So you want to book a Professional Photographer?
Great. Of course, I'd love to hear from you if you're wanting to book a photographer. But it's not always that simple. As funny as it sounds, there are cases where I'm just not the right photographer for you. There are many, many, maaannyyyy talented photographers out there to choose from, and a lot to consider when you're choosing who to book. As a Photographer, I'm going to tell you a few things you should think about before you leap into signing that contract and paying that retainer. Some of them are obvious, but others you don't really think about until after the session is over, your money is spent, and you look back wishing you had gave certain things a little more thought. So here's what you should consider:
This is the most important thing to think about when booking a Photographer. Each photographer and their style is unique in their own way. People easily forget that a photographer didn't choose their profession simply to "show up, say cheese, and take the picture." Photography is a form of art, and it is extremely insulting to a Photographer if you say, "can you edit my photos this way?" or "I like this kind of look, can you do that?" Even a simple, "well you can just Photoshop that, right?"or "can you Photoshop me skinnier?" Not all Photographers are alike. Each one of us have our own style in editing, posing, service, sessions that are offered, and niche. If you want your images to be bright and airy, it's not a very good idea to book a Photographer who's website is filled with dark and moody images. Look at the colours, the artistic light flares if any, the exposure, the clarity, the grain if any, the poses, the dynamic captured, the motion, the subjects. As a client, you need to do your own research and look at what the Photographer offers in their images and in their packages. If you don't, the chances you'll be disappointed in your images and your overall session experience is pretty high, and it's very likely the Photographer won't enjoy doing their job very much either as you pick out everything you think is wrong with what they've done to your images. If you have your heart set on not shopping for an outfit, find a Photographer that offers a client wardrobe. If your family is very conservative, avoid booking a Photographer who's passion and specialty is body empowerment, nudity and breastfeeding sessions. There have been many times where I've had a client e-mail me wanting to book a specific session with me, and I was very honest with them that I was not the Photographer they were looking for, but I lead them towards another local Photographer I believe would deliver the results they were looking for. For example, clients looking to book a cake smash that included the cake, all the props, set up, and was in-studio. That's not something I offer, and it's not something I'm interested in offering as it goes against my niche and wouldn't pair well with my editing style. There are exceptions to this, of course, because most Photographers are happily willing to try something new as long as it ties with their style and skill level. For example, I specialize in mama & littles portraiture, but I would happily photograph a newly engaged couple if they liked my editing style. I would also do a cake smash provided it was outdoors and had a bohemian kind of theme where all props were provided by the parents. Things like this is on a client to client basis and open communication is very important.
Another part of a Photographers editing style is Photoshop. A lot of Photographers strictly use Lightroom, a mixture of both, or if they're like me they strictly use Photoshop. Just because a Photographer knows Photoshop, doesn't mean they'll do everything requested. For example, I believe in normalizing normal bodies. I embrace stretch marks, cellulite, curves, and all of the above. Your body is your story, and I don't want to change it - I want to embrace it and as a mama/client I want you to feel empowered. So to book a mama boudoir session with me and then say, "can you Photoshop all of my double chins out, and make me lose 20 lbs?" is a no-no. It is, however, my job as a Photographer to know my lighting and my angles which alone can shave off 20 lbs, but I will not change your body in post-processing. Things I will do: teeth whitening, blemish removal if you happen to have a huge zit that day, brighten the eyes, frequency separation on the skin, and smoothing the hair.
Ok, this one is kind of obvious. Of course you can't book a Photographer who's packages start at $700 when you only have $100 to spend. It's just not feasible. My advice - if you REALLY want to book that Photographer, either try hard to save up for a future session, or be open with them and they'll most likely have a payment plan option. I know I offer this for all my sessions - even my $50 micro mini session. I don't know what position you're in, what you're struggling with that month, because diapers are expensive and so is life in general. So the option to pay in chunks is always there, as long as the full amount is paid by the date of your session. I don't quite believe you pay for what you get, though. You can find a lot of great Photographers who truly believe in just having really affordable prices. It makes it tricky, though, because they have to make sure they're not undervaluing the industry. If you have a Photographer who does OUTSTANDING work and only charges $100 but also works a full-time job, and another Photographer who's pretty equivalent in skill but it's their only job and they depend on that income and value their time carefully so they charge $500 for the same package, that first Photographer is not even "competing" - they're just undervaluing the entire Photography market in that region which is really unfortunate. If you're just starting out and still learning, great, charge accordingly. If you've been doing this for years and have studio rent to pay, tons of props and choices to offer, and are extremely confident in your work, then you're totally worth the extra $$$! It all comes back to this, though... researching your Photographer. Just because their prices are high, doesn't mean you'll love their work if you didn't look at their website thoroughly on how they edit.
This kind of ties in with their style that I mentioned in the above paragraph, but this is a little bit more specific. Their niche is kind of like their theme, and what kind of Photography they do. There's a lot of different types of Photography - Portraiture, Street, Lifestyle, Documentary, Macro, Candid, Family, Newborn, Fashion, Still, Action, Photojournalism, Wildlife... the list goes on. These kinds of Photography are very different, and require different branches of training, camera settings, expertise, lenses, etc. For example, as much as I wanted to offer weddings before, I simply did not want to offer them in my packages until I invested in a zoom lens. I just thought it would be weird to use a 50mm Prime lens during an entire wedding. A prime lens is when your zoom is your feet, so to get a photo up close you literally have to move up close towards your subject. Imagine... "You may now kiss the bride!" *Photographer stampedes towards you in your face to make sure they capture that kiss nice and close* LOL. No thank you. You also wouldn't hire a Street or Still Photographer to photograph a wedding because they specialize in still subjects. I mean, you totally could hire them, but there's a chance your images all turn out super blurry because they're used to photographing motionless subjects. Not because they aren't good at photography, but because that's simply not the form of photography they practice and are passionate about. If you asked me to take a photo of a football game (Action Photography), I would probably not really know what I was doing especially in the editing process because of my Earthy tones. Or fashion photography in-studio - I would be SO intimidated by the amount of flashes pairing together, Slave settings, soft boxes here, reflectors there... the kind of photography I do doesn't require THAT much artificial lighting.
Another thing to consider is the subject's age. If a Photographer does a lot of couples, boudoirs, and working with adult subjects, they might not be that passionate about working with kids. Which is totally cool and I get it, why would they photograph people they're not passionate about photographing? So if you're booking a family session, look at their website and read their reviews. Are there lots of kids in their images? Do people rave about how they made their kids laugh, or do they applaud how they made them feel comfortable in front of the camera during their intimate session despite their body image struggles?
Some Photographers offer their services within certain zones or cities. The simple answer to why this is, is because... it's their business, so they make the rules as to where they want to travel to, haha. There are usually other reasons, though. A lot of Photographers, especially those who do a lot of mini sessions, are booked back to back every 20 minutes. So they plan a location and stay put all day in order to fit more bookings in and ultimately make more money. If you're wanting your session to take place at a specific location, you need to find a Photographer who's flexible with where the session takes place, or you need to be O.K. with paying a mileage fee. This fee pays for the Photographer's travel time and gas expense. So if it's not in the budget to pay for that fee, consider finding a Photographer within your own town. Or, you can simply travel to where your Photographer is. Most of my clients will happily travel to me because they love my work and to them it's worth the trip. You also need to think about whether you want your session on-site outdoors or in a studio. Specifically for newborn sessions. I get clients all the time who send me Pinterest photos of this beautiful little newborn propped up with their hands under their chin and a cute tutu on. I have to be very clear that I do not have a studio (I hope one day I will) and to replicate a photo like the one they want would require the proper set up and lighting that I do not have. There's bean bags, pillows, heaters, etc. I have a newborn closet collection which includes swaddles that match my colour pallet, and a couple props such as pillows and a basket, but my newborn photography is not staged - it's more Lifestyle. Clients have the option to do it outdoors if the temperatures are warm enough, or indoors in THEIR home. So if you don't have the best natural window lighting, or a home that has an open space, I would suggest looking for a Photographer with a studio you can go to. I chose to offer in-home lifestyle sessions because I thought it would be good for mamas post partum to be in the comfort of their own home, an opportunity for me to photograph their sweet babes nursery for them, and because I don't have my own studio during this time. I have to be a little flexible with my expectations because sometimes my client's homes don't have the decor that suit my editing style, but when they do have those boho textiles and vintage vibes in their home... look out! The results are amazing.
If you're booking an event like a wedding, you need to make sure your Photographer is O.K. with traveling to the venue. Some Photographers, like me, have little kids where they can't travel far away for a destination wedding. I would love to travel when Kezlin is older and not as dependent on me, but for now, I enjoy being home with him every night and falling asleep next to him.
Ok, you've booked a Photographer. Now what?
You've completed your research, you're probably overwhelmed but hopefully confident in your decision in which Photographer you've chosen based on a few of those factors I mentioned above. Every Photographer plays out their communication differently from here. Some will say, "great, see ya there!" while others will say, "I'll touch base with you a couple days before to remind you about your session, and I can't wait to meet you." Others, which is what I personally like in a Photographer and also do myself, is go in depth about our session location, the exact time Golden Hour is (if you choose a Golden Hour session), the plan, my personal phone number in case you need to get ahold of me at any time in regards to our meeting place or anything session related, how many people are attending the session (so I can brainstorm poses ahead of time to make the best use of our time together), the colour pallet I advise you to stick to for clothing attire OR go through the client closet options if you've booked a session that includes client wardrobe choices (which is something I'm releasing very soon!), and I also get a little glimpse of your story and the reason behind why the thought popped into your head "I need to find a Photographer."
You also need to listen to your Photographer. If your Photographer is giving you a colour pallet, PLEASE stick to that colour pallet if you want your images to have the best results! There's a reason your Photographer is sending them to you. Your images also represent their artwork, and if you show up to your session in colours your Photographer didn't advise, or in sweat pants, it won't mesh well with your Photographer's editing style and their art won't reach it's highest potential. Your Photographer knows what looks best, it's their job, so when you get your images and say "oh, I see what you mean about your eyes only focusing on the hot pink shirt..." they will think in their heads I told you so, haha! But you didn't listen, and now you expect your Photographer to magically change the colour of your shirt in Photoshop which takes extra time.
Listen. To. Your. Photographer.
Your Photographer will also tell you what weather does/doesn't work. The number one thing clients tell me when they book a session date with me is "I hope it's super sunny" or "let's plan for a really sunny day!" If your Photographer likes working in harsh lighting conditions, props to them! As a Photographer, personally I WANT overcast. I HOPE your session lies on a cloudy day. On cloudy days, the lighting is EVEN and balanced. There's no harsh shadows on your face, I don't have to scramble finding a shaded spot that doesn't have sun spots piercing through the trees leaving weird marks on your face and arms, then dealing with under exposure and over exposure in post processing. If you really want nice weather in your photos but also don't want harsh crazy lighting, cross your fingers for a cloudy day, communicate with me that you want blue skies and sunshine and HATE clouds, but keep your session as scheduled and let me do the rest. The best thing to do though is just trust your Photographer and artistic judgement. The other week I actually had a maternity session with one of the most wonderful clients I've ever worked with, and we booked it during Golden Hour. We had this beautiful image in our heads that our session would be filled with that warm, fiery sunset. Then, out came the storm clouds and the rain. But do you know what she did? She said she trusted me. She trusted me as her Photographer to guide her poses in the rain, to tell her to scrunch her hair, dance in the rain, and we had so much fun. She agreed the storm gave a "moody" feel and she was O.K. with that. I spent hours editing her images and she LOVED them, and as the artist I was SO proud of the outcome with how her images turned out and the way I edited them. I also worked my magic and gave her some fiery sunset vibes mixed with storm clouds in a couple of her images to give her variety, but because she gave me the flexibility to be creative it allowed me to feel relaxed and produce amazing results.
Trust. Your. Photographer.
Probably not the last, but one of the other important things to listen to your Photographer about is what they tell you DURING your session. Your session time is precious. Your Photographer has taken the time to put thought in how they will arrange your family members, where the light will be that day at that time, pre-visited the location to make sure it would work, and so much more. I work with kids, so I toooootttallllly get that your littles might not be the most cooperative that day. If my schedule allows it, I try to give grumpy toddlers some extra time so you're not rushed. I let the kids take the lead because if I start directing and notice they're suddenly in melt down mode - I don't power struggle, and I certainly never judge. The last thing I want is the family to be stressed out because their kids aren't "behaving" or being picture perfect. I don't know how they slept the night before, if it's almost nap time, if they're hungry, or maybe they just hate photos haha! They're kids, and I want them to have fun. If they want to play with bugs the whole time, then we'll go with it!
There is, however, one subject that tends to not be very impressed with being at the session sometimes. I call them... Grumpy Dads. Sometimes it's one of the firsts things mamas tell me when I show up to our session. "Just so you know, __________ is not in the best mood and isn't very pleased to be here for photos." And they're not talking about their toddler. Then, as fun as I make it, as much as I interact with Dad/Hubby, he simply does not want to be there. He's a Grumpy Dad. If your Photographer says, "hey, I know you don't want to be here, but try to be into it a liiittttlllle bit more" listen to your Photographer. Don't forget that you're paying good money for these photos! They're going to be on your Christmas cards, on your wall, in your photo albums. They're forever going to be cherished. That beautiful wife of yours who has given birth to your amazing child/children just wants photos where she's not the one taking them. Please, be respectful of your Photographer's time, your partner's wishes to have nice photos, and listen to your Photographer because chances are they're looking through their lens thinking, "this is such a happy family photo except for the miserable look on Dad's face who is making it very obvious he does not want to be here." In the end, despite what you wear, what the weather is like, where the location is - the EMOTION you show in your images are what will make great photos and great memories.
Don't be afraid to ask questions.
After looking through your potential Photographer's portfolio, reading their package options, going over the contract - don't be afraid to ask questions. These images and the overall experience are just as important to your Photographer as they are for you. So if there's something that isn't clear to you, don't just hope it goes the way you expect and then if something happens differently get upset with your Photographer. Have questions about additional images? If you get to choose or your Photographer chooses? Extra session time? Ask away! I had a client show up to a session once when I FIRST started photography and she took 30 minutes to change in the car. I stood there waiting, then had to tell her we only had 30 minutes left since I have another session booked after this. She got very upset because she didn't realize our session was being timed. She had chosen the 1 hour package option, so I didn't realize there was a lack of communication, but it was a learning curve to make sure in the future I always mention exact start times and finish times. So if there's anything you're "wondering" about, just ask and don't assume. And if you have any questions about this blog post, ask away! Send me a message through my "Contact" page whether you're a client or another Photographer. Hopefully this gave you a straight path with your thought process when it comes time to booking a Photographer for whatever you want photographed!