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Ever since I started my photography blog, readers in other states regularly contacted me to ask, "How do you select the best photographer?" While what makes one photographer better than another is subjective, I believe there are some universal items to be considered regardless of the specific photographer and subject. As a professional photographer, my goal is to create art that my clients will cherish for generations. They deserve nothing less.
In answering my readers’ questions, I’ve seen patterns that suggest there are four basic items to consider when looking to select the right photographer for you to create portraits for your family and children. In order of importance, they are:
Approach and Style
The first and foremost consideration when looking to select the best photographer for you is their overall approach and style. These can vary widely from "department store snapshots" with little to no creativity using a static backdrop and "recommend" you sit in a specific "pose" (that’s what the guidebook tells the clerk to do) all the way to a professional "lifestyle" photographer that will meet you at a selected location and capture you and your children being themselves in a familiar environment. There are pros and cons to both: the results from the former tend to look unnatural while the latter truly allows your kids to be kids; however, the latter may also have to be rescheduled if the weather is not cooperating. Similarly, places like "department stores" will try to get you in and out in 15 minutes because there are other people in line while professional photographers are willing to spend hours with you and your family to capture natural expressions.
You may not know which style is right for you, so take your time and browse the photographer’s online portrait and wedding gallery. After deciding what you’re looking for, speak with the potential photographer in advance of scheduling anything. Discuss a few shots that you have in mind and listen to what your photographer has to say. But, stay flexible! More times that not, the impromptu shots are the family favorites!
Bond and Trust
The second consideration when attempting to select the best photographer for you is a little more difficult to define. To get photos that truly exude joy, it is important for you and your family to be able to form a bond with your photographer over the long term. If you are having younger children photographed, it is critical that they be able to trust your photographer. If not, the discomfort will show on their young faces in each photo. Watch how your children and family interact with the photographer. How is the photographer’s tone? Is he patient with everyone? Is he comfortable around children and teenagers? Is he truly able to form some level of trust with them? If not, it will show in the photos. Obviously, at "department stores" and other similar snapshot corners, you get what you get. 🙁
Schedule and Availability
The schedules of newborns, young children, teenagers and working adults are extremes. It is important that you work with a photographer that understands these differences and is willing to give your family the time and patience they deserve. That is the third consideration when looking the select the best photographer for you. Don’t settle for a photographer that schedules sessions back to back every 30 minutes. You are only setting yourself up for second and third best. A reputable professional photographer will allow time for the small disasters that can occur during a session without making you feel rushed. Time to change diapers, bottles for newborns, snacks for kids and clothing changes should be allowed and even encouraged. Similar to forming trust, if your family feels rushed, it will show in the photos. A good photographer will set aside at least 1 to 2 hours for you during your session. Take your time. Your family deserves it!
The photographer’s personal investment in your photography is the final consideration when trying to select the best photographer for you. The range of professional portraiture prices is as varied as there are styles. When you are discussing rates with a professional photographer, be sure to ask about sitting fees, print finishing and mounting options, minimum order amounts and time frames for viewing/selecting proofs. Remember, you are working with a professional and they are putting more time into your portraits than you realize. This includes things like:
- Phone time with you to discuss ideas, locations, clothing, props, scheduling, pricing, etc.
- Session prep time (30 mins – 1 hour)
- Travel time to and from the session location
- Equipment setup and tear down time
- 90 minutes-2 hours with you and your family
- 30-60 minutes to download your digital proofs and back them up
- 2-4 hours to edit and white/color balance your proofs for your online gallery
- 30-60 minutes to process your order and send it to the lab
- 30-60 minutes to process your final prints and package them
In short, don’t select a photographer that doesn’t take your family’s portraits at least as seriously as you. You are considering a professional because you realize the difference they can impart on your family portraits. Don’t settle for less.
If you are looking for a photographer in the Metro Detroit area to capture your memories, please contact me online or call 313-883-9500. I’m looking forward to working with you!