Photographers are different

Not two are simply alike. Some may have similar styles, however they have different personalities and approach. Photographers differ in knowledge, education,  experience and  personal  preferences. Some are introverts and some are extroverts.  Some use off camera lighting at all times and  some call themselves natural  light photographers and do not use off camera lighting. Some have better equipment and some create masterpiece with less expensive gear.  Some  are high volume studios and shoot multiple families in a single day and some  are low volume and only take a few sessions a month. Some do photography as a hobby and some highly depend on  photography income to pay mortgages.

Because barriers of entry into a photography business are low comparing to other professions, there are a lot of new people flowing  into the industry trying to make a quick buck and if it works out stick around.  However , the truth to that is that starting any business is hard and requires a lot of time, determination, knowledge and constant flow of money put back into business for marketing, education, equipment, administrative fees, taxes. Many photographers   who price themselves too low to beat the competition are the first ones to go simply because they are not able to cover their expenses and working themselves to the ground. However, a lot of photographers  are in this industry  for the love of art and flexibility  of making their own schedule that will allow most of them spend more time with families. So here is a hint – photographers are mainly humans.  Photographers are people with heart, vision, love for others  and passion  for  what they do.

Passion

And that is the first question to ask when searching for a photographer. Is this photographer in love with what he or she is doing? Is he or she passionate about it?

Unfortunately,  In my experience I  have come across many clients who  base their decision  primarily on price when  looking for a photographer. Some even responded that they didn’t even look at the portfolio, as long as price was right.  And that is a sad trend. A lot of new photographers are offering  services on Craigslist next to nothing to build their portfolio and give people the wrong impression of the price and true value of professional photography.

Background

Here comes the second question. How experienced is this photographer who you are thinking to hire?  Is it someone who is still building their portfolio and learning, or is it someone who is confident in his work and puts his knowledge, education and hard work into reality with confidence and consistency.

Specialization

Some photographers only shoot one subject. Some are exclusively wedding, newborn, senior or fashion photographers and some do it all. Photographers who chose to specialize develop their  skills in that field to perfection. If you are looking for a photographer who is truly master of his craft – specialized photographer is  the way to go.

Style

Experienced photographers deliver consistency in the photographs throughout the entire session or a wedding, versus others, who are still developing  their style. Even experienced photographers have different styles of shooting and editing their photographs. Do you like crisp and vivid images or do you like subdued, toned down or matte images? This is the question number three to ask yourself. And after you know what you like, look through works of photographers who’s style corresponds with your taste.

Quality

Quality is another reason to explore a portfolio of the  photographer . How sharp are the images that you are seeing? Are they  compositionally unique?   Did a photographer use angles or framed his photo in a creative way? These are important moments to keep in mind as well.

Personality

I honestly  believe that hiring a photographer  should be compared to making a new friend.  How do your personalities match is  a very important detail many clients avoid thinking about.  Back in the days when I  was still starting out, I did not spend nearly enough time learning  about my client’s personalities beforehand  and I ended up  with  surprise sessions often. Some clients are stiff and wait for photographer’s direction  and some just want to have fun and relax.  Clear expectations that are communicated from both sides is a must.  If you want to have fun at your session then choose  a photographer who is more easy going and let you relax and have fun with you. If you want  traditional   styled portraits then you need to hire a photographer who takes charge and directs you in terms of posing from the start.  What you don’t want is to expect a traditional session and get a photographer who tells you to run around and be goofy.  Or on the other hand  you want to enjoy your wedding day to the fullest  and your photographer tells you what to do and how to stand at all times.

Packages

And I am not exactly talking about the price here. You need to know what is that you want to get from your photographer in the end.

Back in the film days, people were buying prints. When digital cameras came about  photographers started offering digitals instead. It may come as a surprise to you that not everyone is offering  digitals.

There is no set standard to run a photography business. Different studios  operate differently. If you want digitals make sure your photographer offer digitals. Majority of wedding photographers offer  CD, USB or digital download.  However, in  portrait industry, more and more photographers  are going back to offering prints and books instead.

Some photographers charge a session fee that covers time and talent of the photographer. The fee does not cover digital files or prints. After your session is ready  for you to view, you can select photo products such as prints and wall art. Some photographers have minimum purchase limit and some  do not. Some don’t sell digitals at all and some sell digitals that are being priced higher than the products. And there are other photographers who’s fees will cover a  CD with all of your images. Some photographers  may  not offer any products at all.   Avoid those who are shooting and burning and giving you a CD with images right after you had your session with them. Those images are not post processed and will not look its best.

So our next question is what are you looking for in the end? Are you looking for professional archival quality  prints, wall art, books  or  digital files is all that you are looking for?

I am a big advocate for printing photos. Somebody smart once said that in a decade we will not have any photos left because people are not printing them. Think about it for a second. I have come across a computer once that did not have a CD drive  when  I gave my client a CD of images. Very soon our computers will not have a USB port. We may start using Cloud system and who knows what will be after that. How many times our CD’s are being thrown  into a drawer and we forget about it?  How many of you are actually backing up all your photos onto a second USB drive? USB drives  crash all the time. Backing up your  photos  somewhere  else is the  least  you can do to protect them.

Experience

Your experience. Higher priced photography studios give a lot of value to a client by offering  unique experience.  Unique experience can be defined anywhere  from  giving you that special attention, showering you with gifts to little details in their branded packaging. While high volume studios may give you somewhat  non personal treatment  simply because they don’t  have time or recourses to give you special treatment, those who incorporated experience into their pricing will make you feel special . And as you know there is nothing compares to feeling special.

Reviews

What other people are saying about working with this photographer? Are they excited about their photos? Never underestimate the power of the review .

Price

And I did not even want to include this in my list because the purpose of the entire article can be  summed up into a small sentence: “Why not to choose your photographer based on price?”

So here is why. Photographers are all different. Some cater to a selected group of people and some target everyone. Some photographers specialize in one thing while some shoot it all.  Some charge little and some charge a lot.  There is no unified rule to how to run a photography business. Photographers do what works for them.  Everyone will be happy to serve you. The main point in choosing  your photographer is YOU.  You have a lot of research to do from what style you like best  to what products you want in the end.

Stop  emailing around asking  for the price list just to compare photographers and pick whichever one is cheapest.  Photographers are not plumbers or electricians. They are artists.  Pick up your phone and speak to them. They are human and most of the time they are fun to talk to.  Get to know them and they will get to know you. Develop meaningful  interaction with them. Fall in love. And there you have it. This would be the only one photographer for you, because no one else could understand you better than this one photographer.  I have a lot of photographers who are my friends. I love every one of them.   Each one deserves a client who will appreciate their work  as well as you deserve a photographer who will  treat you right. There is no better gift for a photographer than a client who is in love with what they do.  I hope you will find yours soon. I wish you happy photography experience!

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