As a professional photographer in The Woodlands/Houston, TX area and wife and mommy of two, I have a unique perspective on how a photographer-client relationship can go well or poorly. I've had a few friends ask for help in selecting a photographer (in other states). To help them and you out, I've pulled together 4 helpful tips for finding your dream photographer and avoiding disappointment with your photo session experience and photos.
I've hired my fair share of professional photographers for personal photos over the years and, of course, I'm regularly on the other end of this equation! I've had many clients share how previous experiences have been terrible and have heard my fellow professional photographer friends lament sessions gone awry. So, collectively, I feel well qualified to share some thoughts and advice regarding how to choose the right photographer for YOU. Also, selfishly, I want to make sure that I and my clients are the best fit. I am not the best photographer for every client and that is ok.
Tip 1: When you reach out to a photographer for the first time (via email, social media, or phone), be alert to how they treat you. Is this person professional, enthusiastic, organized, and responsive? Or do they take a long time to respond? Are they rude or cold? Do they forget to follow through or fail to answer all of your questions? These interactions can tell you a lot about how you will be treated in both your session and how interactions afterwards will go. If a photographer cannot respond in a timely fashion to your email, guess what... they're likely behind on photo editing and may not deliver your photos in a timely manner. So much of photography is NOT about the technical skill of the photographer but about the people skill of the photographer. If they don't make you feel comfortable from a distance, they will not make you feel comfortable during your session, which will not allow you to relax and be yourself to achieve natural, emotive photos. You want a responsive, professional, and engaging photographer in your first communications; this suggests how they will be for your session!
Tip 2: Ask yourself what style of photography you like and assess whether the photographer has the same style that you prefer. Do you like light and airy images or do you think these look overexposed? Do you like vibrant colors or prefer more muted images? Do you like dark and moody or does it feel too heavy for you? Do you prefer more formal photographs, where everyone is posed, or do you prefer a more natural style of photography? Photographers have different styles and your preferences should like up with theirs. (Prospective client: my style is clean, organic, and not overly edited. I strive for authentic emotions and vibrant but natural colors. I'm not light and airy; I'm not dark and moody. I have a clean, un-fussed style.)
Tip 3: Assess their portfolio honestly. When looking at the photographer's portfolio, look critically at the quality of the photos. Do the photos seem too bright or too dark? Are the subjects in focus? Are horizon lines straight? Do the subjects express true emotion? Does the photographer have an expansive portfolio or does their website display only a few photos? (You want to make sure the photographer can consistently deliver quality photos and that 'good photos' aren't just flukes. Multiple awesome photos of different people across different sessions will help you discern someone who can consistently deliver quality from someone who snapped a few good photos but cannot deliver this consistently. This singlehandedly is one of the biggest tells for discerning a professional from an amateur.)
Tip 4: Beware of 'bargains' and work with a photographer you admire to figure out a way to accomodate your budget. We all need to be realistic about our budgets and, in that regard, price is certainly a factor in finding your ideal photographer. But, I promise you, if someone is offering a 'too good to be true' bargain price, you almost certainly will be disappointed. Why, you say? Because, a skilled and in-demand photographer knows that it takes hours of their time to have a 30 minute mini session (2 hours or more scouting locations; 30 minutes cleaning and preparing their equipment; 30 minutes of active shooting; 1 hour downloading the photos; hours editing the photos; and an hour or so to upload and deliver them). That's 10 hours or so of work per mini session and doesn't include the photographer's investment in very expensive equipment!
Mini sessions can be a great way to work with a talented photographer at a lower price and, if you love a photographer's work, tell him/her and ask whether they'll consider spreading out the session fee. I know I would happily do this for someone who loves my work! Photographers can also adjust the duration of a session or included files to help fit within your budget. And, many will be willing to work at a discounted rate, if you're willing to work around their schedule or help them by shooting at a new location.
I hope these tips are helpful. And, if you apply these tips to my work and me and think I'm up for the job and a good match for you, I'd love to chat!
Katie, Kathryn Ann Photographie
P.S. Do you have any good tips to share with others? How do you know a photographer is right or wrong for you?