Do I book someone new? Someone who only shoots in the middle of the day or only shoots at sunset. How much money is in the budget? Do I love inside or outside? Do I like posed or more natural? How do I know?
I wanted to write a quick how to on how to choose your family photographer. Deciding to book a family photographer is a big deal! It typically does not happen but once a year. If that if you are lucky and have a husband that will allow you to dress him up more than he would like. The reason this blog post came to mind is because of a handful of emails I got this past week that made me realize something. People don’t always know what to look for when they book. This goes for newborn photography sessions as well. Babies are only born once so that window to do it right is very tiny. I tend to book very far in advance, as many of my clients cherish a certain type of photography, so they make sure to get on my schedule early to guarantee a spot. However, that being said, many find my style later, after they have already had a session, etc. That is what happened this week. I received a handful of emails stating that they booked their photographer and were not happy with their images. One quoted to me, and since gave me permission to post this, “Emily, do you remember when I inquired with you a few months ago? Well we didn’t reply as we went with someone cheaper. It was the biggest regret that I can ever tell you. Please please tell me you have some room to photograph my family before the end of the year. All of our photos are boring, the color is ugly, and she was not fun at ALL to work with. I should have known better” But really… as a consumer. We don’t always know what to look for, so how was she supposed to know?
It was this email alone that made me think, gosh, maybe the public really does not KNOW what to look for! Not every photographer is for everyone. We all shoot differently. We all edit our photos differently. We all act differently during photo sessions. So how DO you know which photographer is right for you?
Here are my thoughts. Take them or leave them, but hopefully this will help some of you. On a side note, not every photographer is for every client. It’s up to the client to decide if the photographer is right for them!
Now when you are deciding, “do I splurge on family photos and get exactly what I WANT, or do I save some money and book with someone who is newer and maybe not QUITE the style I love” Put it this way. When you got married. Look back. What do you have to remember that by? Photos. Here are some tips to think about when choosing your photographer, if you decided to splurge a bit and get something amazing.
- Portfolio review: This is HUGE HUGE HUGE. How many times have you seen an image. I am talking ONE image on Facebook from a friends photo shoot that you love. You head over, see the persons blog, see 1-5 images per session on each blog post, and bam you book them. Then when the time comes for you to view your files, you only like 1. or 2. or maybe 3 images. Yes I realize my blog posts have on average 75 photos and I am a blabber mouth ha. But that is because I can’t pick my favorites! I love them all just the same. Make sure you head to the photographer you inquire withs blog or website. If they don’t have full sessions posted, ASK them to see one. I promise you. There are a ton of photographers out there who get a lucky shot here and there but will not give you 100% consistently amazing photos. Constantly amazing photos is 100% the most important thing you need to look for. Side note, most of us photographers do not have time to always update our portfolio pages but we are ALWAYS posting on Facebook. Checkout your photographers Facebook engagement. See the most recent posts. I promise you will find more there than on a site during busy seasons.
- Reviews or referrals from someone: Just like a plumber, or a restaurant, make sure you ask around regarding your photographer you are choosing. Make sure they had a great experience. Since the digital era has started, everyone has a camera. But not everyone knows how or is running a true business. Make sure you get a true professional. Someone who can stand by their work. Someone who is NICE to you. Someone who truly loves what they do and is admired in the photography community. On this note, make sure your photographer is LEGIT. If they have a review page, see if they are real. Are they solicited or made up reviews. Something to think about.
- Do they sell digital files: Now this may not be important to you. Some sell them, some do not. There is no right or wrong answer here. Each photographer is priced on how much they need to make to run the size business they have (if not, it’s considered undercutting which in the small business world is a big no-no). Some photographers do not have time to sell prints, some do not wish to sell digitals. Make sure you are aware of this prior to booking your session. I for one, will always sell digital files. I edit WAY too many photos for families not to be able to enjoy them all. I want people to be able to print and print and print for family whenever they want without having to spend a bazillion dollars. But there are some who will take less photos as some people just want a large print. There is not right or wrong way to do it. Book what YOU want! 🙂 We are all different. Make sure you know what you want going in. Many times you think you will be spending X amount, but end up wanting WAY more than you thought you would, so spend WAY more. Or wish you had your digitals.
- Is their portfolio interesting to you: When you look at a photographers portfolio, do you see a ton of photos with the families standing straight, next to each other, by a tree, by a fence, not moving, being boring and posed. You see that image on Facebook and say, “thats a nice family photo of you. You all are smiling looking at the camera”. OR, when you see their photos, do you say, “wow… that photo has so much emotion and captures that family just as they are. I am so impressed over the feeling that I get when I see that photo. How dad is looking at his daughter. How mom is holding her baby.” There is no reason to settle for overly photos if that’s not what you want. Most newer photographers are not as comfortable with posing families. Thats ok. I was there once myself! Some people love that look. Their prices will reflect that, and should! Maybe you like to have the simple type of photos or are a very tight budget. But if you are looking for a photographer that has photos that evoke emotion. Tell a story. Have rich shadows and drastic lighting. Those photos where you go wow. I wish I had a photo like that with my daughter or son, or children. Something to look back on when Im old. I want to see my son looking at me that way. I want my daughter to see how I used to look at HER. Make sure you book that. Don’t go to a cheaper photographer expecting them to copy someone elses style. You will not be happy. Trust me. Go to the source. Do you like bright photos? Find someone who can shoot that way. Do you love studio photography? Find someone who can shoot in a studio without overly posing. There is so much talent out there. Don’t settle.
- Do your personalities mesh: This is SO important as well. A good photographer will be able to engage your family in a natural way that will evoke real emotion and REAL smiles. Talk to you photographer on the phone you are thinking about booking with. Did you get along? Do they have good energy? Do they even care about your family. For me, I ALWAYS talk to my potential clients on the phone after they have expressed interest post the pricing portion. It’s so incredibly important. Genuine is key. Or you will not have genuine photos and have a photographer that is just booking you to pay the bills. This job is a VERY personal job. You have to be with a photographer that wants to know you, your kids and your family. Really, you have to be a people person. 🙂
- Interaction with different ages: When looking at a portfolio, do you see just babies, just small children, etc. Not all families consist of a 2 and 4 year old. Make sure your photographer knows how to get real smiles, real moments out of that tween age. Out of college kids. The older kiddos are much more difficult as they are aware of what the photographer is doing. Family sessions take a type of personality to pull out all that real emotion. Oh… and DADS! Make sure your photographer has some dads in their portfolio that looks like part of the moment. Dads can be hard! Something to look for.
- Cost: This is almost a question when I get inquiries. Know your cost before you get into your session. Not everyone can afford the seasoned pros out there. There is nothing wrong with that. You need to know up front what all the costs involved are. How much are all the digital files. How much do prints cost. Do they have collections. Are there session fees. Is sales tax included (all photographers HAVE to pay sales tax on digital(depending on your state) as well as print products, so this is important to know… remember are they legit? Are you booking with a business or a mom practicing – was me once! ). All very important. There should be nothing hidden at the time of booking.
Knowing all this, make sure you really book a photographer that has work that moves you. You will only be happier in the long run, and avoid having to have two photo sessions in one year. 🙂
On a fun side note. This session, the mom has FIVE children ages 4-24. Talk about superwoman! Plus she works. I had such an amazing time with this family. I got to photograph a little, a middle child age, a tween, a senior and a college age kiddo. Had my work cut out, but I think we did pretty well. Im actually pretty much obsessed with their session. Here are the highlights 🙂 Love them to pieces!!!!!
Emily Lucarz is a newborn, child senior and family photographer photographing the St. Louis area. Her 1800 sq foot studio is located in Chesterfield MO. She also teaches advanced photography workshops around the country. Come stop in some time to say hello! 🙂