5 Things to know before hiring a photographer

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5 Things to know before hiring a photographer

The idea of posing for a professional photographer thrills some people, mortifies others. For those who cringe at the thought of bright lights and a big fat lens pointed in your direction, relax.

If you are just a regular person dreaming of having a beautiful portrait, your dream can come true. To make this happen, know that it's not your job to look good in pictures, it's the photographer's job.

It is your job to find the right photographer.

1) What is important to you about these photos?

Do you want an experience or do you just need a functional headshot?

Are you memorializing something that will never happen again?

Are you marking a milestone?

All photography sessions - even business headshots - are emotionally charged. Tap into this, think about what it will mean NOT to have these photos.

Think about the future, sharing the images with future generations. Think about the house burning down and what you grab first. For many, it's the photo album.

Even if it's just a simple headshot, think about what your expression needs to convey.

Do you want to look successful? Relaxed? In control? Confident? Powerful?

Do you want to look accessible and trustworthy or distant and aloof? Do you want to appear quirky or down-to-earth?

2) Don't hire a fashion photographer

So you saw an amazing picture by Mario Testino and you've decided to track him down and SPLURGE on a shoot with him.

Great idea ... if you're a fashion model.

Really BAD idea if you're a regular person.

Here's why.

If you are not a professional model, hire a photographer who regularly works with real people. If you think you'll get fashion pictures by hiring a fashion photographer, you are setting yourself up for a big disappointment.

Fashion photographers work with paid models and celebrities, women (and sometimes men) who earn big bucks and are constantly in front of cameras.

Real people have no idea what to do look good in pictures; in a nutshell, they have no idea how to pose.

Real women have no idea how to stand in front of the camera. They have no idea what do with their faces, their brows, their mouths. It's not the fashion photographer's job to tell the model what to do, but it is a huge part of the regular folk's photographer's job.

Plus, when a real people photographer hears, "But I'm not photogenic," she says, "Bah humbug. It's my job to make you stunning. And I'm very good at my job."

3) Set a budget

Even in New York City, there is a photography experience at every price point.

Establish a budget as early as you can in the discovery process so you're not blind-sided at any point in the process. Share this number with the photographers you interview.

Most people hate talking about money, so get it out of the way early so you and your professional are on the same page from the beginning.

Many photographers split their fees into two categories:

  1. 1) a sit fee, and
  2. 2) prints, albums, etc.

The rationale is that people pay a loss-leader, relatively low fee to get in the door and then fill in the back end with prints and albums.

If you've never hired a professional photographer before and you're not sure what you want to end up with, ask what other clients have purchased.

If you want to get right to the budget, consider asking this, "I want to end up with a 20-print, 5x7 album. How much will everything together cost?"

Even if you're dealing with photographers who have set packages like mine, we're always happy to accommodate specific requests.

I established my collection of packages because most clients have no idea what they really want. The packages give them a good place to start.

If you're celebrating or marking something special, it makes sense to spend a little more. When you up the ante, you tend to get a photographer with more experience, a more sophisticated style, broader knowledge and nifty little tricks and ideas. You may value this, you may not. It's okay either way.

4) Equipment doesn't matter - content does

I'm not one of those photographers who obsess about equipment and technical details.

Yes, you probably will get a "technically better" digital file if your photographer uses a $50,000 camera versus a $1,000 camera, but ultimately it's about how you feel when you look at your picture.

You can feel over the moon about an image regardless of what device created it. The emotional, enduring quality is about what's IN the picture, not how it was created.

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