Always, Katie: 7 Tips To Help You Find a Photographer Who "Clicks" With Your Family!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

7 Tips To Help You Find a Photographer Who "Clicks" With Your Family!

Capturing moments of our kids' lives on camera is so important to Ethan and me. They're growing up so fast, and I find myself already forgetting tiny details from their earlier months, only to be reminded by a picture snapped at just the right time or of just the right feature. We take a lot of dimly lit, blurry, candid iPhone photos, and my job happens to "require" me to get staged pictures with my DSLR from time to time, but we also really value the images captured by a professional photographer and have made it a priority to have professional photos taken of our family every few months during these early years.

Our family has had experiences with two wonderful studios, and with one I will regret for a very long time. Regretting having trusted someone with your family's memories is a horrible feeling, and one I would love to help you avoid!

In roughly chronological order, here are my tips for things to try consider when vetting your family's possible next photographer:

1) Ask your local friends for recommendations! Nearly everyone is going to tell you that their photographer is the BEST, so take into consideration the personality of the friend making the recommendation and their family. Your best bet at finding a great personality match for you is giving a little more weight to recommendations from friends with similar personalities, expectations, and activity-level to yours and your family’s. :-)

2) Check out the online galleries of the photogs your friends recommend. Facebook often makes this very easy! Make sure their style jives with yours, and that you would be happy to see yourself and your family in any of the "poses." I personally love a photojournalistic approach, but some photographers are more into staged and posed shots. You can't ask or expect them to change their style for you - it's something they carefully cultivate over their whole career. :-) Another tip about style from photographer Chandra Hamilton - "check all of their work and make sure it's consistent ... there are a lot of people who like to steal work from other photographers and claim it as their own." Oh my goodness, can you imagine!?

3) Read reviews. Especially pay attention to any bad reviews or concerns within otherwise good reviews. You have to make a judgment call as to whether you think the concerns are something you can live with, or if they even seem legit, but at least give them a read and consider them possible forewarning.

4) Consider pricing. There is a photographer to fit every budget, and most are pretty firm on the prices on their menu, so if one is out of your price range, keep looking. Many photographers have their pricing available on Facebook or their own webpages (often under the heading "investment"), but for those who don't, this may get to be your first contact with them. If they reply with rates you can't afford, be straightforward and polite. Don't leave them hanging, let them know kindly that it's outside your budget and thank them for their time!

5) Speaking of possible first contact - when you approach them to learn about their pricing or availability, pay close attention to how that contact makes you feel. Are they professional at a level that's comfortable for you? (Everyone will have their own threshold on this - I don't need super-formal, but no swearing, decent grammar, reasonable punctuation, capitalization, spelling...) Are they pushy? Do they return messages in a timely manner? Sadly, if I had paid attention to the odd, almost hunted feeling I had during my first few messages with the photographer we regret, we could have saved ourselves some time and lots of head/heartache.

6) Consider their availability and schedule. Ask them how far in advance they tend to book up. (If they're *always* available, that may not be a great sign, but do you want to have to plan each session several months in advance?) Find out their policy on evening or weekend sessions. My husband had to take the morning off work and we had to get our kids out of bed unusually early to do the regrettable session. Should have been another red flag!

7) If you have the time in advance of a big occasion shoot (like a birthday), think about taking part in a mini-session. I mentioned this in the post where I shared my kids' Valentine's Day pictures, but mini-sessions are really great, low-pressure, inexpensive brief sessions. There is usually a set or two, and they range from 15-30 minutes, and the photographers cycle several families through back-to-back all day. A lot of time these are available around holidays, and they're a great way to "audition" your photographers. Since they're usually more staged and posed than traditional sessions, you need to take that into consideration, but it will give you a great, low-risk occasion to see how your personalities mesh before you take the chance with someone new on a big occasion.

It's definitely worth the extra legwork and research to make sure you have found a photographer you can really have a solid relationship with, and whose work you will be proud to hang on your walls and pass on to generations to come.

Have you had great experiences with professional photographers? Any terrible experiences? Any lessons learned from those experiences that you can share with us? Let's chat in the comments!

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