10 Rules for Choosing a Photographer

So you're looking for a professional photographer? Great! You've realised you're not happy with phone-snaps of your babies (who are growing up all too quickly). And you've decided it's high time you - beautiful Mama - were in the pictures too. Well done you!

But you're probably also short on time to spend organising this, and the dread you feel at being in front of the camera is making the whole process a bit icky. Who can you trust to capture nice images of you? It's not an easy decision.

So here is a countdown of the top ten rules I use when choosing which photographer to capture MY family (because they need photos too!).

10. Budget

Don't get me wrong, I'm really NOT made of money (unfortunately). It is absolutely a good idea to have a rough idea of what you're willing/able to spend before shopping for a photographer. But for me personally, money is my least concern. And here's why...

Question: How much did you spend on your last mobile phone? Answer: A LOT probably.

Question: How long will that mobile phone last before it's out of date? Answer: Couple of years, maybe three?

Question: How long will a beautifully framed portrait of your family be up on your wall for you (and others!) to admire? Reminiscing about the wonderful day you had and how gorgeously small and cute your children once were...? Showing the Grandchildren how little their Mummy was? Answer: That print will be on your wall a LONG time!

So yeah... Budget-smudget... What a photographer charges is usually in line with their level of experience and expertise. You really do need the RIGHT photographer, not necessarily the cheapest. These are your memories, heirlooms for your family, they are worth investing in.

9. Does your photographer come to you or have a studio? And which would you prefer?

Studio photography is very different to at home or on-location photography. There is usually a backdrop of some sort as well as lights and whatever props are needed. Some people like it - some people find it very intimidating. Where would your family be most comfortable?

And what about logistics - are you up for going to a studio? Maybe you'd rather someone came to you? Or perhaps, getting out of the house is exactly your thing? Perhaps you find a photographer that will meet you at your kids’ favourite park?

And what about the others in your family? Maybe, like me, you have a child who is an absolute riot of laughs when at home, but turns into the shyest of shy the minute you step out the door? Or maybe you have a toddler that's not shy at all and could benefit from being contained within a studio, rather than running about the woods.

And which style do you prefer? The classic heirloom look of good studio portraiture? The natural wildness of on-location photography, combining landscape photography and portraiture? Or relaxed, at home photos of you and your family?

8. What sort of packages do they offer?

Do they deliver only in print, or only in digital files or a mix of the two? Do they have packages with framing included, and is that something you want? Think about what you need, then assess each photographer to see if they can make it happen for you.

And if your answer to the above is 'I only need the digitals'... Here's a word of caution. Are you *sure*? Digital files are SO easily forgotten, stuffed on a USB stick in a drawer or in the depths of your hard drive. After all, we all take a phenomenal number of images in this day and age, your precious professional photos could really easily get misplaced or forgotten about entirely. I used to only offer digital files in my business, but I found that a staggering 90% of the clients never got around to printing them. They all reported loving the photos, and wanting to print them, but they never found the time. My clients thank me for offering prints as part of my packages now.

And one more thing... Have you seen the quality of supermarket prints? Yuck! Professional prints are much more sturdy, true to colour and long lasting than prints out of a supermarket... They're also usually colour calibrated to your photographer’s computer, so what you get in print is exactly what you see on screen. It really is worth investing in professional prints.

7. Are they creative?

In their portfolio can you see a wide range of locations/poses and scenes? Are the photos interesting to look at?

6. Do they have experience?

How long have they been doing this for? What is their quality like? Even the untrained eye will be able to spot the difference between a professional and entry level image (burry, squint etc.)

Does their portfolio show images from more than one or two different sessions? Is there a wide range of examples? Perhaps they've even included a set from an entire photo session on their website, so you can see the range of photos they take of one family?

5. What's their administration and customer service like?

When you enquire, do they come back to you quickly? Is their website professional, with just enough helpful information? Is their pricing clear and concise? How are they at answering your questions?

4. Do you like their style, and does it suit you and your home?

Each photographer has a style. Some are similar, some are fairly unique, others are a bit eclectic. But which suits you? Which suits your home? For example, do you prefer posed and staged photos (for instance, those with a newborn baby wrapped and posed in a basket with flowers etc.), or do you prefer more naturally styled photos (baby on the bed, in parents arms etc. with simple backgrounds). And do you prefer bold, bright and colourful photos, or more muted tones? Or perhaps black and white is your thing?

And if you don't know the answer to the above, just look at the images... Compare them side by side - which resonates with you?

3. Have they been recommended?

Have a look on Facebook and Google and see if the photographer you're looking at is recommended. And don't just go on the star rating, spend a bit of time looking at what people had to say about the person. Personal recommendation is so very important - we all feel a little better knowing someone else has used a service before us.

2. How do their images make you feel?

Hopefully following a successful family photography session you'll proudly display your photos on the wall. They'll be there every time you pass them - so you want them to 'feel' right.

Looking at a photographer’s portfolio, what is the feeling you get from the photos? Are they formal, relaxed, full of love and connection, warm, cold? Do they give you a sense of joy or are they more formal? And which do you prefer? How would that feeling you're getting translate onto your walls?

1. Do you like them?

This is absolutely the key. You've gotta like them! ESPECIALLY if you're at all nervous about being in front of the camera. Are they kind? Warm? Good with kids? Not? Perhaps you're an introvert and the thought of a loud and vivacious photographer stresses you out. Or maybe you're looking for someone who's a bright barrel of laughs!

Having a camera in front of you is quite confronting. It's one person looking just at you. You've got to be able to trust that person to really be photographing you in the best, most flattering way.

A good photography session should feel like hanging out with a friend, not an uncomfortable, awkward ordeal.

And finally, when you've made your decision make sure you;

a. Ensure you have full details of the costs - both now and after the photo session itself

b. Have a contract/agreement between you and the photographer detailing exactly how the interaction will work

c. Relax and enjoy the process! Soon you'll have beautiful moments captured as art for your walls.

Rebecca Holmes

Rebecca Holmes Photography