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10 Things to Know Before Choosing a Portrait Photographer

Looking to choose a portrait photographer with a great reputation and portrait photography experience?

Picking a photographer for your wedding or senior pictures can be really stressful. There are so many options to choose from!

While the photography market is saturated with professionals, there’s still an overwhelming amount of choices and details that you need to consider before making a decision.

But don’t worry! Keep reading as we’ve created this guide to help you navigate through the process of choosing a portrait photographer by breaking down all the things you should take into account when hiring one and providing some tips on how to find one that fits your budget and needs.

1. Decide if You Want a Photographer or a Service

A lot of art galleries offer portrait photography on the side, but some photographers only work as portrait photographers. If this is your first time looking for a portrait photographer, I would recommend going with an actual studio instead of someone who does it as a sideline business.

Although some people may do both well, I’ve had bad experiences with art galleries that also had horrendous photos of me displayed on their walls (to give you an idea of the quality). My suggestion is to go somewhere where all they have are good portraits because good portraits will instill more confidence in you about choosing them.

2. Know Your Budget

Like anything else, portrait photography comes at different price points. You can find someone to do a quick in-home session for around $50 or you could book a session with an award-winning photographer who will spend hours with you and your family and cost thousands of dollars.

It all depends on what you want and how much money you want to spend. Then you can begin comparing photography costs,

3. Consider What Type of Portraits You Want

There are many different types of portraits: environmental, lifestyle, classic, editorial, etc. Environmental portraits are taken against the natural backdrop of the subject’s environment (usually outdoors). Lifestyle portraits are more candid shots that show the subject in his or her natural environment doing whatever he or she would normally be doing.

4. Know How Many Photos You Will Want (Even if They’re Not Exactly “Portraits”)

Before meeting with any potential portrait photographers, I would recommend finding at least 5-10 of their shots that you think to look good enough to be framed and displayed in your home. That way, you can show the photographer some examples of what you like and they will be able to more accurately tailor their service towards your needs.

Although most portrait photographers (at least the good ones) know how to photograph many different things, some styles may work better for you than others and it’s always best to go with something that both parties are interested in.

5. Decide Who Will Be In Your Portraits

The number of people who will be included is a major factor when choosing a portrait photographer because it can affect the price as well as scheduling issues. If you only want one or two shots of yourself, then this doesn’t really matter so much because at least there won’t be too many people to coordinate schedules with. Vice Versa if you are having family portraits.

6. Consider How Much Time You Want to Spend on Photo Shoot

Like anything else, the more time you want to spend on your photoshoot, the more it will cost. Usually, portrait photographers will charge by the hour so if you want a 3-hour shoot instead of a 1-hour shoot, expect to pay more.

This isn’t always the case (some photographers will offer packages that include a certain amount of time), but it’s something to keep in mind when budgeting for your portraits.

7. Consider Where You Will Get Your Portraits

Many photographers offer on-location shoots, usually outdoors to provide a nice backdrop for your shots. However, not everyone has the time or patience for this and would rather have everything done in an indoor studio.

If you want some outdoor shots but aren’t too keen on traveling out of your way to get some, make sure you choose someone offering both options so that you can at least get a few shots of whatever it is you plan on doing later (wedding, graduation…etc).

8. Do Some Research Before Meeting Any Potential Photographers

As I mentioned earlier, there are many great portrait photographers all over the place who just don’t have any online presence. This isn’t necessarily bad because they may be providing a service that isn’t photography related or they simply could be a talented photographer who is relatively new to the field and hasn’t built a following.

Make sure you read all of their references and reviews.

9. Contact Potential Photographers

Once you have some potential candidates in mind, it’s time to contact them through email/phone call/IM, etc. Let them know what type of photos you want (if they aren’t obvious from your portfolio selections), how many photos you will need, when and where the photoshoot will take place (if it’s not an on-location shoot), and most importantly how much everything altogether will cost.

Usually, there will be a separate charge for prints and digital copies, so make sure you ask them to clarify what they mean by “digital files”. Some may only include the edited photos while others may send along with the unedited versions as well.

It’s also important to find out how long after receiving your shots you can expect to receive any proofs (unedited shots) and when those proofs could possibly expire if not ordered immediately.

10. Choose Your Photographer

By now, I’m sure you already have a good idea about who you want to shoot your portraits, but it never hurts to get other opinions especially from close friends or family members. Once you’ve made your choice, don’t hesitate to let the photographer know right away because he/she may have other customers waiting in the wings who also want to be first in line.

Before finalizing any deals, make sure you look over everything carefully and if there are any additional charges, ask for an explanation as to what those charges will be used for (i.e. travel costs).

How to Choose a Portrait Photographer?

There are many factors to consider when you choose a portrait photographer, but there is no substitute for doing your research and asking the right questions. The end result of hiring the wrong person can be costly not only in terms of money but also time lost that could have been better spent elsewhere.

Take some time today to think about what you want from your next portrait session- do you need someone who’s skilled at capturing all sorts of different moments? Do they specialize in newborn photography or weddings? Does it matter if they shoot film or digital images? It’s important to take inventory of what matters most to you before making any rash decisions.

If you’d like more help, please visit our blog for more help finding the best options for photographers.

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