When arranging a portrait session, what do you need to think about when booking a  photographer?

 When looking for a photographer – and yes there are so many to choose from – you need to think about the style of session you want: contempory and fun, posed and classical, white background, coloured background, digital files, wall art, etc.  

The cost is also a great factor – but it’s the old saying – you get what you pay for!  There are photographers who do it as a hobby with very little training – if any.  You probably won’t get all the specialist editing that comes with the digital era.   Then there are those who do know their way around a camera, and only do sessions on a weekend as they have a full time job, so can afford to charge less.  And there are the  photographers who work full-time at photography – these are the ones who have usually put a lot of investment into their business – with training, equipment, insurance etc  (photography is not a cheap businesss!) The cost of a session and products goes up dramatically as you are – in effect –  their boss and paying their wage!

All photographers develop their own style, so it is up to you to find what you like and factor that into your budget too.

 Does the photographer have insurance?

It is really important that you book a professional photographer that has Public Liability and Indemnity insurance.  This is to protect you and your family as well as the photographer.  Don’t be embarrassed to ask to see a copy of their insurance certificates.

Is the  photographer a qualified member of a professional organisation?

This is not a necessity in itself, but it gives you the assurance that the photographer has the level of knowledge and expertise to have gained a qualified status within a professional photography organisation such as The SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers), The MPA (Master Photographers Association), The BIPP (The British Institute of Professional Photographers), etc.  The images they submit for their qualification are judged by a panel of experienced and  highly qualified photographers and they have to satisfy certain criteria before they are given qualified status.

Is your  photographer flexible?

Is the  photographer willing to work with you and listen to your requirements so you get the portrait that you want?  a good professional  photographer is flexible and can adapt to constantly changing situations.

Photographic styles:

Formal – Traditional or Posed - Some think that a contemporary style is too fussy for them will require a more traditional or directed approach.  These photos are not necessarily going to look like what your mum and dads album did, but there would be more direction/prompting from the photographer.  co-operation will be required from others in the group in order to achieve the desired results.  

 Photojournalistic – Informal, Candid, Natural - Some prefer a less structured approach to their portrait – especially if having an outside session, But be careful!  The photographs you see in magazines etc that often prompt this request are much more orchestrated by the photographers than you think and are seldom left to chance.  

 Contempory – Magazine, Avante-Garde, FashionThis type of portrait is usually reserved solely for individuals or couples and is highly stylised.  Photographs can be similar to those found in ‘Vogue’ or high end magazines.  These photographs take more time to set up than normal coverage but are always well worth it in the end.

 Ask the photographer if you can see some sample work of their portraits.  Anyone can put together an album of their ‘best’ work which may be taken from sessions,  training days or model shoots, which is what you will usually see on a photographer’s web site, but you will want to see if their work is consistent and a good way to do this is to look at some complete  albums 

A professional wedding photographer Vs. ‘Uncle Fred’

A good professional  photographer can bring together elements of all of the above styles of portrait photography to provide you with a range of images that tell your story .  You are paying a professional for their technical expertise and artistic ability to see things with their trained eye.

We all have an ‘Uncle Fred’ or a friend who is “doing photography at college” or has photography as their hobby and it is true that with modern digital cameras, ‘Uncle Fred’ etc. can take lots of images that are of reasonably good quality but will they be in focus, will they be the right shots and will they be in the right locations and posed correctly? Just because they have a good camera it doesn’t mean that they will produce good photographs (I have a good pair of hairdressing scissors but that doesn’t mean I can give a good hair cut!).  That is why you are paying a professional photographer so that you know you will be leaving nothing to chance.

 How much have you budgeted for your portrait session?

 There are some photographers who compete on price, these are mainly the part time photographers who have a full time job and photography is a ‘paying hobby’ – not to say that these photographers aren’t any good, some of them are – and although this should not stop you booking them, it should be a consideration especially with after care – will they be available when you need them, can they afford you the time after the event?

Your budget will have a limit and that is understandable – but go for the very best you can afford.  If you find a photographer that meets all your criteria – and you like them but they cost a little more than you wanted to pay, but you can afford to stretch that little bit more, then do it because professional photography is well worth the expense!  I go back to the saying – “Good photography is not expensive – but bad photography is an expensive mistake!”

Probably the most important thing… Do you like the photographer?

Do you like the photographer and feel comfortable with them?  The chemistry has to be right or you will not get the photographs you want, because your feelings will show in the images – A picture paints a thousand words!  So the important thing is to commission a photographer who you feel comfortable with and feel you can work with even if they are more expensive than some of the others you have seen, go with your instinct, it will pay dividends in the long run.

The list is endless, but these are the main things you should be looking at.

We hope this helps!