I have had many friends ask me what they should look for when choosing a photographer in their area. I was able to condense my thoughts down to seven main things you should consider when looking for a portrait photographer. There are other things that do come to mind, but when looking for someone to take family photos or capture the milestones of your littles, these are the big things you should consider!
There are many aspects of style that you should consider when looking for a photographer. Here are a few:
What kind of photographs are you looking for? Do you want posed portraits? Do you want family photos where you can see everyone's faces? Are you a fan of "lifestyle" photography, where your family is captured doing natural things without a lot of posing?
Next you must consider the type of editing you prefer. Do you like "natural" editing which looks similar to real life? Are you a fan of the instagram-esque filters? Do you like "matte" photography? There are many different styles of editing. Some are fads and some are here to stay. Either way - you've got to find a photographer who edits in a way that is pleasing to your eye.
Photographers also have different artistic styles. Some photographers use a large amount of props or do "styled" or "themed" sessions. Some take a lot of close ups. Some like to feature creative backgrounds or lighting. What style speaks to you?
You may not know the answer to these questions, or even what some of them mean. The bottom line is this: look at the work of the photographer you are considering hiring. Odds are, your photos will look very much like other work the photographer has done. Ensure you LIKE that style!
2. Quality of work.
You want to ensure your photographer does quality work. Ask to see larger print. Your photographer should be happy to show you printed samples of their work. The eyes should be sharp and the skin should not make your 37 year old husband look like a wax doll. You know, the little things! ;-) Photos may look great on Facebook or Instagram, but look horrible once you try to order a larger print. Head this issue off at the pass and look at the quality of the photographer's work prior to hiring them.
This is pretty straight forward. Is the photographer's work consistent? Is the style and quality consistent from one shoot to the next and from one photo to the next within a shoot? Remember, you're getting an idea of the photographer's style from their work (see #1). If the work isn't consistent, you don't know what you will get or if you will like the style. Finding someone who produces consistent work will allow you to predict what you will get in your session.
Does the photographer fit in your budget? Consider the total cost. Do they charge a flat fee and provide digital files? Do you have separate sitting fees and print fees? Look at what the total package will likely cost. In the photography world you often get what you pay for, but there's nothing worse than not being able to afford the photos you've had taken! Ensure that you can afford to put those beautiful photos on your wall!
5. Product delivery.
Photographers have a wide range of product delivery models. Some only allow you to purchase prints through them. Some photographers mail out a CD or flash drive. Others allow for digital downloads. Consider whether it is important to have digital files or not. Similarly, consider whether it is important to have access to a professional print lab through your photographer. The product delivery model may impact the photographer you choose.
If the photographer you are considering offers digital files, you will also want to consider whether or not those files are high resolution. If the photos are not high resolution they won't be very printable. Some photographers offer digital files that can be printed up to a certain size, such as 8x10.
6. JPEG or RAW?
In this world where everyone who has an entry level DSLR thinks they have the skill to be a professional photographer, you may want to ask if the photographer shoots in JPEG or RAW. What are JPEG and RAW you ask? Simply put, they are file formats. A photographer who shoots in JPEG allows the camera to post process the images based on the camera's algorithm. A photographer who shoots in RAW must post-process the images themselves. The beauty of RAW is that the data is not compressed. Having non-compressed data gives the photographer more flexibility in editing without losing photo quality. In general, more amateur photographers shoot in JPEG and more professionals use RAW. Truth be told, this is a debate, even among some professionals. There are some very talented photographers out there who shoot in JPEG only. However, given the additional creative control that RAW affords the photographer, that is definitely my preferred file format. Bottom line: your photographer should at least know what RAW is. Is JPEG a deal breaker? No. However, if your photographer shoots in JPEG, it should be a signal to you to make sure they create amazing images.
7. Relationship with photographer
No one wants a photographer they are uncomfortable with. If you are tense around your photographer, your photos will show that you feel uncomfortable! Find a photographer who is easy to talk to who makes you feel at ease. If you have kids, the photographer needs to be able to relate to kids. Your photographer should be willing to answer questions. You want to have clear expectations and no ambiguity. Communication is critical!