I knew when I got into the photography business that it would be tough.
Becoming a photographer came after lots of schooling, a degree, self-teaching, and lots of trial and error, plus free shoots to build up a quality portfolio. But I knew that there would also be a pool of people who happened to get a nice camera for Christmas and decided the next day to start a business and charge a third of what I would be charging.
In a world where nice lenses and camera phones are right at our fingertips, it's hard as a photographer to stand apart and to prove that you're the one people should hire.
BUT, after talking to lots of clients, I understand that it's equally as hard in this day and age to choose a photographer when picture time comes around.
How do you choose amongst so many choices? Who can you trust with your valuable moments and memories? How do you figure out which style will work best with your family?
Here are five things to remember when choosing a photographer, and the way to avoid any regret:
1. Quality and consistency
Before settling on a photographer, take a look at his or her work. Every professional photographer will have some kind of portfolio or website to show off their photos. Look at consistency in lighting, color, edits, and quality. Be sure to look at sessions that reflect what you're looking for.
For example, if you want family pictures, look for a variation of family sessions on their website. Some photographers specialize in certain niches, such as newborn photography or weddings, so those professionals wouldn't necessarily be the ones to hire for a family session unless they've done those shoots before and have some examples to show.
This is a biggie. No two photographers are the same, even if all of their equipment is identical. Photography reflects the eye, the perception, and the creativity of the photographer. Their style will be defined in the angles they choose, their compositions, their edits, the rules they follow or choose to creatively break, or the mood and tone they convey with their sessions.
Along with the style of their sessions, each photographer also has a style of work ethic. Some are carefree and colorful; others tend to work with more intensity. Be sure to talk or correspond with photographers ahead of time to get a feel of their personality, style, and the management of their sessions. Choose a photographer who best fits YOUR style.
When I first started to advertise my business I had a good friend tell me that the best advertisement is a happy client. Happy clients talk about their good experiences and they tend to tell others. Talk with your family and friends and social media circles about photographers they use, or good experiences they've had.
Also be sure to check out photographers' Facebook pages or Yelp pages and read the reviews. The best way to learn about a photographer is to ask one of their past clients or to read about their experiences.
Not every great photographer goes to college for a photography degree— actually, there are many photographers I admire who didn't even go to college at all. But experience is everything.
How many clients have they worked with? How long have they been in the business or have at least been learning? Are they experienced with different types of sessions, events, and types of people or children? It's also not rude to ask about their equipment or post-production programs and their fluency in using it. You deserve to know it all!
5. Coordination and organization
Last but not least, choose a photographer who has all his or her bases covered. Are they organized with price, editing timelines, and session scheduling? Do they give you a clear and easy picture of what to expect? Make sure they are flexible, accommodating, and prepared.
Additionally, choose someone who is familiar with the location of the shoot, as well as with those they need to speak to ahead of time for any kind of scheduling or location requests (especially with events such as weddings). If they let you choose the location, make sure they are the type to scout it out ahead of time and make sure it's all good to go.
Capturing beautiful memories is so important, and you want to make sure those memories are something you'll want to look back at and share forever. When choosing a photographer, remember that you are choosing the artist who will freeze key moments in time that could otherwise be lost.
And with something as priceless as that, there's a lot more to it than what they charge.