With so many photographers out there it can be overwhelming to find the right one for your senior. And, typically, it’s a big investment. It's an important milestone and celebration of your kiddo coming into their own. Likely the next time they will be photographed professionally is on their wedding day (a long, long time from now, right? haha)
So to help in your search to find the perfect photographer match, here are some tips I’ve come up with after 15 years of experience, both as a professional photographer and as a portrait client.
1) The best place to start is with referrals from friends.
Some of your friends will have already gone through the entire senior portrait process. Ask your friends if they were happy with the way the photographer interacted with their senior.
Did they get their images when promised?
How was the quality of their gallery as a whole?
And the most important question to ask, given the choice would they use their photographer again?
Check Google Reviews to get honest opinions from previous clients. You can see Google Reviews here.
Someone who has gone through the entire process with a photographer will be able to gauge the experience from start to finish. That being said, don’t choose a photographer just because your friend did! Your senior's needs could be very different than theirs. Which leads me to point two…
2) Not all photographers are created equal.
Photographers typically have a unique style and one or two specialties. Look at their body of work as a whole and gauge whether or not their style matches what you are looking for.
Is there a variety in the images or are they all basically the same?
Do you want big blue sky, artistic and dramatic shots of your senior? Then you probably don’t want to choose a photographer whose website only displays light & airy, overexposed (white) sky images.
Look at the eyes and expressions too. Are they the natural expressions you expect to see every day or do they look stiff? Do the seniors look comfortable and like they are having fun? This is soooo important!
Choose a photographer who specializes in what you want done. Not doing so could lead to disappointment with your images.
3) Ask to see an entire gallery.
Almost anyone can come up with a handful of good images from a session to post on social media or their website. However, not all photographers can produce an entire gallery of great images. To get a better sense of the scope of a photographer's work ask to see an entire gallery from a recent session. Make sure their work is consistent.
Does the editing look natural or more fake porcelain doll-like?
How about the poses? Candids are fun and important, but a true professional photographer will know how to use light and shadow and how to pose a person to look their absolute best for their body type.
Angles and perspectives are important too. Any disproportionate heads, hands or feet (hands bigger than their heads)? Seniors should not look like bobble head toys!
Are their images sharp and in focus?
Look at the background of the images. Are there any distracting elements randomly sticking out of heads?
Can they use light well? This is most noticeable in the eyes. They should sparkle!!
Were they able to tell a story? Do you feel like you got to know the senior from that session just by looking through their gallery?
Price can be a big factor. Sometimes it can be the deciding factor. Senior portraits are an investment, and you will want to invest wisely. The most important thing to figure out is what is included in the cost of the session. Sometimes a photographer may look inexpensive because of a low entry cost.
But what are you really getting for that session fee?
Is retouching included? It should be if they are a professional.
Is professional hair and makeup included?
If something is unclear ask for clarification before you sign a contract.
Are there multiple session options to choose from? We have three here at our studio so there is something for everyone's budget.
And know that if a photographer is very inexpensive you may want to ask yourself, “why are they so inexpensive?”. A professional will have invested in great equipment, not something that can be purchased at a wholesale club, and have years of continuing education.
Do they have liability insurance?
Are they licensed?
Are they booking ten sessions a week and won’t have the time to give your senior the attention he or she deserves?
You must factor in a photographer's time invested in your session (before, during and after), their expertise, as well as their overhead costs when taking into account their pricing. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. And like all things in life, you get what you pay for.
6) Get to know the photographer.
Be sure to visit the photographer's About Page on their website. You can usually get a good sense of their personality there. Check out their blog and social media pages too.
Do you like them? Have things in common?
Feel like you could be friends in real life? If yes, you are usually on the right path.
Watch their instagram stories for a little while to get a feel for who they are. You can check ours out here.
The clients that I click with best are the ones that feel like they know me before we even meet in person for the first time. And we usually end up being friends. If you are still unsure if you "click", schedule a phone call to chat. If you don’t feel a connection, move on down the road. You want to feel confident and comfortable with your photographer!
7) Most importantly, your photographer should be someone you trust.
If you feel the need to send your photographer a Pinterest board with exact poses for them to follow, you probably don’t trust them.
Do you want unique and artistic images that are true to your child?
Or do you want the same cookie-cutter images that other people already have?
Your photographer should have a vision for your senior. And if you’ve chosen the right photographer you will trust them and their vision.
Once you find a photographer you love, stick with them! I love documenting all the siblings' senior year portraits as my families grow through the years. I love when everyone is excited to see me, even though I may only see them in person every few years. And I feel each session gets better because I am connected with that family on a deeper level every time we shoot. There is nothing better than feeling as if you are a part of that family.
So there you have it. I know it can be intimidating and a little stressful. There's a lot to consider, and I know you only want the best for your baby. All that being said, I would love to be your photographer! If you are interested in a custom session for your senior, please let me know :)
You can text/call me at 707.290.1839 with any questions you have.