A post like this has been on my mind for a very long time. I’ve seen so many poor photos plague company webpages and Christmas cards. Your photos can make or break your brand (or your Christmas card), so choosing the right photographer is critical. Here are few thoughts before diving into my top 5 tips for hiring the right photographer.
First of all, this is based on my personal experience with hiring a photographer, both personally as well as professionally. This is what I, as an individual, have found to be true as observed with my design background and training (so I promise I've got some credibility here). Second, a photographer is an artist, so each has their own style. Different styles will appeal to different people. So I’m going to try my best to take out the subjective part of this and boil it down the more black/white side of things. And last, while I enjoy photography and have taken photos for my clients many times (per their request)- I am in no way saying that I am a professional photographer or advertising my photography services. I admire and respect professional photographers and what they do. I am not at their level of expertise. I pride myself in becoming knowledgeable about the industry so that when my clients need a photographer, I know how to point them in the right direction.
So, now that we have all of that out of the way… here are my top 5 tips for hiring the right photographer.
1. Like what you see. No wait, LOVE what you see. A photographer’s portfolio acts the same as a designer’s portfolio- it speaks directly to you. As I mentioned above, each photographer has a certain style. Pay attention to the lighting, the overall tint of the photo, the color, the filters… do you like it? If not, you won’t like your photos either. A portion of what a photographer does is wrapped up in editing and post processing the photos, and if you really just don’t like a particular reoccurring style throughout their portfolio, you should probably reconsider. Also pay attention to the composition of the photo (how the people are framed in the shot) as well as the poses they’re in. Is it awkward feeling or natural feeling? Do you get caught up on how the subjects are placed in the photo, or is the composition pleasing to the eye? Does it feel forced or comfortable?
2. Pay close attention to detail. Every detail. In everything. Follow a few photographers on Facebook? Pay attention to what they post. Are there spelling, grammar, and simply careless errors being made?
Look closely at the quality of their photos (I mean- really close). Are all of their photos in focus? Is the exposure correct? Does the photo feel authentic and real, or is it hiding behind over-processed filters?
Pay attention to their design style. Do they know good design? Is their website clean, fresh, and appealing? Is it simple and easy to navigate? Their sense of style in these areas reflects their sense of style in their photography.
Pay attention to their equipment. Do they have the necessary equipment for a professional shoot (flashes, lenses, possibly a backup camera for weddings)? When you meet, do they show up well prepared?
3. Communicate well with your photographer. I can set up an entire photo session without talking to my photographer over the phone or meeting them ahead of time in person. Yet by eliminating the face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) interaction, I’m risking not knowing how well we will communicate with each other and how comfortable things will be during the shoot. Can you tell a fake smile from a natural smile? I know I can. And if you’re not comfortable in interacting with your photographer, you won’t be able to relax enough to let the real smile through. You want a photographer who is personable, who is able to direct you clearly into poses that feel natural and comfortable to you, and who can command a pretty-darn-close-to-real smile from you in even the most stressful moments.
4. Inquire about prices and hidden fees. Photographers should be able to tell you up front what they charge. Do your research and compare photographers and their price lists. Make sure the quality of their photos lines up with what they charge for their services. Know that more expensive photographers typically have more experience and simply take better photos. You get what you pay for. But at the same time, don’t feel too afraid to take a chance on a newbie every once in a while. One of my favorite photographers here locally is just starting out. They (husband and wife) are extremely knowledgeable about the technical side of photography, have an amazing eye for good composition and beautifully styled photos, and are great with post processing- but they’re still new, still building their portfolio, and their costs reflect that. Also make sure you are aware of what the price packages include. What prints or digital files will you receive? Do they have packages that fit what you’re looking for? Are there any hidden fees (such as traveling, multiple location, or outfit change fees)?
5. Ensure your photographer knows you and your intent. Photography is a very personal thing. This is your image, and there is some story you’re trying to tell through your photos. Your photographer should inquire about this and make sure that they completely understand what you want from the photos. Are you celebrating love? Are you wanting a photo of your entire family for Christmas cards? Are you needing a professional photo to go on your website? There is always an intent and a goal with having your photos done. Make sure you communicate that to your photographer and that they don’t go into a shoot without being well informed of that intent ahead of time.
Let photographers be the creatives and professionals that they are, but make sure you do your homework ahead of time so that your experience is memorable- not miserable. Once you find a photographer you work well with (and probably become friends with) and truly admire the work that they do- you’ll have a photographer for life.
Are there any red flags you’ve found when hiring a photographer?
Want to add anything to the list, photographers? Is there something you specifically look for when referring your clients to a photographer, designers?