Whether you’re in Toledo, Ohio, Ann Arbor, Michigan, NYC, or Smalltown USA, choosing the best photographer is a crucial part of planning your session or event…whether it’s a newborn session, family pictures, high school senior portraits, or your wedding day. This post isn’t about WHO is the best photographer (although we’d love to say ‘we are!’), but who is the best photographer for YOU. That’s right…you! Selecting a professional to capture an important time in your life is like finding THE wedding gown for a bride. Sure, you could just borrow from a friend or buy the one your hand falls on during an eye-covered twirl in a bridal store. But, most of us have dreamed of our wedding day and all of the special moments since we were 5, right down to the gown we’ll be wearing as we promise “I do” to our soul mate. Photography is just like finding the perfect wedding gown; the size, the style, and how it makes you feel will determine if it’s just A dress, or THE dress. Photographers are just as versatile as the variety of wedding gowns. We all have different styles, offer different levels of skill, and have our own unique personalities.
Do you know what style of photography you want? Traditional? Non-traditional? Modern? Photojournalistic? Fashion-based? The list is endless! If you don’t know your style, yet, start looking through some wedding images on the internet or Pinterest. Collect some poses and pictures that you love, and match them up to the photographer’s bio to see what style it is that attracts you. Next, look up some of your local photographers that offer that style and look at their portfolio. Are they creative? Do they use the same 4 poses over and over? Or is their approach to each client a good balance of personalization and style?
The second criteria to finding the right photographer for you is the amount of experience you are looking for. And, yes, experience does come with a price. You can find anything from a beginning photographer with $5 prints and $500 all inclusive packages to fashion and Hollywood photographers with $500 prints and $50,000 packages. If a smaller price tag is more important than quality, then an amateur looking to build their portfolio might be the perfect choice for you. But, if quality images and exceptional skills are valuable, then you might have to invest a little more into your photographer. Why are experienced photographers more of an investment? Besides the basic supply and demand notion, more experienced photographers manage their own business full-time, which is pricey! There’s studio space rent and utilities, accounting and taxes, insurance, expensive camera and lighting equipment, web presence, advertising costs, assistant and secondary photographer wages, travel expenses…plus, at the end of the day, we photographers have to make something to bring home to our families, too! Hiring an experienced photographer means your session is not only in professional hands to guarantee the best images, but that the best equipment is being used to produce your high quality images. Experienced photographers have back up gear available in case of a technical failures, the pressure to stay creatively above the local market, and the knowledge and skill to master any location and lighting situation.
Finally, you have to find the photographer that you mesh with. Their personality has to be a fit for you.
You’ll be spending countless hours with them, whether it’s choosing the session location, actually shooting the location, and following up with you to deliver the print goodies. And if it’s a photographer for your wedding day…you’ll really need to have a good fit! Meet with your potential photographer. Are they friendly? Do they have a good reputation? Are they concerned with your vision for the session/event? Read their testimonial page. Ask what their shooting and posing approach is. Do you need a photographer that’s good at coaching poses? If you have ideas, are they open to trying them? As you’ll be spending a lot of one-on-one time with your photographer, make sure that you’re satisfied with their personality, email/phone call response time, and personal vision for you.
Use these simple guidelines, and you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect photographer for YOU!