1. Decide What You Want
There are lots of photographers out there! Before looking for a photographer it is important to have an idea of what you want to help you narrow down your options.
Things to ask yourself:
Do you want your photos taken indoors or outside?
Do you want a natural setting or big city feel to your photos?
Do you like light, bright and airy or dark and dramatic?
Do you like posed or unposed portraits?
Are you looking for something trendy or something timeless that you can pass on to your children?
What do you want to do with the images? (Hang one over the fireplace/couch, create a wall gallery for a hallway or dining room, make gift prints for other family members, or design an album…)
2. Take a Look at a Photographer’s Portfolio
Now that you know what you want, it is time start looking at portfolios. First you want to find someone whose photos you LOVE! When you are looking at a portfolio, make sure you see family photos.You want to work with a specialist as this help ensures you get the best results. Also, when you see images you love take note of them.
3. Choose a Photographer Who Offers Free Consultations
I honestly feel this is one of the most important steps in making sure you find the right photographer.When you meet someone in person, you will be able to get a better fell of their personality and how your baby may react to them.
This is also an opportunity to discuss and plan your potential session.You can discuss ideas about location, clothing and themes. This is the perfect time to pull out your notes on images you liked from their portfolio. The photographer should ask you about your baby's personality, what they like and what makes them laugh. These little things will help your photographer connect with your baby during your shoot. Believe me that connection is so important and shows in the final photos. Bottom line, you want a photographer who shows an interest in your baby!
You also want to see samples of their work in person.You may not realize that each computer is calibrated differently, meaning images in person may not look like the images you see online! Sometimes a photo with red or yellow tinting, looks great on your monitor, but when printed looks more brown and dingy. Brightness can also be vary from monitor to print, after all photo paper is not lit from behind. Differences in brightness can mean you end up with photos that look underexposed or the shadowed areas of the photo without details. By seeing photos in person you will be able to more confidently decide if you like the finished product.
Ask to see an entire gallery from one session. Every photographer picks only their best images to show prospective clients. Many photographers regardless of their skill, can get a few good shots from every session.By viewing an entire session, you can get a better feel for the photographer’s style and ability to successfully deliver images that will make you happy. A photographer may not have physical prints of an entire session to show, but they should be able to provide you one from their blog or allow you access to view a previous customer’s online gallery.
Ask if any of their portfolio photos were taken at a workshop.I am not saying workshops are bad, they are not. However, if you find that the majority of their portfolio images or the images you love were done in workshops and not with actual clients, I would be hesitant in their ability to deliver these results for you.
I realize not everyone knows how to critique photos.Here are just a few technical things to look for when viewing samples.
Is everyone’s face in the photograph in focus? This is probably the most important! A beautiful background, perfect skin tones and gorgeous colors simply do not matter if focus is off. This is especially important if you want a large print, missed focus looks worse in bigger prints.
Look at the skin tones and makes sure they do not look green, blue, grey or yellow. It is unbelievably easy for a photographer to mess up skin tones. If you are looking through a portfolio and skin tones look off, I personally would not choose this photographer.
Are the people in the photo bright enough? When viewing a photo, your eye is drawn to the brightest spot in a photo. A good photographer understands this and should use light properly so that your baby is well lit and the main focus of a portrait.
Remember when judging color or brightness in a photo, it is best to do so with actual prints due to variances in monitors.
4. Ask if the Photographer Offers In Person Ordering, Design Assistance and Printed Art
Some photographers will come to your home a few weeks after a session with printed samples from YOUR SESSION! If the Free Consultation is the most important qualifier, then this is the second one.This is wonderful because you get to see the final product before you order a thing. Not only does this guarantee you will be happy with any art work you order, but it also gives you an opportunity to ask for a photo to be retouched or cropped to your liking.
Having a photographer come to your home and see your walls, gives them the opportunity to provide advice on the best places for wall galleries and single prints.They can also help advise on what size to order for that spot above the fireplace or couch.It is even better if they bring a few samples so you can for yourself the difference between an 11x14, 16x20 and a 20x24.
Photographers also have access to professional print labs whose final products are far better than average consumer labs. Professional grade paper and inks not only mean better colors but also more longevity. So if you are planning on investing in portraits and/or albums that can hang on your walls for years and that you can pass on to your children this is a must!
If you think you want digital images, reconsider. First, answer this, if you have received digital images in the past, where are they now? Are the printed and hanging on your walls or are they on a USB in a junk drawer, or just hanging out on your desktop (your digital junk drawer? Even I am guilty of hording images with good intentions and no action (turning them into wall art). By hiring a photographer who sells finished goods, you will be helping yourself see your best intentions through!
5. Find a Photographer who Does Not Require a Minimum Purchase
Most photographers require clients to pay a non-refundable Retainer/Session Fee, which is reasonable as their time is valuable and they want to minimize the risk of being stood up. Some also require clients to commit to a Minimum Purchase Amount. I am totally against a Minimum Purchase Amount as I believe the client should have the right to walk away from the images of their session if they are not happy.
My only exception to this would be if you have worked with this photographer in the past and are confident in their ability to deliver or if they offer reshoots in the event you are not happy with you final images. If the latter is the case, make sure that policy is listed in writing in their contract.
6. Look for a Photographer Who Only Does Photography for Work
To me, photographer who only does photography is an indication of their commitment to their photography business and to you. Nothing will be more important than delivering your family’s photographs to someone who only does photography.
7. Sign a Contract
A contract not only protects the photographer, but it protects you as well.Your contract should include the date, time, location and cost of your Session, as well as when payments are due and if they are refundable or not.Make sure you review it to make sure it includes the photographer’s cancellation policy (of both the session and In Person Ordering Session) as well as a timetable for when to expect final products.Also make sure there is no Minimum Order Amount!
Make sure you and the photographer have signed the contract before you pay any fee!
In my opinion, if a photographer does not require a contract, this is an indication that they are more of a hobbyist and do not take their business seriously.
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