Picking the right photographer for you can be a daunting task. Throughout the process you will find that prices vary greatly between the photographers in your area, and that there are many photographers of varying quality to sort through. This guide is designed to help you make the best decision for your budget, regardless of whether or not you decide to purchase our services. Our hope is that this guide will help to educate potential clients about what to look for while they are searching for photographers, and save them from some of the pitfalls that can occur.
Part One: "What are you paying for?"
You can take amazing photos. Your mom said so! You have more Instagram followers than any of your friends, and a neat new DSLR. Why should you pay for a photographer?
Honestly, you may not need the services of a professional photographer. It's shocking to hear from someone offering this service, but in reality you may be set for the majority of your photo needs. Most of the photos that we interact with in our daily lives do not require the quality that a professional photographer can provide. Most phones these days can take some amazing photos, and they are perfect for capturing your special moments! If you have your own camera, even better!!! A photographer's services are required for more complex jobs. When you want to capture the events of your life, and have them recorded beautifully in a timeless way.
What then, do you need a photographer for? The right photographer can provide you with main services which you will not be able to manage on your own:
Experience, Equipment, and Peace-of-Mind
You may know someone who takes amazing photos. Perhaps you have seen them on Facebook. They get raving reviews from all of your mutual friends, and you particularly enjoy the photos that they take of the people you know. You may even have some knowledge of photography yourself. The balancing of light, composition, and a subject is tricky business, and when the moments really count it's best not left to those who are inexperienced. Even if someone knows the basics such as Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO, it doesn't make them a professional. There is much more that goes into making your photographs timeless and captivating. Composition is an art that you may never fully perfect. As you grow as a photographer, so does your eye for recognizing the best way to capture a scene and subject. While the backgrounds and props which are popular on Pinterest now may be adorable and just what you want to show off on Facebook, it may be that in 30 years you look back and regret not having images that feel less dated. That is not to say that professional photography should not incorporate fun and interesting new trends, but that it should include a balanced mix of images which will last a lifetime. It is when you need these qualities that you should place your trust in a professional, and trust in their experience to provide you with the best results possible. Lighting is another aspect of photography that even many professionals are lacking in.
Many photographers proudly proclaim to be "Natural Light" exclusive. They say this proudly, as if it speaks to add a distinguished quality to their work. Natural light is severely limiting to the situations and scenes which a person can photograph. If a camera is a tool for a photographer, then light is the essence of the photo. Being able to manipulate the light is invaluable. With proper technique and flash, a photographer can make any scene fit the mood, style, and setting which they intend regardless of the light provided by chance. Rather than being reactive to their surroundings, a good photographer can shape light and shadow to give the best results possible without limitation. Unfortunately these results can not be obtained from natural light photography alone. Lets use a bright sunny day as an example. A natural light photographer will be limited by exposing for their subject. That is to say, that if they want to be able to see their subject's face they will need to set their camera accordingly. When they do this, it causes the background to become too bright and the camera loses parts of the photograph which can not be recovered. That beautiful blue sky that was so great to enjoy becomes a bright white or gray. One way this can be overcome is through the use of a reflector. A reflector shines ambient light on the subject in the foreground, which balances the brighter light in the background. While this is a great tool to use, it is dependent on the ambient light available to the photographer. Through the use of flashes and lighting modifiers, a photographer can take control of any scene and shape it to fit exactly what they intend. The experience and equipment required for this is vastly greater than required for ambient lighting techniques, and the results speak for themselves. For this reason, it is important to know what the photographers you are considering utilize. While a photographer you like may be very experienced at shooting in natural light, it severely limits the photos which they can produce and when/where they can produce them. Having this knowledge during your research can help you balance what fits into your photography needs.
Equipment alone cannot make for a good photograph, however it is very important to determining the quality of your final image. While a good photographer can take an amazing image with only a phone, they rely on their equipment often to overcome hurdles which would otherwise negatively affect the end result. The example of flash photography used above is a great way of illustrating how equipment can help to create a beautiful and timeless photograph. While lighting equipment can be expensive, this is one way where the resources of a professional photographer can be an enormous advantage. An expensive entry level DSLR can be a great purchase, and will teach you a lot about photography. While it may provide you with fantastic images, these cameras are limited when compared to professional "Full-Sensor" cameras that your photographer should be using. A full-frame camera provides vastly greater image quality, color, and low-light performance which cannot be matched by less expensive alternatives. Asking a photographer whether or not they shoot with a full-sensor camera is not insulting, and it can help you to get a sense of whether or not they are worth the price they are asking. Lenses vary greatly in quality as well. Great lenses can instantly change the look of an image, however are a costly investment. Most amateur photographers cannot justify the expense of a costly lens, however the lenses which are within their reach do not perform remotely as well. Equipment costs can add up quickly, however these are resources which a professional photographer finds invaluable in delivering the best product to their clients. In reality, that is what a client deserves; the best product that their money can purchase. If one photographer cannot match the equipment of another, that doesn't instantly mean that their photographs will be inferior. It simply means that they are at a very large disadvantage to a professional who is properly equipped. You wouldn't hire an improperly equipped mechanic, so why should not make the same considerations for your photographer? With this information, hopefully you can make a more educated decision in your search for the right photographer for your budget.
It is my hope that this article will have assisted you in understanding a few of the reasons why it is important to hire a professional photographer who can exceed all of your needs. The most important factor in selecting a photographer is your own peace-of-mind. Knowing that once you have made your selection, you have made the right one is extremely important. A photographer can be costly investment, and one that should be worthwhile throughout your entire experience from beginning to end. From your consultation, to the moment you have your photographs in hand you should have the best experience that can be provided to you regardless of how much you spend. Hiring a photographer should be an enjoyable and fun experience which provides you with memories which will last far into the future. Your photographer should be experienced enough to free you from worry and guide you through the process, they should have the knowledge and equipment to provide you with the best product that is available, and they should leave you feeling relaxed and confident in your decision. This is the entire reason why you are hiring a professional to provide you with a service in the first place! Whether you are hiring a photographer to capture your newborn baby, take pictures of your entire family, capture the emotional moments of your wedding, or getting senior pictures for your child a great photographer will free you to enjoy the experience and enhance it to the best of their ability. Above all else, this should be your biggest consideration when looking for a photographer. There are many photographers to choose from, but with the right knowledge you can avoid paying for services which are anything less than perfect. Whether you choose my services, or the services of another photographer, it is my hope that this article has assisted you in making your decision a little easier.
Ari Landworth, Photographer