Hiring the Right Photographer
I’m going to say something that might shock you…but photographers actually don’t want to be hired by everyone. In the industry, we have a term called our “ideal client.” Now this isn’t targeting the prettiest or most photogenic people, this is targeting the people we can best serve. If you look around my website, I’m quite clearly an adventure elopement photographer. Would I recommend you hire me for newborn photos? Heck noooo. How about a huge church wedding? Also a hard pass. You want to make sure to hire a photographer that fits your needs and also your personality. There’s so many different levels to assess whether a photographer is a good match. Here’s a guide to help you with some photographer insider tips.
Setting Your Budget
Make sure you look at photography prices before you set your budget. If you’re paying $50 for photos, odds are they aren’t high quality. Photography can look really expensive so it’s important you set your budget realistically. The old adage you get what you pay for is quite relevant. Photography seems so expensive because you see only a few hours of us actively working. Realistically, even one hour of photos can take hours of surrounding work.
First off, you found us somehow. We spend hours a week maintaining our social media platforms, websites, and correspondence so people will find us. Once you hire us, we’re going to find the perfect spot. Sometimes that’s hours of exploring for an elopement photographer to find a secluded but beautiful spot that fits your vision. Once the pictures are actually taken, we have hours of editing and going through photos. We usually spend 4 times as much time finishing the photos as actually taking them. And that’s just the actual session not including all the other business tasks that regularly come up.
What Photography Style is for You?
Look at Pinterest and photographers so you can figure out the different styles in terms of colors and brightness. There’s darker styles that look moody, bright colors and light that looks dreamy, some that specialize in giving you photos whose colors look like the natural color, and many others. There’s lots more in addition to those three but they’re an easy start.
Another important thing to look at is what kind of posing do you like? Just like above, there’s lots of types but I’m going to keep it simple and easy to spot. There’s some photographers that pose people specifically (your hand goes here, place your feet here, angle your shoulders, and smile like this). Usually the subjects are looking at the camera or in a specific direction. The other main one is natural and movement posed. These photos are most often people dancing, moving, laughing, interacting with each other over the camera, or running around. Some people hate being in front of a camera and having specific poses makes them feel more comfortable and gets better photos. Some people want to capture their life in the chaos it exists in. Both are equally valid and come down to what your personal preference is.
Looking at Specific Photographers
Now that you have a budget and general style, you can start hunting for specific photographers. Photographers put in a lot of work being on lots of different platforms. Often Googling “Your Location Photographer” is a good start. But if you have a higher budget, you may want to search a wide area and pay for the photographer to travel to your location. Instagram is another great way to search. Hashtags are a good one to search so you see lots of photos side-by-side. Instagram also has that cool save tab now so you can flag the ones you like best to look at later. There’s also additional sites like The Knot, WeddingWire, etc. but each site has it’s pros and cons depending on what you’re looking for. Almost every photographer has a website and Instagram so I’d recommend starting there to see all your options.
Getting Information from the Website
So now you’re on a photographers webpage. What now? Thankfully most sites are built generally the same. First off, scan through their main images on the page. It doesn’t matter what the price is if you don’t even like their photos to start. If you like the photos, look for the prices tab (sometimes called investment) next. For me personally, I don’t want to get attached to the photographer before I know they’re in my budget or not. Since these are potentially once in a lifetime images, you may want to focus less on price. You may also want to keep your search broad especially if you have a flexible budget. I’ve found that lots of photographers openly post their prices though there are some that don’t. If the session is in your budget, continue looking at the other pieces of information on the site.
Now the photographer has a style you like at a glance and is within your budget, now you can dive deep into their photos. What kind of photos do they usually take? Are you seeing a bit of everything, mostly wedding, mostly family, etc? Usually photographers show off what they enjoy most and are best at. If you’re hiring a wedding photographer and they have one wedding photo to look at, they may not be experienced enough to capture something like your only wedding day.
Another great spot to look is the blog section. Rather than just looking at the best photos from lots of different sessions, usually photographers share entire sessions on their blog. For example, I post at least half of the photos I deliver to a client in a blog post. You can look through those and see if you’d be happy getting that gallery back. It shows the complete picture of what kind of work you would get from a session. Remember the main website images are the highlight reel of that photographer’s career. Looking at a blog shows their typical work you will receive.
While you’re at it, pay attention to the kind of conditions they are taking photos. I personally specialize in outdoor areas and I don’t do as well indoors. I also have lots of experience with oceans, lakes, and mountains but not so much other areas. I can think of many photographers based in Southern Utah that do great with all those red and orange rocks. You may want to go with one of them for Zion National Park and me for the Oregon Coast. We all have our expertise!
Also in the blog section is advice and information. This post is a prime example. I’m trying to provide information but it’s also a great way to figure out the photographer’s expertise. I personally specialize in adventure elopements. I provide lots of info on that from my personal experiences. If you found me for your elopement, we’re good to go! Now if you found me for your big church wedding, I’m clearly not your gal considering I’m telling you to wear hiking boots to your wedding.
Making the Final Decision
Yay! You found a photographer you love in your price range that fits what you need. But there’s more (big sigh). Ya know how you like some people and others not so much? Well photographers are also people and sometimes you may not be a fan. Give the photographer a call and get a feel for their personality. This is pretty standard for weddings/elopement photographers but definitely an option for other kinds of sessions. When you’re communicating with the photographer (in whatever way you picked), here’s some things to look out for:
Do you feel comfortable with this person? An example for me is that I’m introverted. If I spoke on the phone with a crazy extroverted photographer that was super bubbly, I’d feel like a fish out of water. Odds are, I’d look uncomfortable in the photos considering I wasn’t comfortable with the photographer. For lots of people though, that personality sounds great for when you’re trying to get photos taken! This is a go with your gut one. If you enjoy chatting with the photographer, that’s a good sign.
Is this person organized? Informative? Clearly an expert for your type of photos? Are they asking enough questions to truly understand what you want out of your photos? If your photographer comes to your phone call with nothing prepared and doesn’t have good info for you, that doesn’t bode well for how they do on your wedding day. If a quirk bugs you on a simple phone call, it’ll be worse when you’ve hired the person and are working with them. I personally have let small things slide like poor communication only to be very stressed once it came down to trying to get a response about images that were important to me.
Get the details. How many photos will you get? How much is the session compared to how many hours of coverage you get? How long until you get the final images? What are the travel fees? What comes with the package I’m interested in? What kind of additional services are you providing me besides photos (ie I help clients pick their ceremony/adventure location)? These are great details to have especially if you’re debating between multiple photographers.
And there you have it! A photographer's guide to making sure you hire the right person for you. Do your research, hire who you actually want based more on images than price, someone who is fit for your needs, and both parties tend to be much happier! And hey, if you like what I've said so far, feel free to explore my page. Here's some more links for you if you want to keep learning more about eloping and other planning resources!