Every week (sometimes every day), I see posts put up in Facebook groups "ISO Photographer" and there are 180 million responses. Here in Loudoun County, we have a large number of photographers with a variety of styles and budgets. We are also such a melting pot of Northern Virginia with Fairfax and Prince William that those photographers get thrown into the mix, too. So, how do you wade through them all?? How do you decide who is right for you? I wrote a blog post a while ago about investing in a newborn photographer, which you can read here. The following is a general list of tips for people looking for any type of photographer, especially if you are using social media:
1) Be specific!
If you are looking for a photographer who is within 15 miles of you, is available October 25, will cost you less than $500 total, will give you digitals and is named Susan, say that. Being overly general means that you will get a TON of responses, but only a few will be what you are looking for. The more specific you are, the easier it will be to go through the list. This is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to pricing (even though I have cost listed as the LAST thing that you should consider). Saying "reasonably priced" or "doesn't cost an arm and a leg" doesn't mean anything. "Reasonable" to you, might be totally unreasonable to someone else and what’s reasonable to someone else might be unreasonable to you. For example, my session fees are listed on my website, and then you get to choose what you want to purchase after our session since nothing is included in the session fee. Other photographers have an all-inclusive fee, which includes the session and digital images. Others have a different business model entirely. Listing your specific wants/needs makes it easier for people to respond to you and easier for you to find your perfect match!
2) Look through their portfolio
This seems like a no-brainer, but it's important to mention it. Make sure that the photographer is showing images that are consistent and within the style that you want. If you want really bright images and you hire someone who shoots dark and moody images, it's silly to expect them to produce those super bright images because it's not their style. It's kind of like going to a Mexican restaurant and expecting them to make you sushi. That's just not what they do. Are the images in focus? Do they fit your style? Do they do the photography that you're asking them to do? Portfolios can tell you quite a bit about a photographer, but you have to take them time to look through it.
3) Contact them!
If you're shopping around and not really sure what you're looking for, contact your top 3 photographers and chat with them! One of the things that I do for every new client is meet with them face-to-face to discuss their session, my products and my pricing (and it usually comes with a free cup of coffee!), so that we can get to know each other. Genuinely liking the person who is taking your portraits makes the session smoother and more enjoyable. Contacting them also gives you the opportunity to talk to them about specifics regarding your session. For example, if you have a specific location in mind or a special needs child or the session is a cover for a surprise proposal or pregnancy announcement. Letting us know ahead of time will allow us to figure out if we are the best fit for you and, if not, we can send you to people that we know might be a better fit.
4) Understand what their experience is
Knowing how much experience your photographer has is important for a variety of reasons. Newborn photography, specifically, is something that takes quite a bit of practice and education. You are trusting someone with your tiniest treasure, so make sure that you are comfortable with their experience level. Weddings are also where experience is vital. Photographing a wedding requires quite a bit of knowledge of timelines, managing people and photographing in various lighting situations. Make sure that you have checked their portfolio and understand if they have been the primary shooter in earlier weddings. Now, don't get me wrong, everyone starts somewhere. People need to build their portfolios somehow, which is awesome! The learning in the photography world is never ending, so it's important to know where on that timeline your photographer is. I have clients who have been with me since the beginning and they are some of my best and favorite clients. Some people are generally hobbyists, but have a phenomenal eye and talent for photography. Some people are just out to make some quick money, regardless of the quality of their work. Some people (like myself) run a small business. Understanding what level of experience your photographer has will help to manage expectations and make sure that you get portraits that are what you want.
5) Look at their pricing
I list this last because I truly think that it needs to be the last thing considered. Photography is an investment in family portraits. If you find a photographer that you LOVE and they're too expensive for you? Contact them and tell them that you love their work and that you're saving up for a session with them. Ask to get on their mailing list so that you can see if they're having any special deals. Hire who you love, not just who you think you can afford. A budget is important, so again being specific is important because it will help people be able to respond to you that are within your budget.
I hope that these quick tips are helpful for you when looking to find your photographer. It's always strange to say this, but even when people don't choose me as their photographer, I'm happy to help people find a photographer who will work for them because I believe in the importance of having portraits done. I believe in the importance of capturing the moments that you want to remember.