Choosing the right family
Photographer can be a daunting task. If you do an internet search for a “Family Photographer” in your area, inevitably you will be barraged with hundreds of options. Not to mention the studio that you’ve seen downtown, or those family photos your friends were tagged in on Facebook from their own session. Plus there’s always that cousin who says they can take your photos because they’ve got “a great eye” and a “nice camera.” So where do you even begin your search?
Start with Quality & Expertise
Quality should be the driving factor behind your selection. No matter how great the deal, you barely have time to do it once, let alone extra time (or money) to do it over again if you are unhappy with the results.
How do you know if that family photographer you’re interested in produces “quality” work? One of the best ways a photographer can demonstrate quality is to have a strong portfolio and a broad representation of client galleries to show. All of their images should have a consistent look, with similar tones, exposure, and editing style. There shouldn’t be a light and airy image alongside a dark and dramatic photo within the same session (or portfolio!). The subjects should be in focus and captured with flattering light and angles. Most of all, images should be inspirational and reflect the unique personalities of the subjects.
While “style” may influence the overall appearance and presentation of the final gallery, a level of technical expertise should also be demonstrated by the photographer. Being able to CONSISTENTLY deliver high-quality portraits despite changing conditions requires significant experience that is usually beyond a hobbyist who might get a few good shots out of one hundred snapped.
Think about your style & vision
As important as quality and expertise are in finding a photographer, you will also want a professional who has a style that resonates with you and your life. Take time to consider the style of images you desire. Do you want classic in-studio portraits or do you prefer on-location with natural light, and if so, where?
It’s key to choose a photographer whose portfolio reflects what you are looking for. Check out photographers’ websites, blogs and social media channels. You should be able to get a feel for whether they maintain a style and have mastered it, or if they jump from trend to trend.
Regardless, make sure you really assess what you want your outcome to be for your finished products. Try not to be swayed by “what’s hot” as whatever is trendy today might not really make sense for your long-term keepsakes. You don’t want to invest in family portraits that will look dated on your walls and albums in a few years.
Once you have selected a few photographers that you believe meet your quality, expertise, style and vision goals, initiate a conversation with them to discuss planning your session, and your goals. You will want them to understand what you are looking for so they can let you know if it’s something they can accomplish.
How will you enjoy your images and what are you looking to accomplish with them? If you just want a Facebook gallery of images or digital files for you to post on Instagram, a “shoot & burn” photographer will be your best bet. These photographers typically supply you with a download link to your images or a USB drive with your session for you to DIY your memories on consumer sites like Shutterfly.
However, investing in professionally shot portraits likely means that you want to enjoy your memories long-term in high quality-albums, gorgeous framed photographs and canvases. Full-service photographers have relationships with professional labs, album binders, and framers to make it easy for you to come away with art you can fall in love with, enjoy each day, and pass on to your children. Many families consider these heirlooms their most valuable possessions, and they grow more valuable over time!
Some of the most collectible products today include:
Framed Wall Galleries
Enjoy art of your family every day of your life! Custom designed galleries tell your story while adding a gorgeous wall of decor that instantly infuses any space with warmth and memory. Having your portraits framed through your photographer means that you don’t have to stress about printing high-quality prints or hunting down that perfect frame. Your photographer will help you each step of the way from choosing your favorite portraits that tell a cohesive story to designing and framing your wall galleries.
Gallery Wrapped Canvases
A collection of canvas portraits allows you to enjoy art on a larger scale, without mats and frames taking up extra space on your walls. Your images are professionally printed on canvas and then wrapped around a custom-made wood stretcher frame; perfect for any decor style. If you want to make a statement with one gorgeous large-scale image or cluster a collection as a wall gallery, using canvas is the way to go.
Albums are the perfect collectible to feature ALL your images in one place and can be passed down through the generations. Forget those old school photo albums with the plastic slip-in covers, a keepsake album from your photographer will feature professionally printed images on real photographic paper, custom bound and hand finished for a product that is unique to your family alone.
A fun way to showoff a print, these are small tabletop display’s with a big impact. Acrylic Blocks feature beautiful photo prints face-mounted to 1″ thick plexiglass with hand polished crystal clear edges. Prints stand solidly on end on any flat surface.
Don’t forget about your families and friends! They’ll want to enjoy your images too. Simple prints, either framed or loose, make the perfect gift for the most special people in your life.
Ready To Book A Session?
In it for the long haul
When it comes to the professionals you hire, do you play the field or just stick with one? There are perks to developing a LTR (long-term relationship) with your photographer.
1- They’ve got you. They know you, your style, your likes and dislikes. Your kids and your partner get to know them and are comfortable with them. You’ll never have awkward moments in your photos, and each interaction builds more trust and more creativity. Have a shy kiddo? Why take time to build a rapport with a new stranger every year when instead they can look forward to seeing their old friend? That excitement shines through in your images too.
2- Products. They have a strong product lineup and you can get the same frames this year to add on to last year’s wall gallery. They know how many holiday cards you send out, the size and color of the albums you are collecting, and who is on your gift list. You’ll never have an unpleasant surprise and you’ll always get what you need.
3- Reliability. We all love knowing what to expect and appreciate those we can count on. When you go steady with a family photographer, you will know the whole process; from shoot to final delivery, you will be able to relax and enjoy the process.
Full Service Studio or No Studio
Consider your needs. Do you prefer a high-touch experience with a studio manager and support staff in a retail location? Do you want to be able to drop in and pick up your products on your own schedule? What about office hours? What are your expectations?
For creatives like photographers “business” comes in all shapes and sizes. Many photographers are one (wo)man shows who work on location, edit at home, and deliver products to you. This offers the pro more flexibility to work on their terms and sometimes you get extra perks since they are not running a large retail studio and employing a staff. Maybe they offer ordering sessions at their cozy home studio, with homemade cookies and easy parking for you. When you call, you know your photographer will be the one answering the phone and you like that relationship. Does that feel like an experience you appreciate?
Price should be the LAST thing you consider when you select your photographer. I know…I hear that collective groan:
“Really? What if I come up with a list of photographers I can’t afford?”
First, you have to define “afford.” No doubt custom photography is an investment, but it is also a luxury expenditure. Everyone has different levels of either saved or disposable income that can be allocated to a session. When defining your budget, determine if you’re more likely to save versus splurge, or if you’ll be flexible and make that decision once you see your images. Then, think about what your product goals are: wall art, a few select prints, a keepsake album. Understanding what you really need as well as what you want, will help you determine what you can spend with a particular photographer.
You may have a budget that will allow you to purchase ALL images from one photographer of mediocre quality or SOME images, but exactly what you need, from an exceptional one. Try to not get locked into the idea of “all” before you know what “all” looks like.
It’s with hesitation and a sigh that we say that with most budget photographers, “you get what you pay for.” But more often than not, if you aren’t investing in someone who has experience and offers quality, expertise, style, and vision, you will receive images that reflect just that. That said, there are talented photographers in every market segment, catering to a range of budgets, and with research and patience and maybe a referral, you can find one that checks all your boxes.
Photography is an investment, make the most of it.