Things to look for in a professional photographer

Ok, so you have decided that you want some photos taken. You've made the decision that you want a professional photographer instead of just using your cell phone camera. Both are great decisions but now what? Well, I'd like to offer some advice to anyone wanting to hire a professional photographer. The information in this blog are only my opinion but I do believe I have enough education to stand by the contents. Here are some tips.

First and foremost, does the photographer have a website? Not just a Facebook page or a free website that reads something like www.ImAGreatPhotographer/freewebs/getyourownsite/showcase.com or something along those lines. A professional photographer takes him-or-herself and photography as a craft very seriously and will do whatever it takes to present a professional face, and that includes making an investment in a legitimate website. Along these lines is their email. Is it "ImAGreatPhotographer@yahoo.com"? If so, they don't take their business seriously and neither should you! You want to look for someone with a real website, that has something like their business name.com and an Info@theirbusinessname.com or Contact@theirbusinessname.com. Same principle applies to their business cards.

Does the photographer you are considering have professional gear? If he has a little Canon Rebel or other inexpensive, entry-level crop sensor camera, it might be a good idea to go elsewhere. Part of being a professional is having professional gear. This is at least, if not more important, than having a professional website. Another thing about professional gear is that it (generally) takes professional photos. Why, you may ask? Well, usually, by the time someone is confident enough to make the kind of financial investment that pro gear entails (often several thousand dollars just for the camera body with no lenses), they have mastered their craft and understand what they are doing and need to do to consistently capture great images. Now, is that to say that a person HAS to spend $6,000 on a camera body to take great photos? No, not at all. I am saying, however, that someone who is truly a professional, dedicated to his craft, will likely invest in top-of-the-line equipment.

Yes, there is a difference between professional and non-professional photos. You as consumers need to educate yourselves, as well. Pick up any magazine. Do you see the cover? The advertisements? The photos for the main stories? Those are professional photos. Photographers who can produce images like that, images with "WOW factor", images that you want to hang on your walls don't charge $50 for a session. If you want the best, as I'm sure you do, it will cost a little more. It's the same as in all other areas of life. Do you shop for your daughter's prom dress at Target? Do you buy furniture from WalMart? Do you get your hair done at the salon where you buy your groceries or do you go to the mall salon? Do you buy your makeup at the dollar store or at a Sephora counter? When shopping for a bra, do you go to a thrift store or Victoria's Secret? When you look for a new car, do you drive down Fowler St or do you go to a huge dealership? Same principal. Quality costs but with that price one can be fairly confident in the assumption that there is the assurance you will get quality and that's definitely what you want! Looking for a professional photographer is no different than searching for any other professional. You wouldn't choose your mechanic, tattoo artist, family doctor or veterinarian solely because they are the cheapest and advertised on Craigslist, would you? No, of course not.

Does the photographer you are considering have an up-to-date portfolio that changes, frequently. If your potential photographer has the same old images, month after month and year after year, or only has photos of one or two people in their portfolio, what does that say? You want to hire a photographer who updates images. You also want one that has a Facebook Page (in addition to their real website) and Instagram. This shows they like to stay current and up-to-date. You also want to find one who engages with you. If you send any sort of comment or question, do they respond quickly or does it take a few days? It's important to find a professional who values you, as much as they want you to value them. Compare local websites, too. It will help you see different styles and what stands out to you as great images versus "meh".

We already briefly touched base on professional photos, a few paragraphs above, but how can you compare? Aside from the magazine analogy that I provided, there are some things to look for. First, is everything in their portfolio in total focus where it should be. For example, if it's a head shot, are the eyes in focus like they should be or are the eyebrows or cheeks in crisp focus, instead? If it's a portrait of your son and daughter, are both in focus or just one and are the trees in the background where the focus is instead of them (or in equal focus with them)? In a photo, is the background free of distraction and softly focused or are the bushes clearly visible and in as much focus as the subject? Do they offer physical prints, albums, and other tangible items or do they just offer digital files on a disk that you will stick in a drawer and forget about?

Here are some questions to ask any photographer you interview (and then look up their answers, to educate yourself):

  1. What camera do you use?
  2. What is your go-to portrait lens (if they say they only have a lens that is attached to the camera, it's not a professional camera at all)?
  3. Can your photos print a quality 30x40?
  4. How much ongoing training do you invest in, per year?
  5. What is your website (if you don't already know it)?
  6. Can you provide references?

These are just a few tidbits that will get you headed down the road to satisfaction. I included  few examples, below, for comparison. As always, we wish you happiness and great photos! Start your search by clicking here.