Choosing a photographer is like choosing any other professional to do the job. Everybody who has ever organized a photo session knows how hard it can be to find the photographer that best suits your needs and is able to realize your idea or project. There are many photographers that offer their services, and since they all work in different styles and genres and use different tools and equipment, not everyone has relevant skills or experience that will help them do the task. So what should you pay close attention to when choosing that one photographer who can do the job just right?
There are three types of photographers: novices, professionals, and top photographers.
Beginning photographers often change their style, price, and attitude to work. This is the category of photographers who lack the experience and strong portfolio. Therefore, every new client for them is the opportunity to learn and grow as a professional, so their rates are lower and good result is not guaranteed. Nevertheless, many of them can produce good results.
Professional photographers have a sufficient set of skills and guarantee a stable quality level. Such photographers have substantial experience and know what they are worth. The cost of their work does not fall below a certain level, they do not photograph just anything, and have a certain reputation in your city. They have a high-quality portfolio, a personal website, and they manage social media. Professionals spend their free time on training and further improvement of their skills.
Top photographers will give you fantastic results and tackle the most difficult tasks in their area of expertise, as in product photography or wedding photography. The cost of their work depends on what brands, organizations, magazines they work with, how many media personalities there are in their portfolio, and what awards they have.
Many photographers claim that they have a lot of experience and call themselves professionals. But how can you tell whether they are truthful? From this article, you will learn key elements you need to consider and which questions to ask the photographer before booking a photo session.
“Your portfolio only as good as the worst image in it.”
Look carefully at the photographs when doing online research.
By asking you to look attentively at the photos, I am inviting you to notice the details that most people oversee at first glance. Firstly, I want to explain to you why people look different in the photographs even when posed in the same way.
It is the lighting setup that defines what a person looks like in the photograph. With proper lighting, any person will look photogenic. And depending on how well a photographer positions the head of a subject in relation to the light source or sets up lighting equipment in a photo studio will depend whether lighting compliments a person’s appearance or not. You may not notice this at first, but it is the light and its position that affect how well the facial features are emphasized. For example, if the light source is located or placed too high (e.g., the sun in zenith or lightbulbs under the high ceiling), shadows from eyebrows will be cast over eyes, or the shadow of the nose will fall on the lips.
Light can shape person’s face in a way so that it appears slimmer or younger. There are lighting setups that can add drama to the picture, make it look soft and airy, conceal blemishes, or make fine wrinkles less visible. So if the photographer knows how to use light modifying tools, e.g., reflectors and softboxes, to achieve these effects, be sure that your skin will look glowing and you will be captured in the best light. Ask the photographer which equipment he is going to use.
Compare these two images and see for yourself.
"I added a backlight to bring a new dimension in the photograph and create a fine line between the jacket and background." - explains Victoria
Many people believe that professional equipment and high-quality studio lighting are required to make a great portrait. This is an irrational bias most people have. A good photographer can make stunning photographs in natural light with a budget camera.
However, when it comes to studio photography, it is essential for a photographer to know how to use professional studio equipment to direct light in a way that contributes to the attractiveness of a person’s face.
When you look at the photographer’s portfolio do you notice that people’s faces lack volume and contrast, the shadows are too dark or highlights are too bright so that a person’s face blends with the background? These are the signs of improper lighting setup or photographer’s lack of the Photoshop skills.
Tense expression, inauthentic smile or blank look in the photographs are the cues telling you that the photographer failed to put his subjects at ease, make them feel confident.
Here are two images that perfectly illustrate the idea.
And the last but not least important point that I want to mention in regards to the portfolio is the style of the photographer. When choosing a photographer, imagine yourself in the place of the models depicted in his pictures and see if you like the result.
Portrait retouching is considered good when the texture of the skin is preserved, and its color looks natural. If the skin looks dull, has a slight tint (green, red, blue) or is overly smooth, if you notice lots of flyaway hairs, wrinkles on clothes, it signifies that photographer is not skillful in retouching.
Tell a photographer whether you need your photos retouched and ask him during a consultation whether he can do it.
Study the following examples to better grasp these ideas:
Many people are not used to being photographed and for some people booking photography sessions is just above going to the dentist. It is the job of the photographer to help the models feel confident and comfortable. A professional photographer creates an environment in which it is easy to work, and the person does not feel dreadful about the process.
Check reviews on Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Google, Yelp) and see if people confirm that they are happy with the results and the work of the photographer. It is a good sign if people say that the photographer made them feel welcome and at ease with the process.
Below you can read Olga Kerkmann's review on yelp
My experience with Victoria and Candy Fox Studio was great! I went in for a new business headshot and her kind and sweet personality made me feel welcome and comfortable from the very first moment. Victoria is very professional and responsive which made it more than easy to work with her. I loved her attention to detail and how she took the time to try different backgrounds and let me try different hairstyles and outfits. Victoria was very patient throughout the whole photo shoot and I didn't feel rushed at all. Most important the pictures from our session turned out great! Victoria was super fast editing them and I had the hardest time choosing my favorite ones.
Victoria is an amazing photographer, I would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for a photographer!
Photography rates vary depending on the location, experience of a photographer, and the equipment he uses. Price of the photo session is an important criterion in choosing a photographer, but it should not be the decisive one. Usually, the more valuable the work of a photographer is, the more he will charge for his services. Consider a photo session as an investment, and do not settle for the lower price if you are unsure about the quality of the photographer’s work.
Professional photographers have personal websites where, as a rule, prices are listed for all types of photography services. If this information is not available, call the photographer and calculate the cost of the photo session.
A photographer must calculate the price of a photo session and justify it in regards to the cost of the equipment, studio rent, time he invests in your session (preparation, shooting process and editing) and the number of clients/day willing to pay for his services.
In Candy Fox Studio we created an infographic that explains exactly what you pay for.
As for top photographers, they have their prices for a shooting day, and the rates are formed based on their assessment of the value of their working time. Most often on the sites of top photographers, you will see only the starting prices.
Consulting with the photographer
Contact the photographer by phone or meet him in person for a consultation. When you consult a photographer, describe in detail what you want to get from the photo session. Find out whether he has the equipment that is required for this photo shoot, and whether he has relevant skills. A professional photographer will give recommendations on how to prepare for the session, will help you choose the clothes, offer you the appropriate locations and time, and explain what and why he will need to realize your idea, e.g. an assistant or specific equipment.