How to choose a professional family photographer

We all know someone with a nice camera, right?  And, not to put too fine a point on it, we all have pretty decent cameras in our pockets most of the time with the increasingly technically proficient smartphone cameras. So how do you pick a professional family photographer.

  1. Do your research. A professional can achieve consistent results, so you’ll know before you buy what sorts of images you’ll be getting. Check out portfolio pages and social media to see if the photographer you’re looking to hire has a consistent portfolio. Ask friends who they’ve worked with and been happy with. Word of mouth is a great way to find someone you can trust to take great portraits of your family.
  2. Think about the style of images you want. Do you like more posed images or a more natural style focused on connection and interaction between family members?  Do you want a studio feel or an outdoor or in-home portrait experience?  Different photographers specialize in different styles of photography, so by taking a look at a photographer’s portfolio, you will be able to gauge whether their work will be a good fit for your needs and wants.  For family photography, you will want to choose someone who has experience working with kids and getting the best out of them — if someone focuses their business entirely on weddings or corporate branding, they won’t be the best fit for a family photoshoot.  
  3. A true professional will be insured and use a contract — both of these protect you as the client and the photographer in case the worst should happen. Contracts also help set clear expectations for what is expected — can you share the gallery with friends and family?  When will your images be delivered? What does your session fee cover? (some photographers charge a small session fee and then offer separate packages for prints and digital files, some, like me, charge a larger fee up front, but all the digital files are included — what works best for your family depends on your needs). 
  4. Beware “too good to be true” pricing.  Professional photography is an expensive business to run, professional level gear that is reliable enough to do the job every time, insurance, and editing software is just the tip of the iceberg.  Someone with bargain-basement pricing might seem appealing, but they likely are not covering their costs of operating their business and may not be able to provide a good experience or reliable product (I’ve even heard nightmare stories of wedding couples booking super cheap photographers who never showed up on the day of the wedding — booking someone who is established in their business is a good way to avoid a disaster like that).  If cost is a barrier, ask about a  payment plan to spread out the cost in a manageable way.
  5. Go with someone you feel comfortable with.  Being in front of a camera can be an awkward experience, and so many people feel self-conscious.  Working with a photographer you feel at ease with off camera will help get you the best images possible when you’re in front of their lens.  Don’t be afraid to ask to speak to the photographer you’re considering on the phone so you can get a real sense if you gel.  
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