When I first launched my business, 100% of my clients were people who had booked photo shoots with other photographers and weren't happy with the experience, the quality and style of the images they received and/or the personality/demeanor of the photographer. Not every photographer is a perfect fit for every client. So here are a few things to keep in mind when booking your next photographer.
Please note: not everything on this list is a must, the points listed are just a guide.
~ Price isn't everything (and yet it is)! Obviously we all have a budget that we need to work within when booking a photographer, but you get what you pay for with most things in life and photographs are no exception. Photography is an extremely expensive business and, for the most part, those who charge high prices do it because they have invested a heck of a lot of money into their gear and their training. The result of this is that they are the best at what they do, using the best tools of their trade. If you have a $150 budget, then that brilliant $500 photographer is out of your price range, but what about that $170 photographer, or even the $200 photographer? Wouldn't it be worth waiting a few more months and saving that extra $20 or $50 to rest assured that you won't be disappointed with your photos? That $150 you worked so hard to save is a complete waste if you aren't happy with the photos and end up going to that $200 photographer with the line I hear all the time: "I should have just paid the bit extra and gone with you".
~ Do they have a website? This one is definitely not a must BUT it's a pretty good indicator of their level of professionalism. Photography is an over-saturated market, with so many people buying a camera and deciding to start a photography business, with little to no training, shooting on auto, without any editing software etc. Why? Because it's of little cost to them. Their only outlay is the cost of the camera and lens. A photographer who has invested time, effort and money into their craft will have everything a proper business needs, including a website (especially in today's digital age). Websites cost money and they sure as heck cost a lot of time. Having a website is a good indication that the photographer is invested in their business.
~ Look at their portfolio. Photography is art and art is subjective. Every photographer has a different style and not everyone will like their work (it took me a long time to come to terms with that!). The best way to find out if you like the style of a photographer is to look at their work. Touching on the point above, a good photographer will have a portfolio of images on their website that has a consistent style, giving you a good indication of the type of images they shoot. My style is light, fun, relaxed and outdoors using natural lighting. You won't find a photo of a wrapped up baby in a basket in a studio photo because that isn't my style. The best way to avoid disappointment over your photos is to look at the style, quality and consistency of the photographer you are considering booking and see if that fits in with your needs.
~ Black & white and colour. I seriously cringe every time I see a photography business offer a set amount of the exact same photos in both colour and black and white in their packages. Not every photo makes a good black and white image! You need texture and pattern, shape, contrast and the all important lighting. Also, these type of packages are just 'padding out' what you actually receive.
~ Experience doesn't mean quality. There are plenty of photographers who have been taking photos for years and years but, like anything, if you aren't willing to invest time and money into improving your talent, the rate of growth and improvement is slow. Don't book a photographer solely based on the fact that they've been doing it for 20 years.
~ Have a chat. Feel free to contact the photographer you are thinking about booking and have a chat with them. Ask them about their gear, their qualifications and training, their style of photography etc. I remember having a pre-shoot meeting with one of my clients and she said that simply by chatting to me about the best time of day to have photos taken she could already tell that I would be great at what I do. You don't need to know all the ins and outs of photography to have a chat with a photographer and realise that they know what they are talking about and are good at what they do. Also, simply by having a chat you will be able to tell if you feel comfortable and at ease with them, which is a really important element to achieving genuine, warm photos with that sense of connection.
So if you're considering getting photos taken, this a really great starting list of points to consider and things to look for in your ideal photographer. Your photo session should be something you look back on with a smile and positive thoughts and hopefully these pointers will get you that.