I've learned so much after my first year of being a family photographer in Houston. One of the most important areas has been narrowing down my niche and learning that saying no is just as powerful as saying the right yes. This helped me to really figure out what I want to do with my camera- what type of photographer I really want to be.
It's incredibly important to hire a photographer that's right for your family. Many people are primarily focused on pricing, understandably so, but when I receive emails to this effect, I say what I think about photography and how important it is to find someone you really like before considering investment. The last thing you want to happen is to make a decision based solely on money, only to meet your photographer at the start of your session and realize you made a big mistake.
One of the things I've learned about being a follower of Jesus is to not make decisions solely based on money.
You need photos of your family. When you choose to hire a quality photographer to capture your unique family, it requires more than just considering how much the session costs. Your money and time are valuable and so is your photographer's. Honor yourself, your family and your photographer by doing some worthwhile research and choosing the best person for your specific needs. You will not regret it, dear ones.
To help you accomplish this in a sensible, no nonsense way, I've put together what I consider are six of the most important things to look for in a family photographer. *What can I say except you're welcome!* Thanks, Maui. :-)
#1 - Style
This is THE first step in finding the oh-so lovely photographer for your family. There are two aspects of style to consider: shooting style and editing style. Shooting styles include portrait or candid/lifestyle, and while editing styles vary, two most sought after are bright and clean or moody with a matte finish.
Let me show ya some lovely images by a couple different photographers to show you what I mean...
- The first photo is very candid with a moody matte editing style shot in the family's home. This is lifestyle photography.
- The second photo is a styled portrait on location with bright colors, no matte and intentional posing designed to be creative and flattering. This is portrait photography.
- The third photo is on location, posed and somewhat candid with a gentle, soft edit and light matte finish. This is also lifestyle but with some portrait style as well.
- The final photo is in a family's home, candid and is edited bright and natural. This is my photo and is mainly candid with some guided posing as needed.
Depending on your preference, one of these images will appeal more to you than the others. Love deep mattes? Want to be posed and flattered? Adore candids? Prefer in-home or on location? Do you prefer bright and colorful or dark and moody? These questions matter when hiring a photographer. Find what you like. Find what makes your heart skip a beat.
Sensible Tip: Go to the photographer's website and social media page (I recommend Instagram when viewing photos) and look through their recent work. Find a theme in their images. Does it match your desire for your family's pictures?
#2 - Customer Service
Okay, this could tie for first. Photography is a service industry. Photographers exist to serve and woo you not only with their magical photo taking skills but also with uplifting and encouraging words and actions. Not every photographer does well in the area of customer service. Some of us just want to make a quick buck, shoot a session, deliver your digitals and be done.
After a year of being a professional photographer, though, I've learned how valuing and truly caring about potential and former clients is of the utmost importance.
As you start narrowing down your options to about five or so photographers based on their style and how it fits with your family's needs, ask your friends is they've heard of any of them.
Also, give them a call. Chat with them for a few minutes. Ask a question about their style or the session experiences they offer. Hear their voice. Hear their heart.
Sensible Tip: Google a photographer's business name and read through their Google reviews. Facebook reveiws also show up on Google so this is the only place you need to look.
What are people saying? What do they love most about that particular photographer?
#3 - Investment
Most photographers have an investment or pricing page on their website. While choosing a photographer with the right style and quality customer service are important, making sure you're paying what you can afford is important too.
Here's what you must remember when hiring a photographer- each one has their own goals, standards and budget. While some pricing is competitive, most photographers make their pricing based on their experience, financial goals and expenses. There's no real pricing standard in the area of portrait and lifestyle photography, so you're likely to find an array of pricing for sessions and even print products.
Be mindful of package details and make sure you understand what you're paying for when you book a session.
Some photographers include digital files in their session packages while others do not. You may see a "cheaper" price for a session with one photographer but after reading further you see that digital files are an additional cost. Add these two numbers together for a real cost comparison.
Hiring a photographer in an investment in your family's memories. I know, it sounds cheesy, but it is very true. Only you can determine what that's worth. If you find a photographer you absolutely love but their pricing is a bit high, save up for that photography experience! It's SO worth it.
Sensible Tip: If available, sign up for a photographer's newsletter. This is the surest way to learn about special offers and mini sessions. Also, follow them on social media. After a newsletter, this is the next best spot to hear about offers.
#4 - Personality
The type of photographer you're comfortable with will likely also depend on their personality: extroverts and introverts, excitable and shy, social and soft-spoken. Now, without making a phone call and actually talking with someone (I know, crazy right?), this may be hard to decipher. Don't be shy! If you've made it to this point in the "find your perfect photographer" scenario, you'll benefit from hearing their voice and asking some questions over the phone.
An About Me Page is super helpful too. These pages aren't just for bragging but should actually help you determine if their lifestyle will serve you as a photographer. Read their page and see what they're like. Are they personable? Professional? Likable? Funny? Do you get a sense of how their background can serve you as a potential client?
Do they give you reason to hire them?
My passion for photography grew even more when my husband and I started having children. Boys in fact. Two of em. I value family and creating traditions and celebrating birthdays and all that goes with growing a family. This perspective helps me when capturing sincere moments for your dear family. I'm in this with you!
#5 - Experience
Experience is kind of a big deal when you're investing in a family photo experience. You want to make sure you're hiring a photographer who knows what they're doing and will be comfortable telling your family what to do and encouraging natural connections. How can you make sure you're getting this?
Again, make sure you've read their Google reviews.
Then, take a look at their blog posts. Photographers with more experience are likely blogging their sessions and other various posts on a regular basis. Look through some. Make sure you're seeing a consistent style and voice in their work.
Check out their Instagram feed. Style and experience usually go hand in hand. When a photographer has found their style, their unique perspective when taking pictures and editing style, experience is usually in the bag.
If you see a lot of different editing styles, though, this is a red flag that a photographer hasn't found their voice just yet. Look for consistency. This is one way you can trust a photographer before you even meet them.
This is important to you because you need to know what you're photos will look like before booking a session.
Sensible Tip: If you're willing to hire a lesser experienced photographer, but still someone who is skilled and matches your family's style, you may be able to spend a little less on your session. Some photographers scale their pricing with their confidence and experience.
#6 - Are they helping their community? Do they donate their services?
I have an easier time spending money on something I want or need when I know the money also goes into the hands of someone needing support. When photographers serve their community, donate services to events for nonprofits or volunteer their services to support a cause, you know the money you're investing in your family photos are also helping serve people in need.
As an example, Jennifer Sue Photography advocates for children in foster care by donating services to photograph kids. They need photos for potential adoptive parents. It's an important aspect in the adoption process that is often out of reach for local adoption agencies due to cost.
I also donate photography services to local nonprofits like GiGi's Playhouse Sugar Land, an organization dedicated to supporting and empowering families with down syndrome. Last Fall I offered an event in which 20% of my proceeds made during the Month of October were donated to GiGi's. (October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. It was a blast to give to them.)
Sensible Tip: Just ask! If you can't find any information on the photographer's About Me page or on a recent blog post, just ask them when you call.
These six steps won't let you down, y'all. They're sensible, easy to follow and are a worthy investment of your time. Let them serve you in finding the right photographer for your sweet family.
I'd be remiss if I didn't say it: Holler at me if you're local to Houston and are interested in booking a candid family session. It's my jam- I love it so!