If the price is right, the date available, and the photographer seems like they know their stuff-most of us will go ahead and book a session, and let fate take its course. After all, these three criteria are often the most important details that are on our minds, correct? As true as this may be, there is a lot more to choosing a photographer than these basics, regardless of their significance.
When time is short, holidays are approaching, and we are looking to achieve a perfect portrait that embodies our family's personality, sometimes it can be easy to overlook important factors that will influence our satisfaction with a portrait session, but don't make this mistake! Oftentimes, it's worth slowing down and really studying someone's work to ensure that their style fits our expectations.
Photographers, all have their own methods and their own trademark looks. They want to speak to, and attract audiences that vibe with their particular work.
There are portrait photographers who specialize in formal posing, studio settings, traditional images with sharply lit subjects, and carefully put together group scenes.
Many photographs reflect particular styles because of the time of day they have been taken.
Some photographers, only shoot portraits outdoors, while others, only indoors.
Some photographers highlight candid moments, movement, informal posing, and lifestyle photography, while others stick to a more structured and formal style.
Though significantly different, each photographer shares the commonality that they are trying to get the attention of specific clients with specific tastes.
Choosing a photographer who gets you...
It's important to study someone's style, and note what draws you to that style. In addition, it's important to know your own style, and seek out a professional whose technique embodies how you want your family portrayed.
Don't be tempted to base your decision on the fact that someone's work is good, or that they may be the only option you can book at the time. It's better to wait and be selective, than invest in someone who might not be the right fit.
Most photographers want to work with you to achieve your vision, but if your vision is a very formal and directed type of photo session, and the work a particular photographer showcases is whimsical, candid, and carefree, you may find that no matter how hard they try to work with you, your expectations may not be met.
Talking on the phone, or face to face with a prospective photographer, is a great way to get a feel for their approach. If you feel like you are the one doing all the planning, directing, and brainstorming, perhaps you aren't working with the right person. In addition, if your family is easy going and is hoping for some relaxed images of the group having a good time, a photographer who comes across as rigid and formal, isn't going to capture what you need, no matter how long they have been in the business, or how talented they are.
When looking for referrals and potential portrait opportunities, ask yourself the following questions as you narrow down your options:
1. What's my style?
2. What kind of photo experience am I looking for?
3. Have any of my friends had pictures made recently, that really speak to my family's personality, also?
4. Am I expecting the photographer to take photos that don't truly reflect anything I am seeing on their website?
5. Have I observed images from this photographer that are the exact opposite of what I'd want hanging on the walls of my home?
6. Is this person fun to talk to and easy to get along with?
7. Am I getting the feedback that this photographer understands what I want, and is able to perform under my expectations?
As you reflect on the decision making that is ahead of you, I'll leave you with a quote by the late photographer and author, Ralph Hattersley:
"We are making photographs to understand what our lives mean to us."
May your future portraits, capture all the meaning and significance of the season of life you are celebrating right now, in a way that matches your family's personality perfectly!