Choosing the Best Photographer for Family Photos

19 June 2012

So you've looked at your studio options, what next? Picking the best photographer to work with that will ensure satisfaction with the photos at the end of the day. I always recommend starting with a shortlist and working through that list until one option remains

Step 1: Decide what you want in a photo package
What is a photo package?
Almost all chain and private professional photographers offer photo packages. The package will specify the number of prints, sizes, digital copies and cost.
Lifestyle considerations
Do you like to print lots of photos and send to the kids' favorite aunts and godparents? Do you scrapbook and prefer to work with a particular size of photos? Do you prefer digital copies over print?
I fall in the third category. I'm working towards having a minimalist, clutter-free home (in spite of the fact that I have twins). One of my strategies is to digitize music, photos and books as much as possible so when choosing photo packages, I look for one that includes digital copies of the photos at a REASONABLE PRICE. I emphasize that because I've got a photo CD from Target for $99 and I've spoken to Magenta on the phone and been informed that each photo on the CD would cost me $99. There's a wide variance to how much photographers will charge for digital copies. Shop around and ask questions before you commit
I went back to review wwhat I paid for the photo packages I got from the 4 studios I've used so far and guess what? There is no noticeable price difference. That's correct. I automatically assumed that private photographers were too expensive but I was wrong. 
Step 2: Find out what you can and cannot do with the photo package
Copyright Issues
This is the natural followup to wanting digital copies. It's good to know how much freedom the photo studio will give over the photos. Can you print them out in another studio? Can you share them and on what medium? Can you remove the watermark? I'm not a legal expert so this paragraph is a summary of what I know. A good example is our 2011 Santa photos, we were informed that even though we paid for the digital copies, we could only print them on a home printer and not a commercial photo printing service like Walmart. Who does that????

Digital Resolution
In other words the quality of the digital copies you get. Will they be low resolution photos that are only good for electronic viewing? Or will they be high resolution photos that can be blown up or printed on canvas without any loss of clarity?

Step 3: Choose the photographer whose style best matches your family's
Photo Gallery Review
The most important thing I can say about choosing a private photographer is preview their gallery of work. If you're going for a family session, take a look at their family photos. If it's just a session for the kids, take a look at their baby/kid photography.
Pay close attention to the expressions captured, the poses, the arrangements, the props and the photo effects. They'll tell you a lot about the photographer's style be it formal, casual, full of effects, simple or even goth. Try and visualize your family in the photos or settings. Will you be happy with the result? Can you imagine hanging one of those in your office, living room or using as a screensaver? The photographer may be good but their style could be different from your vision and result in an unsatisfactory photo session.
My style is pretty casual and laid back so I look for a photographer that captures people in unguarded, unposed moments. I prefer natural action photos to formal posed ones. Plus I have a thing for black and white or sephia effects so I look for some examples of those in the photographer's gallery.

My next post, I'll share our professional photography journey over the last 19 months and tell you about my newly-found and much-beloved photographer in Calgary.

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