Choosing the right photographer for your family memories

With so many photographers out there, it can become overwhelming, very quickly, when searching for the right one for your family.  Where do you start?  How do you know if you’re booking a good photographer or not?  How much do you want to pay for a photographer?  I’ve put together this guide to help you out.

Getting started – how to find a photographer.

Even better than searching on Google is referrals.  Ask your friends about photographers they have used.  You can pre-qualify photographers by asking some very simple questions:

  1. What was it like to work with him/her?
  2. Were you happy with your photographs?
  3. Did they offer portrait printing, custom framing, Christmas cards, etc?
  4. Overall, were you happy with their services and professionalism?
  5. Would you use them again?

If you don’t know anyone who has used a photographer recently, then a Google search should give you some quick results.  Do a simple search, for example “Tottenham Family Photographer” or “Tottenham Newborn Photographer” – change the words as needed but be sure to include the location and the type of shoot you want.

Check out the first page on Google and see how many times the same photographer appears on the first page.  This means that their work is concentrated in that particular city/town.

You’ve got some names, now what?

Google them.  Go on their website and analyze their work.  Check out their pricing, and ask for a detailed price list if it’s not on the website.  While you’re looking at various websites, there will be some that make you go “wow, those are awesome” and some that will make you go “oh, that’s nice”.  Concentrate on the “wow those are awesome” sites and add them to your short list.

A bit about style.

I asked on my Facebook Page what people look for when they are researching photographers.  The number one answer that came up was “their style”.  What is style when it comes to photography?  In my opinion, it’s how their work makes you feel. When looking at a photographer’s style, you have to look at all their pictures on their website.  Are most of them in a studio setting or are they on-location?  Are the families posed or do they seem like they’re at ease?  Are the people in the pictures genuinely happy looking or do the smiles seem forced?  All of these things relate to the photographer’s style.

How do I know if they are good?

While you’re looking at the pictures, look past the “oh those are cute” feeling of the pictures, and look for things like sharpness, focus problems, lighting and colour (or black and white).  Do the pictures look clear?  Are there any shadows on their face?  Are the people squinting?  Do the colours look bright, but not over-saturated?  When looking at black and white photos, does the skin look muddy or is it creamy looking?  You don’t need to have a photographer’s eye to see a good picture over a bad one.

Another thing to look at is their overall portfolio.  Does the photographer have a number of different people in their images, or are you seeing the same child, the same family, over and over again?  This tells you how new they are to the business.  Being new is not a bad thing of course – it just depends if you want a more seasoned pro or someone who is just starting out.

Finally, check to see if the photographer is a member of a professional photography organization, such as the Professional Photographers of Canada or the Professional Photographers of America.  Both of these organizations issue accreditation to their members after the photographer has gone through a process where they have been judged by a group of their peers and awarded a nationally recognized accreditation in their photography field.  This will help you find a true professional – someone who has extensively studied their craft; someone who will not disappoint you.

Pricing

The price should not be your deciding factor when selecting a photographer. If you plan ahead, you can budget for a professional photo session.  Maybe that means putting $20 a week aside for X number of weeks, but when the time comes to place your order, you won’t feel overwhelmed.  You will know how much you have to spend and can make your selections accordingly.

There are so many different pricing schemes with photographers in a very saturated market.  You will find photographers who charge you a flat amount and give you all the images on a USB key or CD, and you’ll find others who charge a session fee but everything else is extra.  Something to keep in mind is that sometimes, the lower price range photographer may not take the time and effort to ensure every image is perfect before delivering it to their client.   As a paying client, you only want the best images presented to you.  Each photograph that is sold to you should be retouched which includes the removal of minor blemishes, colour correction as well as other edits they feel necessary.  This is what gives an image the WOW factor!

Also, a lower priced photographer may not have proper business practices in place.  They may not be claiming the income on their taxes or have proper business insurance.  Why should you care about this?  You want to deal with someone who is running a professional and legal business, has contracts in place, has the proper liability insurance should an accident happen while on a photo session, and someone who is using professional grade equipment to help produce the best pictures possible.  A good photographer, one that really knows what they are doing, runs a legitimate business, perhaps is part of a photographer’s organization, is going to cost more than someone who just hands out a disc.  It’s quality, not quantity that should prevail here.

The bottom line when it comes to pricing is this – you’re the client, and you are deciding how much of a value this service is to you.  You decide if you would rather have the prints, or a disc, or a mix of both, and you decide how much to spend.

I hope this article helps provide you with some background information so that you can make an educated choice.

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