People often ask me for advice on how to choose a good photographer. With digital technology getting cheaper all the time anyone can pick up a camera and announce that they’re an expert. Fortunately, years as a working photographer have taught me to become quite adept at separating a good photographer from the rest of the crowd.
My personal guide to choosing the right fit for you
1. Research Photographers Online
Use any of the major search engines to find a list of photographers in your area. Start by opening each of the websites listed on the first page of the search results within its own tab. That way you can quickly compare photographers by jumping from tab to tab.
The main question to ask at this stage is, “Do I like the style of their work?” If not, close the tab and move on. Be ruthless! The best portfolios should demonstrate a broad range of high quality work. Short-list the top three photographers whose pictures inspire you and then arrange a meeting with them.
2. Meet Them In Person
How well you get on with the photographer can make-or-break a photoshoot. For many people, having their photo taken can be quite a self-conscious experience, so the more comfortable you are the better the odds of loving the results. So, if the photographer doesn’t have time to sit down for a coffee and chat with you then find someone else!
During the meeting, take note of how enthusiastic the photographer is. A good one will ask questions in order to build up a strong picture of the kind of images you’re looking for. He or she should be brimming with creative ideas about achieving your goals through use of style, location(s), lighting, extended creative team etc.
If the photographer’s approach to all of this seems dangerously ‘point & click’ – move on!
3. Find Out How Experienced They Are
It’s important that you are confident in your photographer’s ability and experience.
Feel free to ask them for details on how they achieved particular photos in their portfolio. These days it’s not difficult for charlatans to steal other people’s work and pass it off as their own. I remember a former boss of mine interviewing a prospect who presented some of the boss’s work as part of his own portfolio! It really happens.
4. Clarify Your Expectations
Make sure you’re clear on exactly what you’re getting in return for your money. Ask about any subsequent work that may need doing in order to get the images fit for purpose. Often photos need digital retouching/editing to get them to a finished standard and its easy for unspoken presumptions to cause confusion as to what is or isn’t included in the price.
Ask the photographer if they offer any guarantees. If they’re confident in their ability they’ll have no problem with reducing your risk. Also, if you’re working to tight time-scales then make sure his/her calendar can accommodate you. Leaving it to the last minute can lead to disappointment.
5. All Okay? Book The Shoot!
If you’ve reached this point successfully then you’ve arrived at a good choice of photographer for you. Go ahead and book the shoot – the photographer will guide you through the rest. You’ve dramatically reduced your risk of having a photographic disaster and should be in safe hands now!