Choosing a photographer for your Family Session can be hard, if not verging on impossible! I take lots of photograph's of my (soon-to-be) 3 year old daughter, but choosing another photographer to capture the entire family always proves to be a huge struggle. There are so many of us, so many price points, styles, experiences and end results.
So how do we even start? I thought I'd share my 6 top tips on how to choose a photographer when booking your next Family Session.
1) Ask Around!
When trying to find out who is available, ask friends and family, do a Google search, have a look on Facebook. Whatever the method, make sure you have some choice on the table. So many of us go with the first photographer we find, and then wonder why we weren't 100% happy with the end result. We wouldn't buy the first car we came across, or go with the first available house just because we found it first. Family photographs will stay with us for as many years as a house or car, sometime's a lot more, so why settle for the first one we find when, with just a little bit more time before choosing, we could truly fall in love with the images that come out of it.
2) Look At Their Portfolio
This might sound a little strange, surely it seems obvious that you would check the work of a photographer before booking? But so many don't... we take a friends recommendation without checking, or are taken in by a offer or discount and before we know it, we have booked instantly. Any professional should be able to show you more photos than you can handle to prove their ability and style. Do they have clear, sharp, consistent photography? Do they have a good contrast and tone? Do they photograph in a style that you like?
If you look through a portfolio and see bleached out images, harsh shadows, washed out images, colour's sitting very off or even worse... photo's out of focus.. then no matter the price or offer, its just not worth it and we know we just won't be happy with the images.
Also, does the photographer have a portfolio in print? Online portfolio's use very small versions of the images. Check a printed portfolio as any mistakes will show up a lot more in print. I always have a printed portfolio album in the studio, along with framed and canvas work up to the 30 and 40 inch mark. I would expect the same from any other studio, and at least a good sized portfolio from any non-studio photographer.
3) Studio, Home Or Location
Photographers may shoot in studio, on location or come out to your home. Some only do one, and some do some or all of these. You may not have already made the choice yet, but if not, its worth thinking about as the results can be very different.
Studio will generally be a bit more posed, shoot times can be more flexible as you aren't waiting on perfect lighting and weather doesn't stop or effect the session. You will normally have a choice of backgrounds and the photographer will have a set style that they consistently shoot. Studio portraiture is my favorite type of shoot, and there is barely a day goes by that I'm not in the studio.
Some photographers have mobile setups that can be set up in a clients home or at an event. Children might be more relaxed in their own home, however the photographer has never set up in this space before, and doesn't have the same freedom to move lighting around or have the same space for group shots. The results can vary more depending on the available space.
Location Sessions can be beautiful, can be full of character and can be taken places that mean something personal to you, but you are always at the mercy of the weather, the available sunlight on the day and anyone else using the same space outdoors.
Have a think over what you would prefer as this may be crucial in choosing your photographer. While I love a nice location, I am in Scotland, so I have to be realistic that weather will not always be on my side!
4) What's Your Budget?
So, we have found our available photographers, and are happy with the portfolio's of a select few. Where do we go from here? There are 3 more points that will help us get the right photographer for us.
First of all, decide on your budget. We need to be honest and realistic at this point as there's no point paying for amazing images with the world's best photographer if we can't afford to buy a single image for our wall. At the same time, this is an investment in artwork that will brighten up our home for years to come. There isn't a day that I don't wake up and smile at the images hanging on the wall as I get ready in the morning.
When deciding on your photographer, don't just look at the session prices. Be clear on what you want from your session, and when speaking to photographers, ask them for a quote inclusive of the wall art, prints, albums or high-res files that you are looking for from your session. Even if you aren't entirely sure on the end products, ask for a price list. Photographers can very greatly on these costs and it's good to be aware of them before booking. It may be worth asking about the quality of the products also. Varied prices don't always match up with the quality you receive back.
Another thing to take note of at this point, is the sales process. Are you going to be pushed into sales with very short timescales or pitched to by a salesperson until your ears fall off? Does the studio charge more for later orders, or only back up the photo's for a short period of time? These all happen often, and its worth taking note so you know in advance. I personally back up all sessions for 7 years, and have no time limit on orders. With this in mind I always look for photographers who give a more relaxed sales process.
5) Ask About Qualifications And Experience
As a photographer I am always learning. I put time aside every week to test out new lighting idea's, new ways to process images, or just try my hand at a new type of photography in my off-time. The unfortunate realization though, is that in order to be a family photographer you don't 'need' any qualifications or training. In fact there are no laws to stop someone picking up a camera tomorrow and being a 'professional' by Thursday. In my eyes, anyone charging for sessions should be experienced, able to deliver consistent quality and know what they are doing.
It can be worth checking how long a photographer has been shooting family photography, or how long they have been professionally taking pictures for in total. Have they had any training at College or University? Do they attend Workshops or training days? There are many good photographers who have not went through years of formal education, but they should still have many years of experience and have some form of training. This is especially true with Newborn Photography and I urge you never to book a newborn photographer who has not completed some sort of training. Newborn poses done wrong can be highly dangerous for your little ones health. It's always worth asking about their training, qualifications and background.
6) Insurance And Safety
I can't stress this enough. Does your photographer have the right insurance? It doesn't matter if they shoot from a studio, on location or come out to your home, every photographer NEEDS to be insured. Ask them if they have Public Liability Insurance. I am personally covered for up to two million pounds, and I wouldn't expect any less with anyone else I am booking.
Just think of it this way, if you book a photographer to come out to your home and they knock over your new TV, do you think an uninsured photographer will manage cover the damage?
The same goes during session, don't ever let a photographer put yourself or your children into a pose that you personally deem unsafe or are uncomfortable with. On my first Family Photoshoot with another photographer, he wanted to put our 10 month old on a ladder for a pose. When it comes to safety, ask in advance but don't forget to find your voice during your session either!
As a last little extra point... remember... Have fun!
Make a choice your comfortable with. Don't force yourself to book someone you aren't entirely satisfied with. Have fun on your session and have a great time. There's a lot been covered here but the main thing to keep in mind is this should be a great family experience from start to finish. Make the most of your day, maybe even free up some more of the day and plan other fun things after your shoot. Let the kids get excited and the images show their personality.
I hope this helps you when you are next deciding on a Family Shoot. Let us know what you think of this post, and maybe even add your own tips in the comments below! For anyone considering us for their next Family Session, you can reach our Studio Manager by e-mailing Info@DavidMcIntoshStudios.com