Whether you book me or someone else for your portrait photography experience, I certainly want you to have the best experience that you can. However, that can start even before you book your photographer. Most times the first question I get asked from anyone inquiring for photos is "What do you charge?" That's not a bad question, but it's simply the first thing you ask because you don't know what else to ask to base your decision upon. Although budget can be a factor for most people, there are much more important things that can make or break your portrait experience. Let's see if I can help you figure out what NOT to ask, and give you some pointers on what to ask instead.
#1 Can I have all of the photos you take? Or can we have the raw/unedited files?
This question gets asked more often than not, so I figured I would start here. Whether I'm shooting a wedding or a birth (massive amounts of photos taken), a newborn or a family session, the number of images I take will not be the number of images that you will see. Some people freak out about this because they feel like they are missing out on something. I promise you that I am not holding back any images that you would possibly love. Culling (going through your images and deciding which ones to edit) is a process that I do as soon as I upload your images. The first thing I do is quickly go through the images on my card and I don't even import any images where I can instantly see something wrong with the photo (subject is turned away-lighting is way over or underexposed, etc). Once images are on my computer I will go through & zoom in to each one making sure that your beautiful faces are in sharp focus and that you look flattering. Because I like to capture candid moments during pretty much any session, there will be duplicates as well as photos where someone is turned away, blinking or heaven forbid, picking their nose! (Never happened). You definitely don't want those images. I mean, really, how many different angles do you need photos of your cake?
The better question to ask is: How do you determine which images to edit? Or now that you know what culling is, you can shock the heck out of a photographer and ask them "What is your culling process?"
They will explain to you pretty close to what I did above-that you don't want the images that are left on the cutting room floor! And that you are seeing the best of your images-so nothing is left out.
#2 Can you photoshop _____?
This is a long-standing question that gets asked of me more times than not. Most of the time it's mom/bride asking me if I can make them look thinner, or remove a pimple or something of that nature. And yes, I do use Photoshop as a tool to remove things like a pole or stop sign that was unavoidable in your image. I also remove any blemishes that are temporary such as acne, bruises, or scratches, unless a client asks me to keep it. My job is to make the images look the best they can without changing the way you look. I strive for you to say "Wow, these look great" but not "Wow, I don't even look like myself!" You've all seen the crazy viral photos of celebrities that make them look so unrealistic that there's no way they could stand in a light breeze.
A better question to ask would be: Could we move to this other location to avoid cars, signs, etc in our background?
This obviously isn't always possible (especially with weddings) but it can be possible in certain situations. Most times, a photographer will notice something in the background that is an eye-sore (I often pause in order to let a car or passerby get out of my frame) but know that we are not miracle workers. If you are doing an in-home session, and your clutter is all over the place, you will have images with clutter in them. I use Photoshop to enhance an image, not to change its composition or how someone looks. A good photographer will pose you in the most flattering way for your body type, so any additional digital help in changing your body is not necessary. You want to look your best, but you don't want to look like someone else. I promise you-you are beautiful just the way God made you! You need very little help from me.
#3 What camera/equipment do you use?
So many blogs on "Questions to ask your photographer" will tell you to ask this question (especially for weddings)-but don't do it! Why? Because most likely you have no clue what the right answer is. No offense, but most people don't know the difference in equipment. And to be quite honest with you, it isn't that important. Good photographers can take amazing photos with a cell phone. I strongly advise against hiring a cell-phone photographer for your wedding, but if you like the photos that they take, it really doesn't matter what they shoot them with. Canon and Nikon are the equal front-runners in the industry-but there are plenty of other great camera bodies. Unless you're a photographer yourself who is just curious, this question isn't necessary.
A better question to ask is: Why do you use the camera that you use? Or what's your favorite lens to use and why?
These questions will get any true photographer passionate about their response. I chose Canon because that's the first camera I was introduced to in my first photography class in 1990. But if you ask me my favorite lens, that will differ from session to session. All that truly matters is that you love your photos-what they're taken with shouldn't be a deal-breaker or deal-maker.
#4 Can you change your style for our session?
Believe it or not, after people see my images and tell me they love them, some will still ask me to provide them with images that look nothing like mine. This isn't a reasonable question for a photographer because photography is actually a work of art. And just like any other form of artwork, every artist has a different style. If you want dark and moody images, I'm sorry to tell you, but I am not your gal. I am more on the light and airy side with my outdoor photography, and crisp & clean with studio or indoor work. One of the best ways to determine who you want to reach out to for photography is to go through their galleries online. If you are a fan of their images, then reach out to them. If you like their prices, but are not in love with their images, keep on scrolling. You wouldn't go up to Pablo Picasso and ask him to paint a Monet, would you?
A better question to ask: What do you think you offer that makes you stand out from other photographers?
This could stump a photographer, or really make them shine. Most of us can offer great photos or we wouldn't be in business. But to me, that isn't enough to stand out. I try to make the entire experience something that you will enjoy and remember for years to come. I gravitate towards my particular style because it is pleasing to my own eyes-not because it follows a certain fad. And if that meets your particular needs, I'd love to work with you.
#5 Do you charge less if you shorten the length of the session or if I only need a few photos?
I've had multiple versions of this question asked. But the answer will pretty much be the same to anyone who asks it-my prices are what they are because of the time, talent, and expenses that go in to every session. I don't like to limit myself by forcing time constraints, but most regular portrait sessions will last under an hour. If all things go perfectly and the session only lasts 30 minutes, I wouldn't refund a portion of the session fee, just like if the sessions goes 90 minutes, I wouldn't charge an additional fee. I include a certain number of images with all of my portrait sessions, and everyone is welcome to purchase more images at their reveal, but even if you tell me that you will only need the 10, I am still going to edit all of the beautiful images that make the cut so that you can make the right choice for yourself.
A better question to ask is: What goes into your sessions and why are you priced the way you are?
None of us decided to become photographers because we wanted to be rich-in fact, most of us barely make ends meet (although there are a few that I know who make a very decent living). Most of us become photographers because we were drawn to it-we love capturing your special moments and creating a unique experience for you. Unfortunately, there are many photographers who do not charge their worth or even enough to sustain their business, so it makes a lot of our prices seem unreasonable. Speaking for myself, I am actually priced in the mid-range of professional photographers. Most wedding photographers charge a minimum of $2,500 and my collections start at $1,200 (but that's mostly because babies are my specialty so I shoot a lot less weddings). Birth photographers typically charge a minimum of $1,000, but most are in the $2,000+ range. That number is jaw-dropping to most people I talk with, but when you see what goes into the entire process, you better understand why prices are what they are. Births put me on-call 24-hours a day for up to 4 weeks. Not only this, but once I arrive at the birth I can be there actually waiting and/or working for 12-16 hours. That doesn't include any of the editing that goes into it. If you calculate that out, I could be working for as little as 50 cents an hour. That obviously is not a sustainable wage. Of course most births don't require this-but it does require that you put your entire life on hold any time that phone rings. Regular portrait sessions are scheduled in advance and don't require as much time but that's why they only start at $350 for me. Most photographers average $1,500 per session, but you will also find some who under-charge and I highly advise that you ask these photographers to show you an entire gallery before booking with them. Especially if you are booking them for a wedding. We all show our best images online, but you want to ensure that your photographer has the experience needed to provide you with beautiful images that will meet your needs. That doesn't mean they have to have 20+ years experience with a camera like I do, but their images should be consistent in quality and style.
Also, some of us offer payment plans so if you love someone's images but their prices seem a bit out of your budget; ask if they offer payment plans. I've even offered a pre-payment plan where they made bi-monthly payments leading up to their session so it didn't make such a big hit to their pocket book on the session date.
So, there you have it. Just a few questions you should (and shouldn't) ask when looking for a photographer. Best of luck on finding the right fit for your photographic needs. And if that isn't me, that's ok. Feel free to be honest with me about why I may not be the perfect photographer for you-because I am part of a community of photographers who may fit those needs and I'd be happy to refer them to you. And if I do fit what you're looking for, I can't wait to work with you!