10 Tips for Finding a Great Senior Photographer

Once upon a time, a high school senior could look forward to a traditional portrait – girls wearing a black drape, guys in a classic tuxedo. But times have changed, and this ain’t your mama’s senior portrait anymore! A professional senior portrait is an opportunity to highlight your accomplishments, personality and good looks. Given the importance of the occasion, choosing a photographer is no easy decision. To help you in the selection process, we’ve compiled 10 tips to assist in making your pick.

  1. Find your photography style. At such a busy time in your life, it’s easy to choose a photographer based on what a BFF or classmate recommends. But your senior portrait is about YOU! So find a photographer whose style suits you. To do this, review and research a variety of portfolios and images to determine what you like – and what you don’t. While someone parasailing or taking a reflective walk through the woods may make a great photo, would you want that to be YOUR image? Does that tell YOUR story? As you peruse images, don’t stop until you find something that speaks to you.
  2. Make a connection. The connection you feel with your photographer is just as important as your style. You want a photographer with whom you’re comfortable, someone who is going to take the time to get to know you and ask you what you want out of your session. This doesn’t happen in five minutes, so spend some time seeking out and establishing the right connection.
  3. Check credentials. It’s your time to shine so why not hire the best?! Professional photographers have unique skills and training in artistry and technology, so they know how to capture your unique personality and interests in images. The pros have standards to uphold and membership in professional associations like PPA Professional Photographers of America).
  4. To Photoshop or not? Ask a photographer about retouching, what they typically do and don’t do, when and why. Because, while no one is perfect, it may take just a quick computer brush stroke to make your photos look amazing! On the other hand, you don’t want images so retouched you no longer recognize yourself! So, don’t be afraid to ask about what happens behind the scenes.
  5. Check their reviews. Good customer service should be high on your list. This is when references, reviews and testimonials can help you find a photographer that will deliver the customer experience you want.
  1. Notice how they use light. Any good photographer knows that the key to great images comes from having the right lighting. As a customer, it’s not your job to know F-stop from aperture, but as you review portfolios and websites, pay special attention to the photographer’s use of light – in doing so, you’ll see how an expert can use light to take an image from OK to amazing!
  2. Tuck your chin and throw your shoulder: You’ve probably been there – a photographer asks you to position your head “here” and your shoulder “here,” and suddenly, you feel like you’re in a bad game of Twister. A good photographer shouldn’t manhandle you, but gently guide you through a series of poses. Seniors want to look ‘natural,’ feel like themselves. It is the photographer’s knowledge of lighting and how to flatter a figure that makes all the difference in posing.
  3. Make sure they offer options. As you shop, look for someone who can offer multiple options. Look at albums, collages, wall frames and everything in between. Discover what you like - informal, casual, fun and/or serious shots. A good photographer will take your ideas, show you what will work, what may not and why. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to see the whole enchilada - the entire photo shoot. This gives you greater insight as to the photographer’s whole body of work, not just selected images.
  4. Make mom happy! A senior session is all about you but, parents (and their wallets) typically have a vested interest in this experience. Parent and teen should be involved in the process and the decision. As a senior celebrates this milestone, it’s also about the people and support system that helped make it happen.
  5. Set a budget. While you may think you can’t put a price tag on the experience, actually, you can and your photographer will. Again, this is where parents most likely come into play. But understand that everything has a budget and a cost. Often things are flexible, and you can probably switch out and substitute things that are really important to you.

10 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Your Wedding Photographer

Some moments are simply too important to trust to a camera phone. Your wedding will be one of the most memorable times of your life and no one can capture it better than a professional photographer. Do not fall for the “I am a photographer” friend. Make sure you hire a real pro. So how do you find the right one? As you begin the interview process, here are ten questions to help you determine if you’ve found the best photographer for your wedding.

  1. Does the photographer have a gallery of wedding images you can review? Reviewing sample work allows you to see the photographer’s strengths and weaknesses – don’t fool yourself, every photographer has them. You’ll also be able to get an idea of their style. Are they formal with an eye for the perfect picture or do they love to capture the hidden moments when no one is looking? Look for images that you can see yourself in. Think of three words that describe you and share those with your photographer. Every photographer has a style and reviewing their gallery can help you determine if theirs is right for you.
  2. What is the photographer's working style? Some photographers are orderly and operate like wedding planners. Others prefer to sit back and let the events of the wedding unfold. It’s important that you find someone who can understand and meet your expectations. Discuss this ahead of time and ask away, so that you understand how well the photographer’s working style matches your own.
  3. Is the photographer available for an engagement session? An engagement session does more than provide you with priceless images together before you get married. It’s also your first opportunity to work with your photographer and develop a relationship that will allow you to be completely at ease on your big day. Use this session to confirm if the photographer is indeed the right person to capture your wedding.
  4. Will the photographer create a detailed shot list? This list will ensure no important photo is missed during the commotion and excitement of the big day. You should be able to create that list together, add to the list leading up to the day and have a copy of that list the day of. Take an honest look at what images really matter and fill your photographer in on situations he or she might need to be aware of in order to prevent awkward moments, and to ensure that he or she can get the shots that matter most.
  5. What kind of lighting will be used? Whether you have an indoor or outdoor wedding, you’ll want to make sure your photographer has professional grade lighting equipment to deliver the images your wedding deserves.
  6. Does the photographer have backup equipment? You’ve prepared contingency plans for every other aspect of your wedding; your photographer should as well. A true professional photographer won’t miss your perfect shot because of a technology issue. He or she will always bring one or two backup cameras, lenses, flashes, additional lighting equipment, extra memory cards, and batteries.
  7. Does the photographer have liability insurance? Accidents happen at weddings and if one of your guests trips over your photographer’s light stand, it’s good to know you both are protected. Your reception venue may even ask the photographer to submit a certificate of liability ahead of time.
  8. Will there be one photographer or two? A second shooter increases the probability that no shot will be missed, especially if you are having a large wedding. If there will be two photographers, ask to meet them both to get a feel for their personalities and how well they might blend in on your big day.
  9. What will happen to the images after your wedding? Will your images be backed up to a hard drive or the cloud once processed? How long will your photographer keep the images afterward? Will they be kept for a couple of years or dumped immediately? If you have any concerns about losing your photos, knowing what the photographer plans to do with your images after your wedding is important.
  10. When will you get your photos? No, you won’t get your pictures the day after; no photographer can deliver that quickly. It’s a good idea, though, to get a general idea of the timeline ahead of time. You might even be able to agree on getting a couple of images ready for social media use very quickly. But obtaining your photos will likely take several weeks. To help with the wait, some photographers will send you a sneak peek with a few images. Just ask ahead of time!

9 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Pet Photographer

Having your pet professionally photographed is an investment. Make sure you hire someone who specializes in capturing pets in a way that will make you smile. So, how do you find the best fit for your furry pal? Ask these questions and you’ll be sure to find the best pet photographer for your non-human friends.

  1. How much of your work is dedicated to pet photography? Dogs and cats aren’t inclined to stay in one place; they smell things and chase balls! Check the photographer’s website to verify that they indeed have experience producing the kind of photography you would like for your furry friend. Your photographer should be used to working with animals and engaging with them to bring out their unique personality and beauty.
  2. Do you have pets of your own? Pets are very special beings. Until you have one of your own, you never truly understand them. That’s why photographers who have pets often relate better with your furry friends. They’ll know how to put you two at ease and capture the most natural-looking photographs.
  3. Are you with PPA (Professional Photographers of America)? PPA photographers do more than just snap pictures. They have the training, experience, and equipment to produce gallery-quality portraits. And they have to abide by a strict code of ethics. They will not only provide you with images that you never thought possible, they will take care of fine-tuning your images: removing eye bugs, the leash, people in the background or enhancing fur details and colors.
  4. How will you bring out and capture my pet’s personality? The goal is to determine how well-prepared the photographer is. Does he/she have goodies for their furry subjects or props to create unique shots – treats, squeaky toys, balls, blankets and more? And if they don’t know your dog’s breed, how will they prepare to best interact with them? A photo session with a German Shepherd is very different than one with a Chihuahua. A well-trained German Shepherd can hold poses for long periods of time whereas a Chihuahua is food motivated so stinky treats are a must.
  5. Can my pet & I meet with you before we book our session? Your pet photography session should be a fun, comfortable experience for you and your pet. If your pet doesn’t like your photographer, there’s nothing that will change your pet’s feelings.
  6. Where and how will you photograph us? Professionals will photograph your furry pals wherever they can be themselves and their spirit and personality can be captured. Sessions can be done in your home, in your back yard, in a park or in a studio. Pros know how to adapt to their surroundings and make lighting adjustments in any situation. Most pet photographers will spend time getting to know you and your furry pal before your session. This is so they can learn about your dog's personality and make sure your pet feels comfortable with them and the environment. Throughout the photo shoot, they will use positive energy, toys, treats and fun to engage with your pet and capture images that best express your dog’s personality and your relationship with them.
  7. What’s the time limit on the photo session? Dogs will be dogs and cats will be cats. They do what they want to do and they really don’t care if the clock is ticking. Let’s say you book a “mini” 30-minute session and right when the pet photographer says “time’s up”, your pet does the most adorable pose ever! Professional pet photographers know and anticipate these things and as such, should put you at ease, so that your expectations are understood and met.
  8. How much is the session? And what about prints? Don’t be fooled by seemingly super low rates. A lot of photographers undercut their standard session fee because they aren’t running a legitimate business or don’t have the experience. Make sure you convey your own expectations clearly. This goes for your session timing, budget, image printing, delivery methods, timelines, etc. Ask to see recent clients’ proofing galleries. You’ll see a variety of poses and settings that will help you determine if the photographer represents the style you are looking for.
  9. If it rains, what’s your plan B? Do we reschedule the session? What’s the photographer’s plan B in case something messes up an ideal outdoor location? Will he/she still be able to produce good images with a muddy or drenched pet? What’s included in the contract? Knowing how prepared your photographer is and asking for the details to be spelled out is very important. It goes back to setting and sharing your expectations clearly, so that your photographer can meet or even surpass them!

6 Questions to Ask for Awesome Senior Photos!

This is YOUR time! Senior portraits are a rite of passage—they will set you apart and feature your personality and talents. So, you have a BIG decision to make… how will you choose your senior portrait photographer? Ask these 6 questions to find the best photographer to capture the real you:

  1. How much experience do you have? They say it takes 10,000 hours of experience for someone to become a master of their craft/art, so ask how much experience the photographer has. Be sure to ask to see an extensive portfolio of their work. Ask them what some of their favorite sessions have been. Do they have a degree in photography? Are they certified? Are they a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America)? PPA photographers abide by a strict code of ethics and have unique skills and training in the artistry and technology of creating beautiful images that will reflect your unique personality and talents.
  2. What’s your style? Some photographers’ styles are more retro, some may be more “sexy,” some edgy like in a magazine, some photojournalistic, some more classic and clean…which one appeals to you? You can get a good idea of a photographer’s style by checking out their website and viewing their senior picture image gallery; but it’s a good idea to ask them about it too! When you look at a photographer’s portfolio, look for images that speak to you and that you can see yourself in.
  3. Do you offer an in-person consultation? If a photographer does not offer you an in-person consultation to get to know you and understand your needs, you may not want to hire him/her. This is valid whether the photographer has a studio or the meeting happens at a local coffee shop or in the comfort of your own home. A meeting is super important because you need to know if you’re going to click. Feeling comfortable during the photo session is the most important thing—if you don’t like the person behind the lens, it will show in your pictures. This is the time to ask the photographer lots of questions. See how friendly and knowledgeable they are. Do they communicate well? Do they seem accommodating and flexible? Pros should encourage you to bring along anything that represents you – musical instruments, athletic gear, dancing shoes, purses, pets and BFFs! When you’re relaxed and comfortable around someone, you become more natural in front of the camera, allowing for great pictures.
  4. Can I see an entire session of images? As you shop around, be sure and ask for samples of full sessions (not just a small selection of the best). Photographers can shoot hundreds of images, but may only get three that are good. You don’t want to be limited to just three choices, do you? That’s why you need to see an entire session to tell if the photographer is consistently good, or just lucky every now and then. When you look at an entire gallery of images, picture yourself in the photos. Are these the types of images you want? Is there enough of a selection for your tastes and desires?
  5. What are all the products you offer and can I see examples of each? You only have one chance to capture your senior year. Make it count! Most people don’t know that photo/portrait printing is an art that takes tons of experience to master. Take a look at the photographer’s canvases, albums, wall portraits, and keepsakes like phone cases, key chains, etc. If they can’t show you examples of each, there is a good chance they don’t have the experience or expertise that you deserve. Remember that printed products last forever. Insist on a full-service photographer who gives you prints instead of a CD that is just going to end up at the bottom of a drawer.
  6. How much do your senior packages/sessions cost? Try to remember that your senior portraits are an investment, rather than an “expense”. These are images that you (and your parents!) will keep forever, so go into the selection process with an open mind, but make sure you understand what you are paying for. Is it just for the session or does it also include prints? How long is the session, where will it take place, can I wear more than one outfit? How many proofs can I expect to receive? How are the proofs delivered and how long after the shoot?

8 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Family Portrait Photographer

What are the most important moments of your life? For most, it’s rarely a big promotion or a sports championship season. Instead, it’s quality family time that is most often cherished. Nothing captures these moments better than family photos. If you’re looking for a photographer to capture those memories, make sure you ask prospective photographers these eight questions.

  1. Can I see some of your recent work? This is the most common question asked, and for good reason. But how do you distinguish between an amateur and a professional photographer? An amateur may be able to take a few great shots every now and then, but professionals know how to consistently create great results. Ask to view an entire session’s images or a compilation from different sessions to get a sense of depth of the photographer’s work. Based on what you see, if there’s only one or two shots you’d consider framing, then you’re probably not dealing with the right photographer for your family.
  2. Are you a PPA (Professional Photographers of America) photographer? You want to work with the best, and PPA photographers do more than just snap pictures. They have the technical expertise and artistry to get that one shot – that one look – that captures your family’s unique personality. PPA photographers also abide by a strict code of ethics and work constantly to create beautiful images that will meet your expectations. Watch this video to see how PPA photographers make a difference in capturing families’ unique personalities.
  3. Do you specialize in any one type of photography? What’s your photographic style? Photographers often specialize in one genre over another. If they mention solely working with family portraits, then you can rest assured that their passions are aligned with your needs. You may also want to ask why they chose that particular area to better understand if/how they will be able to connect with your family. A photographer’s style is reflected in their portfolio, so asking them to produce a radically different style is a recipe for disaster. You’re counting on their knowledge of composition, lighting, posing and more to create images that fit your vision.
  4. What does your fee include? You’ll want to understand what you’re getting for your money: how much time, how many images, album types, the format for delivering proofs, what’s included in your package, etc. Pros will always include these details and more in your contract. PPA photographers’ code of ethics should also give you peace of mind, but always, always read the contract and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the fine print and the contract itself.
  5. How should I prepare my family before the session? Pros will give you tips so your family can feel comfortable and have fun while being photographed. They might even ask for things you would not have thought. PPA photographers will also be able to answer questions such as: What colors and styles of clothing are best to wear? Should you bring a change of clothes? How do you handle a fussy child or plan for nap times? Trust them: they have their timing down and know what works.
  6. Where can I find you online? Photographers’ websites are a great place to view their portfolios, read client testimonials and get a better sense of their personality. Of course, like a resume, websites often put “their best foot forward,” so be sure to dig a little deeper. Look at their social media pages and read customer reviews, as these can be very telling. Find a PPA photographer near you at FindAPhotographer.com.
  7. Can you take a picture like this one? Find pictures similar to ones you would like to display on your mantel and show them to the photographer. This will help them understand the style and genre you want, and they will be able to determine if you are a good match. Real pros will always refer you to someone they feel will better accomplish your vision if they are not the right fit. PPA photographers should be able to explain why and how they can or cannot create the same effects. So go ahead and ask if they are capable of taking the same kind of picture; do not settle for a simple “yes”.
  8. How will I obtain my photos and when can I expect them? Professional photographers have a reliable system for delivering photos to you in a timely manner. This may include a private, online portal where your photos are stored, cloud sharing, uploading to social media sites and may even offer an app for that. However, your photographer should accommodate your needs – so state your preference upfront to avoid any false expectations!