"We should really hire a photographer one day"...
... but just the thought of going through thousands of family photographers is already exhausting. In order to help, I summed up several tips and thoughts about the process. Recently, we detailed the different styles in family photography from traditional to documentary. The main difference is how much control you want to have (on clothing, location, time of the day, activities... ) and how close to real life you want the experience to be.
Once you know what is best for your family, you need to actually choose a photographer. The choice can be overwhelming and it is a big investment so it's better you do your homework and put in a little time for the perfect match. Here are 6 tips to help you do so:
- Choose a FAMILY photographer.
Ok, this one is easy but a wedding or event photographer won't capture or even understand the essence of your family. Sure we all have nice cameras and we can all get the job done but YOUR needs as a family are different from a wedding couple. You want a photographer who will understand your -special- needs and who is passionate about photographing families. She/ he'll know how to deal with the “No!” from your threenager, sympathize with the raid to the potty in the middle of the session, help with diaper change, reassure moms they do a great job and try to tame non-cooperative dads.
- Check the portfolio and style.
The images presented in the portfolio are the photographer's finest work. This is the style and specialty she/he is passionate about and what she/he wants to be hired for. So if an image stopped you in your tracks, ask yourself "Why?" Is it because the family looked natural and genuine? Do you want to live the same moment with your kids? It felt as if you were right-in-the-moment and it even made you forget there was a photographer in the room? You can totally create a board on Pinterest with the images you are drawn to, the ones that make you FEEL something. Then if the photographers you love are out of your price range, ask for their detailed pricing. A good photographer will always try to help and find a solution for you. She/he will guide you through the process.
Pay attention to the moments photographed (everyday, details, in-between or staged), the way they are taken (photographer is IN the action or taken from afar, gently posed), the edits (saturated colors, deep black and whites, contrasty or airy, looks like film …), is the work cohesive and consistent, are the images sharp, in focus, how is the use of light ... You can ask for an entire gallery from a recent session if it is not displayed on the website.
- Decide on cost
Price is maybe the first thing you will consider ... A general rule: you will get what you pay for. With price comes service. The whole experience from the first inquiry to the delivery of products should be pleasant and smooth.
Compare the pricing structure: is there a session fee, some packages, is it all-inclusive? Are there products or digital files only? The products and prints should be meticulously sourced. It takes a long time to find the right products the clients will adore. I always look for eco-friendly options that are unique and modern. One of my most popular product is the bamboo mounted print that I love.
With price also comes expertise. It takes time and money for your photographer to stay informed, trained, and on top of everything business-related, frankly ... Pro photographers are technically competent, invested in professional development and will be able to serve you for years to come.
What about mini-sessions to save on cost? Why not, but the experience and the final images are different when you shoot for 15 minutes or when you have 2-4 hours. The story won't be the same. Don't get me wrong; mini-sessions have their place, but if you can, try to book a longer session once in a while.
- Digital vs. print
You never know what you want to do with your images before you actually see the photographs. Some families will want some frames to hang on their walls, some prints to share with family members or a photobook to look at with your kids. Most people will want ALL the digital files but never end up doing anything with them and let them sit on their computer forever. So ask yourself if and why you really NEED those digital files. What are you going to do with them? Prints matter and last forever. Really put some thought into what you want from your session.
• Hi, who are you?
Take time to get to know the photographer. Follow her/his work on social media, read their "about me" page and their blog if they have one. What is the overall feeling you get from what you see online? Do you have things in common, does it feel like you could be friends in real life? Do you want unique and artistic images that are true to your family? Your photographer will have a vision for your family and her own personal approach while shooting and interacting. All of this will appear in the way she presents herself and how she communicates.
• Ask for referrals.
If you have a friend raving about a photographer in your price range, ask her what she loved the most about her experience, would she use this photographer again? You can also ask for recs on list-serves or moms groups. Keep in mind though, your needs might be different from theirs but it is always great to have a few names to start with. And you might save a little: for example, I offer an additional $50 print credit if you have been referred by a former client of mine. Make sure to mention your friend in the contract!
In the end, do not pick a photographer out of a hat. Do not pick the cheapest. DO PICK one because you feel that there is a connection, because you like the philosophy and style, because you know someone who loved her experience with her/ him. DO PICK one because the photographer is willing to accommodate your family's needs and tailor your session to your demands.
“How I wish I never had this beautiful picture taken of my kids and I,” says no mom ever. I know that hiring a photographer is an investment but you will never regret passing by your artwork every day on your walls.
I have a documentary approach for photographing families so they can just slow down and enjoy the simple moment of being together. If you would like to see more of my recent family photography, head over to my Instagram account. I love to document the love (and tears) that go into family life, or managing a small business or a sweet reunion. Subscribe to my newsletter, I would love to have you there. xx