How to Choose a Photographer

Story by Annette Brooks

There are countless times throughout our lives that benefit from the services of a professional photographer. Quality photos beautifully capture fleeting moments, etching images in time and creating a pathway to the past that will be accessible by your family generations from now. There’s nothing quite like looking at family photographs and reminiscing or seeing what great grandmother and grandfather looked like on their wedding day or silver anniversary. There are no do-overs for one-time events, so it’s important to recruit the right photographer to capture your special moments. Memories may fade, but the photos you end up with will be what sticks with you for eternity.

In the age of cell phones and point-and-shoot cameras, anyone can call themselves a photographer — but expertise, training, and talent are harder to find. Don’t bite on the first quote you get — shop around and see what a variety of photographers have to offer. You probably won’t remember the extra few dollars you spend on a pricier photographer, but you’ll always notice if your photos are low quality.

Any professional should be willing to talk to you about their experience and training and show you plenty of work to demonstrate their ability. Dig deep when viewing the galleries or portfolios of your potential photographers. Don’t just breeze through the signature shots at the front — pay attention to variety. Did all the best images come from the same shoot or clients, or do they have a wide assortment of quality pictures? Do you notice any particularly prevalent trends, like heavy oversaturation, especially where it’s not appropriate? If you think the portfolio quality leaves something to be desired, keep looking. If they seem to specialize in a particular type of shot that isn’t what you need — like nature or families if you’re looking for a wedding photographer — they might be a little out of their comfort zone.

Photography also requires good social and interpersonal skills — an under-appreciated quality. They’ll need to make people feel at ease to capture natural shots. Do the photos bring out the best in people? Are their expressions natural, relaxed, and joyful, or do you see uncomfortable, overly staged smiles? How are people in the photographs posed, especially when it comes to staged photos? Find a spark of creativity instead of just the same traditional “say cheese” shots.

Artistry is hard to define, but you will sense it if it’s there. Can you imagine the photographer’s work hanging on your wall or resting atop a table at home or the office? Do the photos catch you off guard with their quality, or do you feel not particularly impacted one way or the other?

Though it’s okay to spend money on a quality photographer, you do need to at least look at what you get for the price. If you plan on making your own prints, make sure that high-res imagery is included or available in a package that works with your budget. Are the rates for one photographer or a team that can provide more coverage for a larger event? Do they provide custom printing, framing, or binding? Does the rate cover different parts of your event, like a ceremony, reception, and afterparty? Pay attention and make sure you’re getting everything you want.

Photographs are highly personal, and your choice of a photographer is ultimately up to you. When you click with someone who is on board with your ideas, offers suggestions that work with yours, and makes you feel comfortable, you’re going to enjoy the results.


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