10 Questions to Ask Your Portrait Photographer.
I recently had a potential client inquire about a child session. After I explained the price and what was included in the session, she informed me she would be looking at other quotes and get back to me. I immediately knew that price was a factor and advised her to make sure she asked certain questions when getting another quote. Moments later she contacted me back and scheduled her shoot because when she asked those questions, the other photographer was not equipped to answer her they way I had.
As I have said before, "Cheaper does not mean better." I see it all the time, Photographers offering the moon and stars for little to no money and the client ends up with average photos. Now does the client know this? Maybe not; or maybe they understand they get what they pay for, or maybe this experience discourages them so much they never go get professional shots done again. Regardless, if you want those shots where you look fabulous you need to consider everything including what things may influence the cost.
Here are the following questions you need to ask when booking a photographer.
1. Are your packages customizable?
Many times photographers have set packages because that is what sells the most; however, if it's not exactly what you need or can afford, you can see if they can create a custom package that you both can agree on.
2. Will I get ALL the photos or just a few?
The new trend due to social media is giving a CD or tUSB of all the photos to the client. Although this seems like a good idea, unless you are having an event or a wedding, I can tell you, you will never want or print all those photos. This is not only a waste of work, but also time, and money. Additionally, this shows how much the photographer cares about his or her work, and how much time they put into their product.
If you look at my packages the ones with all photos digitally downloaded are the most expensive. The reason is that it takes time for me to go through all the photos I took, edit and retouch the best ones and then send them to you. Depending on the shoot this could be anywhere from 40 to 500 photos. If I just give them away, then what incentive do I have to make them all look great? However, if you look at my work, even the charity work I do I give my 100% best. Yet, this is not the thinking of many photographers. If they just give a whole bunch of their photos away all the time, chances are they are not invested in their work as an artist and are looking for quantity clients and not creating quality work..
I have met several people who have hired a photographer, received all the photos, and have never looked at them again. You would think if you are going to get professional photos done you would want to show those off. Sure social media is great, but having something tangible you can pass along to your family and through the generations is much more valuable then a digital file that you may never see again. So ask yourself, "Do I really want all those photos?"
3. How much do your standard prints cost?
When we get your prints we put a mark up on the cost so we can make a profit and makes sense since we are selling our talent. However, not everyone prices their prints the same. Some photographers may be cheap on the session but more expensive on the prints. Therefore, if cost is a factor for you, this may be an unexpected cost you didn't anticipate.
4. How long do I have access to the photos?
I typically give all my clients 30 to 60 days of access to their proofs. This way they can have time to order the prints. However, if someone is financially strapped for cash and doesn't think they can order prints in that time, I work with them. Additionally, I always tell them when they are ready to order prints to just let me know and I will reactive the site for them to do so. Photos are your legacy and to not get them printed in my opinion is a cardinal sin.
5. Do you have photo packages for download or prints?
My prints are cheaper then my download and there is a very good reason for this. When you download a picture file, you get all rights to that photo. When you get prints, you just get what you ordered. For example my Hi-resolution downloads are $15.00 a photo and the original largest size is $45.00. If you want 50 photos at $15.00 a piece, $750.00 can be too much, so I typically work out a package with my clients when they want multiple digital files so that it is cheaper for them. With prints, if the client wants an array of photos printed at several different sizes I can make a package that will fit their needs financially.
6. Do you edit and retouch your photos, how do you do this, and do you charge extra?
Although, photographers want to act like their work is super complicated to explain if you are not in the business, it's really not that difficult at all. As I mentioned above, the client I have, asked the other photographer this one question and received a very evasive and demeaning answer. First she advised my client that she had only ever used Photoshop on 2 photos and that she doesn't do a lot of editing except tones, highlights and contrast. Then she went on to say that they client needs to know editing to understand how it works.
Listen if a photographer edits and retouches photos, they can tell you what they do in basic terms and how they do this. For example, I retouch and edit all my photos using Adobe Lightroom and then sometimes Photoshop. I smooth skin, remove blemishes, decrease wrinkles, brighten eyes, whiten teeth, and overall edit the color and tone of the photo. Furthermore, some photographers may charge extra for editing and retouching and to me, that is a sin.
To be a professional you should always edit and retouch your work! This not only makes you stand out as an artist, but it also shows you care about your work, and that you want to provide a professional service. If he or she doesn't edit or retouch their photos there may be little difference between the photos they take with their DSLR versus the ones you may take with the same camera. And really, why pay for someone to do the same job you can do?
7. Do you take Traditional or Candid photos and how do you achieve these looks?
I had a client once that wanted traditional photos and realized at a shoot with their previous photographer, that she didn't really know how to pose them or make it look good. There is an art to posing your subjects and making them look their best. One thing I can say that is true for every shoot, is that the woman wants to look her best. If you can't do that with posing, you are going to have a very unhappy customer.
When taking candids it really isn't about following you around and taking photos, unless it's an event, a baby shoot, or a wedding, most candids will be somewhat coached. For instance, if I want to get a playful shot of a couple walking, I would have to set that up a bit. Show them where to walk, how to walk and what to do while walking.
8. Do you have props and can I bring my own?
I have basic props I like to bring, and this truly depends on the shoot and location. However, I always encourage families to brings their own props so that they can make the photo more about them and based on what they like. A photographer that has props is great, but unless it's a studio shoot you should always look to see if you can incorporate some of your own.
9. Do you shoot in a Studio or Outside?
I shoot only outside, and this has more to do with the fact that I do not have space in my home for a studio and I don't want to rent something out just to charge my clients more. Studios are awesome, however, photographers that use them tend to charge more, so if you are looking for that studio look, then invest in it; it's typically worth the cost. However, if it doesn't matter to you, than see if the photographer can shoot outdoors or pick a photographer that only shoots outdoors as it may be cheaper.
10. Do you have samples of your work?
This is probably the most important question ever and here is why. A true professional will have samples of their work. Now it may not be the exact type of work you want, but they should have examples of their work to show. Just because you want a maternity shoot and they don't have any maternity photos doesn't mean their bad, it may just mean they haven't had that type of client before.
Look at their other work and pay attention to the clarity, tone, and general emotion of the photos. You may also want to look to see if you notice retouching. Sometimes a photographer over retouches, or not at all. I saw a photographer's site that had photos of a recent shoot where the baby had a big scratch on his cheek. A photographer can get rid of that in Photoshop or Lightroom, so why not do it! Sometimes people will have big blemishes or really yellow teeth, so make sure you look at this before booking. If it doesn't fit what you want, move on.
Another thing, don't expect all photographers to have a website. Not all of them think the cost is worth it and with Social media sometimes it's not. However, they should have a business page of some kind. Either a Facebook, Etsy, Reddit, Google +, etc., something where you can see samples of their work. If they do not have a site, ask them to send you some, and as silly as this sounds, you should then take those photos and put them in google image search. I knew a lady who used to take photographs from google and say they were hers. This is not only illegal it's a misrepresentation of their capabilities and talent.
As you can see looking for the right photographer requires knowledge and time. Think about this, if you buy a car, house, or an expensive TV, you would look into the product first before investing. It's the same with photography; you are investing in a product that should last a lifetime. A product that you can share with friends and family for generations. So take note, ask your questions and hopefully you will end up with a product that will ultimately be priceless to you.