Anyone can be a “professional” children’s or family photographer these days.
The barrier to entry is so slim that anyone with enough money to buy a decent camera can call themselves professionals. So read on for six tips to selecting your family photographer so you don’t end up with a set of photographs that you could have made yourself.
1. Review the photographer’s family portrait portfolio
Photographing children and families is different from photographing weddings or corporate work. Check that the photographer is experienced with family photography by reviewing their family photography portfolio.
Remember, photography is subjective. How do you know you will like the photographer’s style if you don’t look at their photographs? Then go further by taking a critical look at lighting. Light makes or breaks a photograph, and often, the most strikingly beautiful images are beautiful because of how the photographer used light.
2. Think about the setting you’d like, and look for a photographer who works in that type of setting
In general, family portraits can be captured in any of four settings: a) studio (on backdrops); b) studio environmental (in studio, but using real furniture, decor on the walls or architectural elements); c) in your home; d) outdoors.
Some photographers work only on location; others work only in studio with backdrops. Think about the setting you prefer, as well as your timing constraints. Do you have extended family visiting for a limited time who will be part of your portrait session? If so, even if you prefer outdoor photography, you may still need a photographer who also has a studio so that you have a rain plan.
Choose a setting that works for the look you are going for, and make sure your photographer can work in that setting.
3. Look for a full-time photographer
Most professional photographers are weekend warriors with day jobs that don’t include photography. Why does this matter? Imagine you had two jobs. Which would you be more dedicated to: the job that pays you a full-time salary and benefits, or the one that gives you a little supplemental income?
This isn’t always the case, but often, full-time photographers are more likely to be reliable, responsive and fast; carry business insurance; have backup equipment in case of camera failure; and institute proper backup procedures in case of hard drive failure or memory card loss. A full-time photographer is more likely to be operating legally as a business, be technically competent and be consistently investing in professional development. A full-time photographer is more likely to understand the costs of being in business and is more likely to still be in business and able to serve as a resource for years to come.
4. When ready, sign a contract
Contracts provide mutually beneficial protection to both you and your photographer. Your photographer should send you a contract once you’ve both decided to move forward. The contract should define studio policies, payment and deliverable schedules, and contingency plans. Read the contract before signing; don’t make any payments until the contract is in place.
5. Ask if the photographer will meet you before your session to plan
Some family photographers will meet with you in person before your session to brainstorm about creative ideas, locations, clothing, etc. If you can meet with your photographer ahead of time, then you’ll have a head start on your session date, and you and your photographer can make the most of your session time together. You may also be more comfortable being photographed having already met him or her previously. Try not to book your photographer at the last minute so there’s time for a planning/design meeting!
6. Ask your photographer if he or she offers in person ordering, design assistance, retouching and printed artwork
Send your family photographer photos of your rooms so that s/he can show you what your favorite family portraits will look like hanging over your furniture in various frames, groupings, and sizes.
Take advantage of this complimentary service, as it eliminates uncertainty, allowing you to play around with different options before investing in them. Once you’ve decided on your artwork collection, some photographers will retouch images ordered. And professional photographers have access to higher quality printing and products that you’re not able to access yourself.
So, you may not be picky or have an eye for photography. You might feel that you photograph well. Your need for a photographer might not be important. If so, then that “anybody” with a decent camera may be just the right fit for you. But if it doesn’t sound like you, then I hope these tips will be helpful.
Dreaming of your own set of gorgeous family portraits?