Decision Time

Choosing a good Photographer

How to choose a good photographer

Your Photographer and College Photography Instructor

How to select a good photographer to work with

When it comes down to picking a photographer to work with, do your due diligence, just like you would when purchasing any important product, like buying a car, home, etc.  If the photography business seems like an amateurish operation, it probably is. Whether the photographer works full time or part time in the business does not guarantee a true professional quality operation. These days, there are quite a few “photographers” in this area and many do such amateurish work, it’s sad. Educate yourself on the topic of “good photography”.  Everyone who holds a camera is not a photographer. Rather, a photographer is one who is trained, has experience and a solid portfolio you can view. 

These are the things you need to consider before choosing  a photographer:

1. QUALITY

Take a look at the photographer’s portfolio and ask yourself whether you can imagine the photographer’s images in a magazine or gallery. If so, what kind of magazines or products? Is the photographer using wrinkled bed sheets as backdrops, tacky props, poor lighting? Is she cutting off feet and hands in the images? 

2. EQUIPMENT

Ask the photographer which equipment she has. Specifically, ask if she has a “full frame” camera, which is a professional camera, as opposed to an amateur consumer camera which everyone purchases at the local Walmart. The type of equipment a photographer uses not only makes a difference but also shows the the “zone” that photographer works in. Using pro equipment shows pro thinking. Consumer (amateur) cameras show amateurish philosophy in a pro world. What a pro photographer should have:
  1. Full frame camera and backup camera
  2. Off camera flash, which means the flash in not mounted on top of the camera, a real indication of amateur operation
  3. Backup flash unit
  4. Backup cords, backup batteries for cameras and flash units

3. CONSISTENCY

If anyone shoots enough photos, he or she is going to have a few good shots to pick from. What you want to see in a photographer’s portfolio is consistency. This means you should look for continued good shots done during a single shoot.  You should be confident that working with a photographer will indicate a consistently high quality level of work.

4. STYLE

Most good photographers develop their own distinct style. This doesn’t mean one style is necessarily better than another, but it does mean that you should pick a photographer who shows you examples of photography  you want in your portfolio. Are you confident in the photographer’s work and abilities to the point that you believe hiring the photographer will give you the desired results?

5. FOCUS

Does the photographer have a particular style or a favorite kind of subject? If you’re looking for a wedding photographer and a photographer’s main portfolio consists of mostly boudoir photos, consider looking elsewhere.

6. TALENT and EXPERIENCE

Many photographers will use their years of experience to attract your business but that alone does not necessarily make a good photographer. It’s about a photographer’s talent and eye.  As a general rule, judge a photographer by the work you see.

7. REPUTATION & REFERENCES

Is the photographer reputable, with references? Any professional photographer should easily have 3 or more references she can provide upon request.

8. COMMUNICATION

Is all contact made by the photographer handled in a professional fashion? Does the tone of the photographer’s correspondence leave you confident that you would be working with a quality and professional business? Are all of your questions answered in a way that makes you feel comfortable?

Finding a photographer with whom you can communicate openly and who can understand your style and personality is important. Communication and comfort are critical to great photos. It is important that you’re comfortable and that your photographer is someone who can not only listen, learn, and react to your words, gestures and body language, but someone who you can listen to. When the photo session comes, you’ll be looking into a lens and will only hear the voice of your photographer, so you need to be comfortable with that voice.

9. LOCATION

Where does the photographer shoot? Does he shoot in a dedicated studio or a home studio? While it is true that many photographers work out of their own homes (to keep overhead low), it is good know what type of environment you would be shooting in. Do they have clear examples of photos they have taken in that environment?

10. ON-LINE REPRESENTATION

Does the photographer have a web site? Although you are working with a photographer and not necessarily a web page designer, something must be said about quality and attention to detail. Is the photographer’s web site presented in a professional fashion or is it simply an afterthought?

Are the web pages riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes? How do you feel about working with someone who doesn’t care enough about what her or his web site says about them to bother to spell check or present photos and/or information in a professional manner? A good photographer should care about the quality of his work beyond just photographs. Even photographers who are unable to create their own web sites can easily use web based software to put information and photos online. Or they can simply hire a company to design and maintain a web site for them. Compare their website with other professional looking sites.

Additional words from our photographer - Andrzej

One thing I’d like to add is the importance of knowing and understanding lighting. Too many times, I see photographers placing subjects in direct sunlight, which makes them squint and / or have one side of their faces with  excessively contrasting light to dark ratios. One side of the face should not be extremely dark while the other side overblown with light. 

I agree that a keen eye for composition is very important but the experience factor is equally important. Why? Because situations change dramatically at times and the photographer must know what to do in that unexpected situation. Camera and technological experience is a must. 

Additionally, educate yourself about what a good photo is. Look through magazines and see what good images look like. Is there too much head room? Are the feet cut off? Is there enough room on either side of the image for prints? Is the photo correctly lit? It is out of focus? Is the composition correct? I see these mistakes too often. 

Also, ask what software they use to edit the images they take. They should be using Lightroom and Photoshop. If they are not using any editing software, look elsewhere. In today’s digital world, digital editing software is a must.