Tips for hiring a Professional Photographer
As a Senior, Wedding and Family Photographer you can only imagine how many batteries I go through in a season. Especially when it comes to wedding season. Batteries can come close to breaking the bank between continuously replacing them in flashes and triggers. Therefore you can only imagine how excited I was when out shopping one day and stumbled upon $1 batteries. I really thought this was going to be amazing-like I had found some new big secret that I wanted to just hoard all to myself. Well…I came home and put those $1 batteries in all my gear and guess what I got? If you guessed $1 batteries you are exactly correct. Those batteries were nothing but a disappointment as a result. In the whole scheme of things did I save a penny? Nope-not really. Moral of the story? I believe that you truly get what you pay for with MOST things in life. And photography is no different-in a sea FULL of people claiming they are a “photographer” how does one actually decide who to choose and HOW to choose? I really believe that people work hard for their money and deserve to be educated on how to BEST spend their hard earned dollar. At the end of the day, it is my job to educate people and to guide them to make the BEST possible decisions to enjoy their art for a lifetime to come.
I sat down recently and put pen to paper and came up with about 30 different ideas, but in an attempt to spare you from a bunch of un-necessary information and time-let’s narrow it down a bit and I will give you my top recommendations of what to look for when choosing a photographer who is a fit for you.
Let’s face it-in this industry anyone can be a “photographer.” But…does that mean they have the tools, education and expertise to be a good one. Perhaps I have decided to head out to a beauty supply shop and purchase a pair of cutting shears-does that make me a hair stylist? Well…I suppose it technically could mean that (although it wouldn’t be legal) HOWEVER that does not mean I will be a GOOD stylist and an expert at my craft and that is the difference. So what are the main things to look for when hiring a photographer to document some of the most precious moments in your life? Hang with me…here we go…
1). Do they know and understand all technical aspects?
Light is one of the number one things that can make or break an image. Can I shoot anywhere my client asks me to? Of course. Does that mean it will be a good image? Absolutely not! A proficient photographer will understand light like nobody’s business-they can handle it like a boss. They know where to shoot-they know where they shouldn’t shoot. They have put themselves in every course-every book, every Youtube video-whatever, in order to understand every single aspect of light that they possibly can. Here are a few images that are perfect examples.
This first image was made on purpose-not a horrible image-and of course a beautiful subject-but in my opinion, the image was KILLED because of where I placed the subject. Our eyes are always drawn to the brightest part of an image and so of course when we first look at this image our eye is immediately drawn to the background, only to wander around for a few moments, then finally landing on our subject. It may not seem like a big deal but then look at the image below.
Same exact location-we didn’t move at all, other than turn our subject so that we eliminated the distracting blown out backgroundBAM! Our subject pops off the background and beautiful light falling on her, creating an image where your eye is drawn immediately to her which is exactly what we want.
Here is another perfect example-would a lot of photographers shoot this image as is? Absolutely! Is this the worst photograph in the world-no….but when you know and understand light-this photograph simply becomes an image that anybody with any sort of camera who didn’t know any better would take.BUT…step over a few feet and make the light work FOR you and BAM! A perfectly lit image with beautiful highlights and shadows-creating awesome texture, dimension and focus’s directly on your subject and not everywhere in between. Literally all I did was move my subjects just a couple feet-position myself and use the available light to create something really eye catching and pleasing. Point is…when you understand light like nobody’s business (which any and every photographer SHOULD and MUST) your photographs turn from just average everyday snapshots to purposefully and intentionally creating images that ROCK!
The same goes for composition, shutter speed etc….a good photographer doesn’t just take pictures-they make them. They position clients with intention and purpose, therefore making something that is more than just a snapshot.
2). Do they connect well with you as the client?
This is HUGE…HUGE folks. The way I see it is that it is MY JOB to make a client feel as comfortable and beautiful in front of the camera as I can. It is what they are paying me for-to be the expert. Guess what? If your photographer doesn’t make you feel comfortable in front of the camera do you think there is a good change you are going to look comfortable in your photographs? I can promise you that you won’t. I’ve seen it first hand. Recently I photographed a Senior girl who happened to bring her best friend on the shoot. The first ten minutes of every shoot I always spend going through the principles of posing. The best friend gently interrupted me and said that she wished her senior photographer helped her with posing. I was literally blown away. BLOWN AWAY. I literally assumed that every photographer did this and sort of consider it a cardinal sin that you wouldn’t help your client with this. Let’s face it…98% of the people I photograph are not comfortable in front of the camera. They don’t know what to do-they don’t know how to stand, they don’t know what to do with their hands, should they smile, not smile…etc…The minute I bring that big black box up to my face it creates a barrier between me and the client. So…therefore it is MY JOB to help them look and FEEL their best. And one of the ways that I can do this is by guiding and directing each and every pose that I place them in. If they FEEL good and confident they will LOOK good and confident. Not rocket science.
When you are looking to hire a photographer, please do yourself a favor and find someone who truly cares about YOU and giving you photographs that you can look and feel your best. Do they help you with outfit choices? Do they help with hair and makeup? Do they have a personality that is warm and caring? Are they funny, outgoing, easy and considerate? Have they spent anytime at all getting to know you? Each of my clients is required to fill out a questionaire. Why? Because it helps me to find ways to connect with them-the shoot is all about you right? Not me. Who cares about me-but if I don’t spend time getting to know you-how do I connect with you on the shoot? And if I can’t connect with you…good pictures are just going to be lucky shots here and there. Your photographer might be lucky enough to get one or two-or maybe not-and at the end of the day, that’s a chance I would not be willing to take. I want a photographer who is confident, outgoing, bold, intentional and easy to connect with-therefore bringing out my best self and as a perfect result-great photographs.
3). Look for someone who provides a service.
You need to decide what it is exactly that you are looking for. But that photographer that promised you 300 photographs? Trust me when I say you do not want those 300 photographs. You should only be seeing the best of the best-the ones that bring a smile to your face and perhaps a tear to your eye. Why drain yourself of mental and emotional energy looking at photographs with your eyes closed and blurry? You want a photographer that is so confident in his or her skills, that they can clearly and concisely eliminate any photographs that are not awesome. I have delivered 60-70 images to parents of seniors and watched their faces in horror try and figure out how they are going to whittle away at choosing the ones to put on their wall, deliver to grandma and which ones will beautifully decorate the front of a graduation card.
Now, once you have those images-what are you going to do with them? Do you even know? Do you even have a clue what options are available besides wallets and a graduation card? I suggest you look for a photographer that provides you with a service. Ok…here’s the deal…you spent the money hiring someone that is a professional…now it’s time to actually live with and enjoy those beautiful pieces of art. Does this photographer that you are considering walk you through products that you can live with? Products that you love? Products that you can pass down from generation to generation so that your stories can be shared and told. Because really at the end of the day, not only are we creating the photographs for you to enjoy that day, but we are creating photographs to pass to your next of kin-to the people who come after you and will never know you. And in order to do that you’ve got to invest in someone who offers more than a DVD service. What are you going to do with that DVD of all those images? Who will you have print them? Because you spent the money to hire a professional, I can assure you that you don’t want to print at Walmart and Walgreens. While those places can be fine in a pinch for a school project they are not sufficient for printing to last a lifetime, produce good color and be proud of. Every month I calibrate my computer so that what I am seeing on my screen matches what my pro lab is seeing therefore producing amazing color and no funky skin tones. Photography is an investment and you should be investing in someone that will assist you getting that art up and on your walls to enjoy every single day of your life. Each time you walk by that metal print, canvas or image block it should bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. Sorry but a CD or a USB just hasn’t ever seemed to do that for me.
4). Look for someone that doesn’t rely on filters/trends
I understand that photography is art, and is really open to interpretation, but hear me out. Trends are for shoes and hairstyles- not for your photographs that are to be passed down for the next 3 generations. Is that heavy trendy filter that you think you love now going to fit the bill 5 years from now when on that canvas you spent $XXXX on that you no longer like? I just don’t think anyone should ever resemble someone who just walked off the set from Twilight. Clean, authentic and true are the three words you want to look for when looking at photographers to hire. And the whole Twilight filter is NOT something you will love in 20 years. When you are looking to hire a photographer, you should be looking for someone whose work is clean, if they have to rely on heavy actions or filters just to make their photographs look halfway decent then they are simply not understanding HOW to make a great photograph in the first place. Editing should be light and clean-there actually shouldn’t have to be a ton of editing because you really need to be looking for someone whose work pretty much is dead on straight out of the camera. Ok-off that soapbox.
Just like you would when you plan a trip or anything else-make sure you do your research. Don’t grab the first person that pops up in your facebook feed. Understand what you are looking for-figure out what you like. And remember that yes, photography is an investment. If you want quality images that will be passed down and loved for a very long time you need to realize that it takes someone who is skilled in their craft and who is an expert and knows their stuff. You wouldn’t hire a personal trainer and expect mediocre results. You wouldn’t keep going back to the same hair stylist if you didn’t love the service they provided. Your photographer should be the same-know and understand what you need, what you love and their level of expertise.
Hopefully you will find this useful when you are looking for someone to capture some of your most meaningful moments.