Well, wouldn’t ya know it? Here I am a professional photographer in search of my own professional photographer for my own family! Yes, we need family photos too!! As much as I don’t like being in front of the camera, I know years from now I’ll regret it if I don’t! Recently I found out that my photographer who I’ve been going to for almost 4 years is no longer taking clients and closing her business. :( BIG dilemma for me since I love plastering my home with images of my loves! Even bigger dilemma when I have to wade through 100’s of professional photographers in the Raleigh area. I now see what my clients go through in order to decide who to choose!
So what things does a professional photographer look for when hiring another professional photographer? Bottom line…portfolio. Does the photographers style match the portraits I’m hoping to achieve. Is the photographers skill level up to par? Are images nice and crisp, great color, beautiful composition and lighting and evoking positive feelings that make me want my family to BE the subjects in their images. That’s the first thing I looked at today while perusing the internet searching for Raleigh Family Photographers in google and asking my professional peers for advice and links to their sites. If their portfolio didn’t match my vision, I moved on. Did I like their editing style? This question helped me weed through a lot. There are a lot of reallllly great photographers out there. Every photographer has a different editing style…and as a professional photographer, I know which editing styles I am attracted to.
Now I’m not going to lie and say that price wasn’t the next thing that I looked at. EVERYONE has a budget. Even Bill Gates has a budget. I looked at photographers who were less expensive than me and photographers who were more expensive (and even photographers who were willing to photograph us for free!). While the free offers were very flattering, I had already had my heart set on a handful of other photographers that I wanted to go with..all of which were either priced the same as me or higher. And that didn’t happen on purpose… It was what their portfolio reflected. Their images spoke to me and that put a value to their asking price and I absolutely value custom photography.
Next thing I looked for was their website and blog presence. Did they have one? How fresh was the content? What was the tone of the blog posts? Do I want to work with this person? Since many people don’t meet their photographers before their first sessions together, blogs can say a lot. Obviously portfolio definitely outweighs personality, but when it comes to children and family photography, personality goes a long way. Will they make my kid laugh? Will they make ME laugh and feel comfortable? How clear and concise were the areas on their website? Did they seem organized? What was the turnaround time for their work? Last thing I want to do is hire a frazzled photographer who is way too busy that my images take >4 weeks to appear in an online gallery. Customer service is a huge deal!!
I think one of the most important things to remember when investing in custom professional photography is that you are not just paying for the time it took to conduct the session or the physical products you purchase. You are paying for their time from the moment you inquire, the preparation of the session, the actual session, the email correspondence and communication, the uploading, editing, archiving, order preparation, packaging (I could go on and on)……in addition to their time you are paying for their artistic vision, creativity and even their education and professional equipment…all of which are needed to provide you a quality product. You are also paying for their cost to run a business. They would not legally be able to provide their services to you without these costs that they incur and that has to be factored into their session/creative fees and product pricing.
The photographers I did skip over (and yes they did exist) were the ones that seemed illegitimate. How do I know? Well I can’t be 100% sure, but there are clues. Did they charge NC state tax? Were they a registered business? Did they have a phone number to contact? Did they belong to any professional photography associations? Was their work consistent? (Some “photographers” actually steal images from other photographers and use them in their portfolio to get clients-true story!). I also have a gut feeling that if a photographer is charging $50 for a session and CD that tells me they can’t POSSIBLY be running a successful legal business. They might be portfolio building but their prices will not survive like that for long. And chances are, their work isn’t up to par with quality professional work. Like with anything, you truly get what you pay for.
In the end, after really narrowing it down and talking it over with my husband (even if I am the professional, he has to like their style too!) we decided to try out two new photographers this year. I have admired their work for a while and I am so excited to be in front of their cameras! The first session will happen in the next month or so to capture my little one for his “18 month” photos (even if a little late! woops!) and then the second will happen in August for his two year photos or possibly in the early fall for family photos (hello pretty Christmas cards this year again!).
So I have to ask, what do you look for in professional photography? :)