Portrait Photographer in Bloomington / Normal IL

10 Things to Look for When Hiring a Family Photographer

Everyone knows someone who bought a fancy camera and has since put up a photography website and a “For Hire!" sign on their imaginary photo studio door. This is awesome. And not awesome. We were all previously getting our photos snapped in stale department stores with cheesy props. The print packages were outrageous and the photos? Meh. The market was ready for these fresh and enthusiastic 20 somethings. But what the department stores lacked in creativity, the new “pro” photographers lack in technical skill.  

So, before you hire a photographer, look closely at the pictures on their website, Facebook, or blog. Here are 10 things to consider to make sure you will get great family portraits:

1. Does the photographer have a consistent style?

Whoever you hire, you want to make sure you have a good idea of what they will be creating for you. Photography is art and every experienced artist has honed their craft to create a consistent result. As you click through images from a photographer, do they seem to go together even though they were taken of different families in different settings? Newbies often produce images that are wildly different from each other. Who knows what your pictures would look like!

If the photographer has an identifiable style, do you like it? Do you want your images to be clean, gritty, dreamy,vibrant, subdued, intense, minimalistic, etc?

2. Does the photographer consistently create good photos?

Ask to see a whole session. Don't just settle for a slideshow of the best 2 or 3 images pulled from different sessions. It is essential that you know what you can expect for your session. Are all the photos all good? Are they unique from each other, or will you be getting several similar shots? 

Some photographers have full sessions available on their website. (I do.) If they don't, ask!

3. Are the pictures in focus and bright (but not too bright)?

These are basic photography skills, but I so often see images that should be tossed are instead highlighted as portfolio worthy. DSLR cameras have many settings and inexperienced photographers can get overwhelmed as they are trying to get little kids to smile, framing the shot, focusing, and dialing aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. You want someone who is relaxed and comfortable with their camera. 

As you look at sample images, check group shots to see if everyone's eyes are in focus. For really close ups on one person, are both eyes sharp? In effort to get blurry backgrounds, it is easy to lose sharp eyes. Also, you want images to be bright, but not overwhelmingly so. If there are pure black or pure white spots on the images, they won't print well. This is especially important (and messed up) on blond or black hair, light or dark clothing, and bald heads.

4. Alien eyes or 5. Glow in the dark teeth?

Photoshop is like makeup- it enhances a person's natural beauty, but too much is obviously too much. Many photographers are brightening eyes and teeth so they glow. Look closely, do they have their own light source? On the other hand, are they yellow and dull? Pick a photographer that consistently has natural looking editing. You don't want people think, "wow, s/he really photoshopped these."

6. Plastic skin?

A chronic overediting trend is to over-smooth skin so that it has no texture. Yes, blemishes are gone, but so is a key mark of humanity- skin! Images should look flatteringly natural. Zits, deep wrinkles, patchy spots, be gone, but skin shouldn't look like it was obviously photoshopped.

7. Do skin colors look right?

This is surprisingly hard to do. Cheaper cameras or poor on the fly shooting skills often tint skin pink, green, or ghostly white.  Photoshop editing can make things worse. Flattering portraits of people must have natural, healthy skin tones.

8. Are the photos interesting?

If you are paying someone, you don't want it to look like you did them yourself! Photography is so much more than clicking a button on an expensive camera. It requires a creativity and vision to really capture people's personalities. Good photographers do this by using beautiful light, photogenic locations, artistic principles of composition, and drawing out true smiles and interactions.

9. What is the total cost?

Some photographers have a flat rate and give you all the full resolution unwatermarked digital files so you can store them and print them as you please. Some have you pay a session fee and then another fee for getting the print files. Others require you to pay a session fee and then pay for (much more expensive) prints through them and only give you low resolution watermarked photos. Some charge a session fee that includes "print credits" that will allow you to pick out some prints, but pay more for additionals. Do you know what the total cost will be for your portraits?

10. Professionalism

How serious is the photographer about their craft? A well designed website, a portfolio from a variety of locations, decent equipment, and a wide client base doesn't make a photographer "good", but it does indicate that s/he has poured time, money, and effort into the business. Unless price is your top concern, I would steer clear of photographers who are practicing on you.

If price is your #1, consider asking a friend to take pictures for you and you return the favor. Even if you only have a cell phone, your photos will probably be comparable to someone who is just learning photography... but you won't have to pay them! If you do hire someone, I hope these tips will help you know if it is worth it.