You've decided to invest in family photography. No doubt you've started to look at different photographers and realised how many different options are out there. So how do you decide which photographer is right for you?
In this post I'm going to run through eight questions you can ask to help you figure out which photographer is right for your family.
1. First things first...do you like the photographs?
There so many styles of family photography out there - from studio photography, to outdoor lifestyle photography or sessions at home. These days you can also find photographers who specialise in 'themed' sessions - for example a Frozen session for your Elsa-obsessed pre-schooler, or photographers who take commissions for special once-in-a-lifetime portraits like Barb Uil in Australia. Take a bit of time before you even Google family photographers in your area to look at different styles of family photography and decide what you like and don't like. Pinterest is a great tool to help you to do this.
Once you've found a style you like, look for photographers in your area who have a similar approach. Almost all photographers will have their portfolio on their website these days, so they should be quite easy to find. By looking through you can usually get an idea of how experienced each photographer is (are there photos of lots of different families or just one or two?), and whether you like their style as a whole.
2. What's your budget and what kind of experience do you want to have?
As with any other industry there are photographers at every price point. Take hairdressers as an example - when choosing where to have your hair cut you have a choice between cheap and cheerful salons who are priced low and offer the basics of what you need, high end salons where you'll be pampered, served lovely frothy coffees or a glass of wine and will expect your stylist to be at the top of their game, and lots of options in the middle. Photography is no different - there are photographers in every location offering their skills at different budgets and with a different level of service.
Decide whether you're aiming for a boutique experience where the photographer is really experienced at what they do and prioritises client care, or just want to get the photos taken as cheaply as possible regardless of service. There's no right or wrong answer here, but knowing what's important to you will make sorting through the different options you have much easier.
3. Do you have good chemistry with the photographer?
The vast majority of people find it hard to relax when they have a camera pointed at them - unless you're in the public spotlight a photoshoot is an unusual event for most of us. Feeling at ease, and relaxed in front of the camera makes for relaxed, happy photos so it's important that you feel comfortable with the person taking your photograph. Try to speak to the photographers you're considering on the phone so that you can get a feel for the chemistry between you.
4. Where do the sessions take place?
You'll often be able to answer this by looking at the photographer's website. The portfolio of their work, and any past sessions on their blog will give you a good indication of this. Do they have a studio, work on location, or do both?
If you have a particular location in mind find out whether the photographer has a relationship with the site and can arrange access. Lots of beautiful locations including public parks and National Trust sites require photographers to have permits, or pay professional photography fees when they have sessions there. You don't want to have your session cut short half way through by getting caught without the right permissions, so make sure all the necessary permits are in place, and if fees are involved find out who pays them.
5. How much is it all going to cost?
There are generally two different ways that family photographers charge for their service:
Session Fee + Products: The first, and most traditional way of charging, is to charge a session fee which covers the shoot itself, and preparation of a gallery of edited images for you to order from afterwards. Once you view the gallery you choose products to order. This could be framed prints, wall art, albums, digital files or more. One of the benefits of this approach is that you're not committed to buying all of the photographs if you don't like them. You also have complete choice over what you order. The downside can be that you're not prepared for how much you have to spend afterwards. Make sure you've seen the complete product list before you book, so that you understand exactly what the costs could be.
With this approach, the other thing to do before booking is to take a look at the products the photographer offers - this may be prints, frames, albums, digital files, folios, memory boxes, birth announcements or more. There are so many options. Are you going to be excited to purchase these afterwards? When you've invested in having beautiful photographs taken of your family you don't want to be disappointed by the options on offer.
One Off Charge For Session + Digitals: The second way of charging is to have a fixed price for the session which includes a set of all of the digital images. These may be given to you on a CD, USB or by digital download. The benefits of this approach are that you know exactly how much you need to pay, and can print them when and how you want. The downsides are that you are committed to paying for all of the images whether you want them or not, and won't have access to all the higher quality products photographers provide (the suppliers will usually only supply them to professional photographers.)
The other thing to ask about with this second approach is the quality of the photos you'll receive, and how well they will print. The larger you print an image, the more detail you'll be able to see - and sometimes you won't want that tiny detail (a spot, or bit of breadstick stuck to your toddler's cheek) to be visible, particularly if you're planning on hanging it at home. When I order a large print for a client I'll spend extra time checking and perfecting the image to make sure these things aren't visible. If you're planning on printing your images, find out how much editing and retouching the photographer does to each image.
6. Are they insured, and do they provide a contract?
You should never need to worry about whether a photographer has insurance, but in the rare event that something went wrong you wouldn't want to find that you'd booked a photographer who didn't. A good contract will also detail what services the photographer will be providing, pricing, and cancellation, or postponement terms - protecting both you and the photographer's business.
7. How will they help you prepare?
As I mentioned earlier most of us don't have our photograph taken every day, so may welcome advice on how to prepare - this may range from what to wear to how to prepare your children. Every photographer will do this differently, so it's worth asking upfront how they can help. Some will send you a written guide, others have a chat or two on the phone. Generally speaking the more you pay, the more hands on the photographer is likely to be.
8. How long will you wait to view and receive your photos?
Once you've had your session you'll no doubt be excited to see the photos, and once you've ordered your prints or products you'll be excited to hold them in your hands! How long will you need to wait for this? This is largely going to depend on how much editing the photographer does and how busy they are.
Lots of families arrange a shoot so that they can gift the photographs for a special occasion - for example a birthday or Christmas - if you're doing this it's worth checking whether you'll have them in time for your special event before you book.
Over to you...
I hope these tips help you to find the right photographer for you. What other questions do you have about choosing a photographer? I'd love to know - let me know in the comments below or send me a message here.