Apr 10, 2018

How to choose your family photographer

how to choose a family photographerMy guess is you know someone with a photography horror story. Or maybe you are that person. The wedding photographer didn’t get a photo of the mom and bride and barely knew how to work their flash.

The amateur newborn photographer/nextdoor neighbor did the session in his garage and it took four hours and not only was the newborn screaming his head off but so were the two older children.

You scheduled a family session last fall and the photographer showed up late, couldn’t connect to your children, and cut your feet off in all the photos.

Ugh.

Unfortunately, I hear these stories all the time and it breaks my heart. Like in any industry, there are some bad eggs out there. But there are also a lot of talented and professional photographers out there.

Today I want to share some helpful criteria to choosing a family photographer so you don’t wind up in the of the aforementioned scenarios.

Style

There are so many styles of photography out there that it can be hard to narrow down what you like. I am a natural light photographer and aim to produce classic, romantic, genuine images at every session. You want images that will stand the test of time and clean, light, and bright photos are it. I’d also look at the posing/emotion you see in the photographer’s blog posts and galleries. Are the families posed in a mostly serious way and you’re a fun-loving, outgoing family? Do people look stiff or relaxed? Like they’re just grip-and-grinning for the camera or genuinely happy and joyful? Do you want all posed images or all candid or a mix of both?

TIP: Ask potential photographers to see full session galleries. Make sure their style is consistent from gallery to gallery. If it seems like one is really light and bright and another is dark and moody, that’s not a good sign. You want to know what to expect for your final product.

Personality

I surveyed a group of moms about family photography and one of the questions I asked was, ‘If you could ask me anything, what would it be?’ One mama asked if I liked children. Umm, yes? It never crossed my mind that someone would photograph something they didn’t like. But it happens all the time. (Side note: I think it is 1000% OK to ask potential photographers if they like children. Because if they’re photographing families, they should!!)

I will admit there are some photographers with quirky personalities out there but what’s most important is that you feel 100% comfortable with whoever you choose. They should make you feel at ease and like they’re going to take care of you. If you feel like you could be friends with the person, that’s usually a good sign. But make sure you strike a balance between feeling like a friend and feeling like this person can be professional. Talk with them on the phone or meet them for coffee. If you can get a feel for who they are via their social media or website and it matches up with who you talk to in person, that’s a big win.

TIP: Look for reviews from past clients or ask for references. Talk to the photographer on the phone and definitely scroll through their social media to see if you can get a feel for who they are. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Business acumen

I see this happen more in family photography than I do in wedding photography because y’all, practically anyone can all themselves a photographer these days. It’s easy to get a $500 camera, put it in auto mode, and shoot the day away. And I know photography can be expensive so why not hire someone just starting out who’s a lot cheaper?

I’ll talk more about price below but here’s why you want to hire a professional. First of all, they know how to work their camera and shoot consistently. If this business is their full-time gig, they likely take it very seriously. They’ll also know more about posing and getting you to interact in front of their camera. They’ll have business insurance and contracts and formal avenues of payment to protect not only themselves but you as well. A professional is going to deliver top-notch service and hopefully build a good relationship with you for years to come. There’s a much smaller chance you’ll be disappointed with the final product if you hire a pro you trust over a hobbyist or amateur who doesn’t take it seriously.

TIP: Ask about contracts and invoices (oh, and by the way, make sure you read the contract before you sign it!) Make sure they have a website that’s updated regularly. Again, ask for references or referrals from past clients.

Communication

This goes along with business acumen but it’s worth highlighting separately. I always tell my wedding clients that if you feel like you’re having to work for someone’s business, run for the hills. If you don’t hear back from them for a week (barring major disasters and family emergencies), don’t expect that communication will get better down the road. If you can’t count on them to respond to an email, can you rely on them to send you your gallery in a timely fashion? Or at all? Don’t waste your time with a photographer who does not make you feel like a priority.

TIP: You can tell a lot by the first few pieces of communication with a photographer. Do they call you or email you? Do they respond within 24-48 hours (save for weekends when most of us are busy working!) Do they answer your questions directly and honestly? Do they seem genuinely excited to work with you? All of these are really good signs.

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Pricing and packages

I couldn’t get through these tips without mentioning pricing and packages. Everyone is set up differently and that’s OK. Make sure you understand what’s included in your session fee (do you get all the digital images or do you have to purchase them separately?) and what your options are for adding on tangible products if they’re not included in the package. Ask about payment schedules and how they like to be paid. Think about your budget and what you want to do with the photos in the end. Do you want to update your gallery wall? Create an album? Use the photos for Christmas cards or birth announcements? Talk to your photographer about options!

Photography is a luxury purchase though most of us don’t think of it that way. Photographers generally charge in accordance with their length of experience and talent. There are some great photographers who don’t charge much but unless they check off all the other boxes on this list, I’d be wary. Talented and professional family photographers in the DFW area are likely going to start around $500/session and go upward from there.

TIP: Ask questions. Don’t assume you get all the digitals because some photographers don’t include them. Or you only get web-sized digitals that aren’t large enough to print. Have an idea of what you want your final product/display to be before you contact your photographer.

This was a loooong post but I hope it helped you think about how to go about looking for a family photographer. It’s truly my goal with each family to build a lasting relationship to be their go-to for years to come. How much easier would it be to know who you’re going to call each year, rather than starting the search process over again and again?

If you’re interested in booking a family session or want to find out more about what it’s like to work together, you can contact me here.

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