When you invest in your family portrait, of course you want to make sure it won't be in vain. Wasted time and effort, leaving you disappointed, with several hundred dollars less and a new stance on portraiture and never wanting to put yourself through it again. Your iPhone takes great photos after all, right?
No way. We want to avoid this at all costs. Everyone deserves amazing portraiture and I want to make sure that while you're on your search, you know exactly what you should look out for.
My first advice here is to research before you invest. Seems like a no brainer, but what I mean is - don't rush it! Go through instagram locations tags, find hashtags that work such as #massachusettsphotographer or #bostonfamilyphotographer ... If you know of popular photo spots such as state parks, you could even sift through those posts and perhaps spot some professional work, which might lead you to someone. Or simply google your location + family photographer. It'll get you tons of new leads. But take your time even if you found someone that you love at first sight. Why, you ask?
These days almost anyone is an expert at social media and making their grid stand out. That does not necessarily make them a good photographer, or more importantly the right photographer for you. We can't judge a book by its cover. Some covers are done well, they draw us in because they used great imagery, colors that appeal to you - but the whole book could leave you hanging.
My point is: It is easy to show off one amazing photo from a session - that's all that anyone ever does really on social media, because we don't want to be too repetitive and post 6 photos in a row from one family. The audience experiences viewer's fatigue and no one will pay attention to us anymore. BUT ... what if the 1 cool shot is really all there is? And the rest is just O.K. and not even good enough for a picture frame? The horizon is constantly crooked, lighting is poorly utilized and the photographer is winging your photos and not actually a seasoned professional, unlike their appearance online showed you?
Let's go over some points to help you sort through the noise out there, and pick out the right person for you.
1. The Website
With instagram and Facebook always at our finger tips, it's easy to forget to check someone's website. But I urge you to look and to not head for the contact form straight away. To see if this photographer is consistent overall with their work, a great place to start would be the blog. Most photographers utilize a blog to show off full or almost full family sessions. If they have a way for you to view full sessions, or a blog with lots of photos of each session - great!
If not, ask yourself what they are hiding.
If they have date stamps on each post, you can also check how active they are and whether or not you are looking at a full time professional or not.
Of course it's okay to go with someone that does not post all the time and still holds a day job, or has another hustle. This is something you must decide for yourself - but I urge you to check full sessions or request to see full galleries. Anybody should be able to send you samples.
Another great way to check out a potential photographer - go check out their reviews. These can be found on Facebook, google, yelp or their website even. Reviews can help you also learn about this person and their style. Instagram, their website and so on only shows you what the photographer wants you to see. In reviews you are likely to find out whether people experienced this person to do well with their kids, if they direct well, or leave you fending for yourself when it comes to posing.
If you have friends you know have worked with this photographer - ask them what you want to know.
3. Is it your cup of tea?
What if you find someone that ticks all the boxes so far, but you're not sure yet.
If you feel that way, perhaps you are missing something this photographer just does not have. Could it be human connection in the portraits? The style isn't quite your taste? Colors too bright? Or too dull?
Some of these things could be easily communicated and no problem. Some however, such as style and color interpretations are not changed over the course of one session. Do you believe the photographer can take your wishes and make them come true? Is the skill there to achieve this? There is some thinking involved here, sure.
If the photographer has shown they can do an array of things - simply voice your preferences at the time of booking. If you see what you want for your session, but not enough of it in the sample sessions? Perhaps that's just how that particular family wanted to be photographed. If the skill is there - ask your photographer to pay extra attention to whatever it is you want. Let's say you want an approach that warrants more candid laughs, a less 'posed' form of portraiture - your photographer will likely know what you mean and be able to do it. Most have cues up their sleeves to let certain natural situations unfold. Feel free to ask if they do, if they do - that's a green flag!
If you are looking for a photographer for your family or couple's session, but see no minority families in their portfolio, or no same sex couples in their couple portfolio - this might be a sign to steer clear if this is an important issue to you. For minorities this will be a no brainer as they will notice right away whether or not they're represented by this person's work. In general what I am trying to say here - go with your gut feeling and let it decide if the person is right for you and your family or partner or not. Inclusivity is however always a green flag. You may want a photographer that can always accommodate you and your needs. If you have a disability or have a child with one, an immigrant partner speaking little English, your child is adopted from a different continent - finding someone inclusive and welcoming is in my opinion always a great thing.
I hope some of these tips are helpful, and give you some confidence in your search.
Of course I'd be excited if you considered to book with me, but that is not why I wrote this today. I want to give you the means to find the right person for you - because I know, I may not be for everybody. And the same goes for every other photographer out there.
Wishing you best of luck and lots of fun at your session!
If you have any questions for me or want any specific tips for your search or even want some help on the way: I can help with referrals at any time. Whatever it is, you can always reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or drop me a line here.