comes to receiving the types of images that you want and having the type of experience that you are expecting. A traditional portrait photographer is what many people think of when they are considering their Christmas cards (there is other reasons to hire a photographer than Christmas cards, thats for another post, I’ll get off my soap box). This is the “posed” everyone smiling at the camera, flattering, eyes open, print large hang in your house kind of photo. Many photographers will incorporate this type of photography in their sessions (and they should) because this is what many people are looking for. But I’ll be blunt with you. This is not the photography that typically feeds the artist soul. Moving on. Another style to consider is the Lifestyle Photographer. Often you will find them photographing people in their homes or doing some sort of activity or adventure to tell a story through their images. Their can be some posing involved but their is also more movement, connection and interaction between the subjects. This is where emotion starts to shine through in the images. Between the posing, games, direction it can feel less awkward and contrived for the clients. Clients feel a little more at ease and relaxed feeling as though they are allowed to be more themselves in the images. Finally, Documentary. These images can seem more gritty and raw. The goal of a documentary photographer is to not interfere in any way. They will walk into a space to capture the people and place without manipulating much of anything. They can be found documenting births, in home family sessions, out on the streets. Their goal is to capture what is happening in the most real and honest way. Now considering these types of photography you will find that some photographer will bend more one way or the other. I would argue that you should find a photographer that has a healthy mix of all three. With a mix of the three you will get the honest connection of your family, all the emotions with some traditional portraits sprinkled in and still have relaxed and enjoyable time as a family.
Well. Lets talk about the elephant in the room, shall we? Yeah budget. It has to come up. I won’t go into it too much and I’ll try to keep my opinion mostly to myself on this one (insert winkie face). I get it. Money is ALWAYS something that needs to be considered with hiring someone for a service, especially when it isn’t life or death. This would be considered a luxury item for some and not a necessity. Bills need to be paid (hello water bill in Colorado, YEOUCH), Retirement needs to be saved for, not to mention the kids activities and eventually college tuition (eesh). So yes you should consider budget when you are looking to hire a photographer. What I will say to you is this: Just like in every service industry, you get what you pay for. Want a cheap hair cut? Pay $20 and get a chop job… you can’t complain right? Want the lowest price for a water heater install and it breaks in a week, hmmm. Same goes for photography. Yes you can hire a photographer for less than $100. In fact I saw someone list their prices for $20 for an hour. WHAT? Such a good deal! No. A photographer that has been in the business for a while, who has subscriptions for their website, gallery delivery, customer management system, licenses and insurance, pays taxes, invests in their education and equipment (among other things) cannot charge you so little. This is not a hobby, it is a business. I’m not going to tell you the price point to look for. But I will say, consider your budget, consider what photographs really mean to you in terms of preserving your memories and your family and look for a photographer that you like and trust. If they are out of your budget you can humbly look for another OR (and this is my favorite) save for that dream photographer and hire them when you are ready. I have a few I am saving for myself.
Do Your Research
I said I would get into editing style…. So here we are! Time and again I see photographers mulling over a email they need to respond to from a client who was unhappy with how the images were edited. There are a LOT of different editing styles out there. Not only that, editing styles shift like trends in the clothing industry (hello, fanny packs and scrunchies are back). I think this complaint happens when someone receives a recommendation from a friend and then hires said photographer before ever looking at their website or other social media accounts to truly understand what their editing style is. Does the photographer shoot film or digital. Is their editing heavy handed or more timeless? GO LOOK AT THEIR SITE! It shouldn’t have to be said, but this is why I always point inquiring clients back to my site to have a look. The last think I would want is for someone to hire me, get my normal style and possibly my best work, just to have them disappointed because they were expecting a heavy handed edit. Thats not me. You like that style? Thats great! I will gladly point you to some of my friends who do beautiful work in that style. Different strokes for different folks. I don’t expect everyone to want what I offer. And I’m thankful that not everyone delivers what I deliver. Photography would be very boring if we were all doing the same thing. So do your research!
Think Through What You Want Captured
So you found the perfect photographer, you set aside the money to hire them, their style and editing is right up your alley… now, why did you hire them? Is it just for the Christmas card (come on, there is more) is it because you and your family just got through a really hard season and you are just so happy to be on the other side? Did you bring a new member in the the family? A Birth? An adoption? Are you a newly married blended family with kids from previous marriages? Or are you just so in aw of how quickly your littles are growing that your heart aches to freeze them in time? Whatever the reason, go into the session knowing what it is that you want captured and communicate that to the photographer (I’m not talking about a shot list pulled from Pinterest). As story tellers we want to know your story and capture it well. Go into the session with intention, then love on your family and enjoy yourself and you shouldn’t be disappointed.