Listen, I get it! I myself have done that exact same search when it came to my wedding photographer and then for my family photographer (no, I don't usually take my own family photos--my kiddos just won't sit still for me!) . I've decided to compile a list of the things that I consider when searching for a photographer for my own needs--including what I find the most important! Grab a cup of coffee and join me in your search for the perfect photographer!
1) ARE THEY A LEGAL BUSINESS?
You may wonder why this matters for you as a client. IT MATTERS. Here's why. Scenario one: Say you're in their studio, or on location their light stand falls on your child and injures them. Do they have insurance to cover this? (Don't be afraid to ASK your photographer if they are insured!) Scenario two: Their hard drive crashes with the images on it<--from your family session that only happens once a year!!! Again, insurance will cover a recovery program so they have the BEST chance of retrieving your images. IF they are a legal business they are also paying their TAXES which again, may seem irrelevant to you as a client, but why would you want to hire someone that is making money "under the table" and denying our education system and everything else our taxes go towards? Food for thought.
You may not realize how important finding a photographer that jives with your style really is. What type of photography gets you excited to go to your family portrait session? Do you want to sit and pose and make sure everyone (including your two year old) is smiling and looking at the camera? Or do you want your photographer to capture candid moments? Maybe you want a mix of BOTH (and that is TOTALLY great!)<--(hint, that's totally me!). I LOVE capturing candid moments before/after the posed photos because let's be real. We do NOT live on Pinterest Planet. Toddlers pitch fits, teens are grumpy--so if we incorporate some things that make them smile--aren't we all happier in the long run?
Another part of a photographer's style is their editing. Are you drawn more to light and airy style, or dark and moody? It really helps to ask your photographer to see a FULL family gallery so you can see exactly what a session will look like. (<--again, don't be afraid to ask your photographer for a full gallery! They should be HAPPY to share with you!) My style is very warm and earthy.
3) LOCATION & OPTIONS
I know it sounds obvious, but make sure your photographer is LOCAL. If they aren't local and you absolutely love them, ask if they have a travel fee. Most photographers (including myself) will have a travel fee outside of a certain amount of miles. This is totally normal and to be expected. That being said, if you aren't willing to pay the additional travel fee, find a local photographer, or someone who rolls their travel fee into their session fee.
Your photographer should also have a list of location options for you, or at the very least, have a place they shoot regularly that they can direct you to. It is NOT up to you to find a location--that is your photographer's job! You may have a particular location in mind (and that's fantastic!) however, please keep in mind that not everywhere is open for photographing. Many parks have regulations where fees must be paid. If your photographer trusts and respects the area, they will be mindful of these things and take the proper steps to ensure photographing there is legal and allowed.
I know you might ask yourself, "why the heck does that matter?" It ABSOLUTELY matters and here's why. You check out "Photographer A". You see some of their work on their Facebook, Instagram or their website. SOME of it looks like it goes together, and the others are out in left field. Some edits are light and airy, some are dark and moody, some are super close up, others far away. As a potential client, this makes me think; what will I be getting? Will they feel like editing some of my images one way, and my others another way? How will your images look when you hang them on the wall? Will they be cohesive, or will they look like they come from completely different sessions? Often times inconsistency is a sign of a less experienced photographer. Not always, but I do remember a certain photographer (ahem, me) doing this exact same thing when I first started portrait photography. They are trying to find their style, and that's totally okay--but just something to keep in mind when shopping for a photographer.
We all have a budget for anything that we want to do in our lives. Whether we are planning on a vacation, purchasing a home or a new car, picking your child's daycare, even the groceries. I'm not everyone's photographer due to budget and I respect that and absolutely understand. There are two basic types of business models that many photographers follow.
A: You pay the session fee and all products (including prints and digital files) are a separate purchase.
B: Your session comes with a certain number of digital files and you are able to purchase prints/additional digitals upon the delivery of the gallery)
Do NOT be afraid to ask your photographer all of these questions. I respect other's business models, however, they don't jive with everyone's budget. I feel like any photographer should be completely 100% upfront and transparent with their pricing so there are no surprises once the gallery is delivered.
I personally read reviews for ALL of the things. EVERYTHING I purchase, every service I book--I want to know from real people. Keep in mind that posting on Facebook for recommendations will get you absolutely INUNDATED with options and it's NOT always because the people recommending them have actually used their services. They're friends, they're family--you get my drift. And while I LOVE the fact that family/friends are supporting the business--have they utilized the services? The BEST place to look for reviews is Google & Facebook. You cannot delete reviews from either of these platforms, however, with Facebook, you can turn reviews OFF. This turns me away as a client. I would personally prefer to see a 4.8 star review with a "bad" review that is answered professionally by the business owner, than reviews completely disabled. It leaves me feeling like they're hiding something.
See something that needs to be added? Leave a comment and I'll make sure to update the list on picking your family photographer in Conroe!