How to Find a Great Photographer: The Ten Questions You Must Ask
Step One: Reviewing the Web Sites
Ask around for referrals, or search for photographers in your area on Google or Yelp. Look at a minimum of 5 web sites. Check for the following information:
Does they light everyone the same? Can they shoot in natural light as well as studio light? Do they change their lighting to accommodate the subject matter?
If it sounds too good to be true…it is. You get what you pay for, so a price listing of $80 is NOT a great deal… it’s a GWC (guy with a camera) looking for hobby money.
References – Experiences
A good photographer can provide you with references, and it is important for you to call those references. If their references are a list of their drinking buddies… WALK AWAY.
Remember, just because a photographer shot some celebrity doesn’t mean he is the right photographer for YOU. Do you REALLY care if they shot Brad Pitt??
What is in it for you?
NEVER make a decision about photographer based on simply looking at their web site.
Step Two: The Phone Interview
Never shoot with a guy, who says, “sorry, I was so busy” … calling back 5 days after you left a message. Ask these questions, when choosing your photographer:
QUESTION 1: How long have they been in business?
Never shoot with a photographer who says something like the following:
“3 years, since my high school prom”, or “5 years on and off, maybe”, or “I started shooting people in my acting class, and then….blah, blah, blah.”
If photography is their HOBBY and NOT their FULL TIME JOB… walk away.
QUESTION 2: Camera Information?
What kind of camera do they use? Do they have a backup camera if the main one fails? How much did his main camera cost
A pro should be able and willing to give this information to their prospective clients.
If they say something like the following, walk away…
“My pretty pink palm sized cannon. It’s great – so light and auto works just fine!”, or “Why do you want to know? Are you a photographer?”, or “Oh, I have a Canon”, or “Oh, I have a Nikon”.
Get more information. If they can’t tell you more about their camera, why put confidence in them as a photographer?
QUESTION 3: What lens do they shoot with for portraits?
The following answer to this question is a FAIL:
“Ummm….the one that came with the camera…”
QUESTION 4: Do they have a professional makeup artist available?
If the photographer tells you to just do it yourself… WALK AWAY.
Certainly doing your own makeup SHOULD be an option, but it is a sign of a pro to have a makeup artist available.
In addition, you should be able to see their complete portfolio of work. If a guy is a wedding photographer and you have a product you need photographed, or perhaps he is a great product photographer but you need a portrait, he might not be the right choice, even though he does wonderful work.
If you don’t see in his portfolio something that tells you he can do the job YOU need to…WALK AWAY.
If at this point you are still considering the photographer, write down the PRICE and the POLICY on RETOUCHING, DEPOSITS and RESCHEDULING, for future reference.
Step Three: The In-Person Interview
When you are visiting the studio, try to make note of the following:
Do you feel comfortable in their studio?
Is it a professionally appointed and clean space?
Do they have a nice CLEAN bathroom?
Do they have a changing room?
Is there a make-up area?
Do they have professional lighting equipment?
Is there safe parking (Do you feel safe?)?
Is there a fridge and/or refreshments available?
If it is just some guy shooting out of his apartment or garage… WALK AWAY
QUESTION 5: Does the photographer offer studio lighting as well as natural lighting?
A true pro will be able to do either.
QUESTION 6: Can and/or will he shoot on location inside or outside? Does that change the price?
The only change in price should be when there is some travelling involved in getting to the venue or shoot location.
QUESTION 7: Do you Photoshop the images if I want? If so, how much per image?
This will vary with each photographer. Go with what you want to get out of the experience.
QUESTION 8: What do you get for your money?
Are you able to look at the photos immediately on a computer monitor?
What does the price include?
Do you need to bring a USB drive, CD, or digital storage device?
Step Four: Time For Booking!
QUESTION 9: Can I book on________?
Does the photographer have any other job, or is photography their full time profession? Can they accommodate YOUR schedule? If they have other employment and only shoot on the weekends, they won’t be flexible enough to fit your schedule…walk away.
Can I book on ______?
Does he have any other job or is photography his full time profession?
And, can he accommodate YOUR schedule?
If a photographer has other employment and only shoots on weekends, he won’t be flexible to YOUR schedule… WALK AWAY.
QUESTION 10: (Ask Yourself) Do you feel comfortable telling the photographer what you want out of this session?
This is YOUR time. You are hiring the photographer and you should be able to walk away with the photos you wanted. If you feel the photographer is intimidating or non-communicative, say “NO.” Follow your instinct. When you see your photos on a monitor, be truthful about what you like and don’t like.
A pro photographer will listen and do his best to get what YOU need, not what HE thinks you need. It is imperative you feel confident and comfortable in the skills and experience of someone who is taking photos of you. Those photos will be around for a long time, and you want to be able to look at them with pride and pass them out with a smile on your face.
Any one of the ten listed questions can be a deal breaker. There are SO MANY wannabe “photographers” these days because of the digital revolution.
Your friend is NOT a photographer; he’s your friend, so go to a pro if you want it done correctly.
The guy at your work who takes great photos of sunsets, is NOT a photographer, he’s a hobbyist, so go to a pro.
If your budget is limited, sometimes a professional photographer will give you a break if you bring in a friend or a group. Many photographers will have special offers at certain times of the year. Discuss the possibilities with the photographer of your choice.
Photographers want you to have a great experience with them, and great photos to show for it. So, go with a pro… or WALK AWAY!
*The above list has been paraphrased from the original, which was provided to us (with our thanks) by Michael Helms.*