10 things to consider when hiring a photographer for senior pictures
[senior pictures, tips & tricks]
10. is it a studio or do they shoot on-location?
...or both? If you are hiring a photographer, something extremely important to consider is whether or not they have a studio and what exactly it is that you are looking for. In Fort Collins, it's pretty common to find photographers who do not have a brick and mortar location, and that's totally fine. A photographer who works within the confines of a studio may struggle to use the outside world and may be less familiar with photo ops than one whom has spent time exploring the city with their clients.
More importantly, a street photographer, or a photographer who shoots on-location will have creative skills in which they can make the outside world look as if it were studio portraits.
Personally, I'd recommend a photographer who shoots on location, and allows several locations for your photoshoot. You may be a regular at the public library and want some pictures there, but you may also feel some sentimental connection to the reservoir and want to also get just a few pictures up there. A good photographer will offer more than just one location for your session.
9. how well do they know the area?
I'm not just asking if the photographer is new to the area, because it's possible that they are new to the area, but have spent the last 5 years visiting a few times a year. More than likely even if they are new, they have spent enough time exploring and getting to know the city that they are aware of some of the places that have changed.
When considering whether or not your photographer knows the area, you'll want to consider whether or not they can give you some pointers on where to have the pictures taken. This is helpful, especially with people who are new to the area which is a common theme in Fort Collins. The city is rapidly growing, and will continue to, meaning that having a photographer who has spent enough time outside is crucial.
8. how much planning do they assist with, what happens if plans need to be changed either slightly or a lot?
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I get it for sure. This is your first time having your senior portraits done - and hopefully your last! Deciding on what to wear, where to have your pictures taken and finding a photographer who you can trust to tell about any insecurities that you may face while having your pictures taken is one of the most important things on this list. It can be intimidating to get in front of a camera and not know how to stand, what you should do with your hands, whether or not you look like you have four extra chins, if your outfit looks okay, if your cowlick is acting up again - and the list goes on.
A great photographer doesn't just interact with you during your session, but in the pre-planning stages before you have even hired him or her, and afterwards during the editing process. I don't exactly like calling it "planning", as it feels a lot more like psychic guesswork in my experience, but there should be a great deal of communication going on between you and your photographer.
Personally, I help my clients with the following:
Outfits - including colors & patterns
Locations - either one or several
Budgeting - type of plan & payment arrangements
Props - accessories, buddies & furry friends
School Requirements - how to follow school rules - or slightly bend them ;-)
Style - how to make the session reflect who YOU are - not me
7. how much experience do they have?
Something to consider when hiring a senior portraits photographer, or any artist for that matter, is that you are not hiring them just because they have the equipment that you lack, but because of their experience. You are paying them for their vast knowledge and the skills and techniques that you have acquired over the years. If you are looking at someone who just bought their first DSLR and wants to take it out to practice with it - well, then don't be surprised if they don't deliver pictures that you feel confident in, or that are ranked below your peers' portraits when going through the yearbook.
if you are hiring a "cheap" photographer then expect to look cheap.
If a great experience is your goal, then plan to spend a little more. If it seems like it's out of your budget find a compassionate photographer who will work with you and offer payment arrangements and/or plans with your contract.
6. how much are they charging?
This goes along with what experience they have. Again - when you are paying someone for your senior pictures you are paying them for their knowledge and their developed skills. They may have obtained their skill set from real world experience, school or a combination of the two. There is nothing wrong with either. You do not have to hire a person with their M.F.A., but if you do then expect the price to be high. This also goes for individuals who have been shooting for 20 years, and have worked long enough to open up their own portrait studio where the overhead for their services is much higher than those of us who choose to shoot on-location and make the world our studio. More things to think about when considering cost:
Proximity - how far are they, and are they willing to travel? are there mileage fees?
Portfolio - how much, and WHAT is in it?
Payment - making multiple payments, seasonal discounts, mini-sessions, etc.
5. what is their reputation like?
Look for testimonials on their website, or on other listings websites. At the moment, it is said that businesses who rank at about 4.5 stars is likely to be more trusted than businesses with 4 stars, or of course 1. If you are experienced with business, then you know it's unlikely to actually have five stars, and somewhere along the line at least one person is going to incorrectly interpret your contract or find something to be negative about. That's just life. However, if it's every single customer that the photographer has served, that's saying more than just one or two unhappy people out of hundreds.
Be warned, though it is not uncommon to see photographers who do not use listings sites. We are at a bit of a disadvantage a lot of the time, because most of us do not have brick and mortar locations making it so that we aren't registered on a lot of listings sites which require it.
Reviews don't just come from those listings sites, however.
You may have friends who have used that photographer, or even a different one who can offer some insight. Word of mouth goes a long ways!
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4. is it someone you could imagine hanging out with as a friend?
Weird, right!? But you don't want some washed up, boring old photographer with no personality that makes you feel awkward throughout your photoshoot, trust me. Awkward moments make for awkward pictures, and there is some level of interpersonal skills that photographers need to have in order to make their clients feel comfortable whether it's teens, children, business professionals or animals! Understanding diversity and being able to get along with people of all types of backgrounds and with varying personality types is an absolute must.
Personally, I love working with seniors and it's one of my favorite types of services to provide! It takes me back to the good old days, and every time I get to serve a senior and his or her parents, I get to re-love the fun times in my life.
3. are they willing to collaborate?
There is nothing worse than having a photographer that makes you feel like your ideas are inferior, and because they have oh-so much experience that their previous work is what makes them better than you. This is a major faux pas of many a photographer that exists out there, and it is not a fair way to treat clients. Most of the ideas that my clients have come to me with have actually be excellent ideas, and helping them put those ideas to work is what makes the pictures great! I'm not much of a Pinterestographer, and I am certainly not one for copyright infringement, but hey! If you see something on there that you like, then I am all eyes, and I am sure that we can use the idea - while still customizing it and making it all about you!
Seriously, don't go to a photographer who demands that everything is done according to just their standards. These are YOUR pictures, and you probably won't get more taken for awhile, so make sure they're what YOU actually want!
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2. what is in their contract?
This part can be complicated, because most photographers don't create these with malicious intent. However, as photographers we also need to protect our work and the services that we provide. There may be sections which do not allow printing images through other companies and other copyrights restrictions, behaviors which may result in cutting a contract, refunds, how they handle unforeseen circumstances, how the weather may impact your session, clauses which hold you responsible for damages caused to equipment, details on the photographer's turn-around with editing and delivery of product, additional fees and more.
There is nothing wrong with asking to see the contract prior to paying for services, however do not expect a photographer to actually make special exceptions or changes to it on your behalf just because you do not agree with what is in it. It's totally acceptable to ask questions and understand the contract, but negotiating may not be on the table with every photographer.
1. what separates their work from everyone else's?
This can be difficult to define when you aren't a part of the industry. It could be their style, their communication methods and ability to relate, their popularity, or even their technique and worldly experiences.
Photographers who stand out typically have images which may seem repetitive sometimes. You may notice that they use a lot of bright colors, that all of their clients appear flawless, that there seem to be common themes with colors and backdrops, or expressions and poses on their previous clients faces. Determine what it is that draws you to that particular photographer and mention it when you are either consulting with your photographer!
If there is no resemblance between any of their pictures it's safe to assume that they have not actually developed a specific style - even when collaborating, the edits should be similar across the board, and there shouldn't be a ton of variation in it.
Find someone who is unique, but is still willing to share ideas and get ready to look and feel like the most fabulous senior who ever did have their pictures taken by a pro!