5 tips when trying to find a family photographer
How do you know how to find the right photographer for you? There's a lot you might not think to consider when trying to find a photographer. The fact is, it is relatively easy to take some really good photos and set up a great looking website. You're trying to find a Gloucester photographer and you've quickly realised there's lots to choose from in Gloucester and the surrounding areas. So how do you know they're the real deal, and how do you recognise when someone's simply talking hot guff?
Google 'find a family photographer in Gloucester' and you'll find loads of great options. But I bet they didn't say 'hot guff' on their website. Soooo.....
1) Find a photographer who specialises in the niche that best serves you
Whilst a wedding photographer might well be capable of taking a photo of Bruiser the bulldog, you'll definitely be better finding a specialist pet photographer - the has the right setup (e.g. dedicated studio space), props and experience in dog handling. It's her speciality, and she's really, really good at capturing the essence of your pet whom you love so much!
There's a photographer for every need, and here's a few examples to show you what I mean:
For newborn photography you want a studio photographer with dedicated space, props and oodles of experience styling newborns. Elisabeth Franco Photography runs a wonderful photography studio in Gloucester with a focus on new-borns and babies. Visit Eli's social media channels or her website and you'll see she's built up tonnes of experience posing and photographing tiny people, and she's constantly having to turn fledgling families away because she's in high demand for this one particular thing. I particularly love the 1st birthday cake smash memories she creates for families in her studio in Quedgeley.
Google 'headshot photographer near me' and you'll find a few results (including myself!) - even those ranking highly in the search results - who are not necessarily headshot photographers. I mean, we can all likely take a great headshot. BUT, if a larger business needs to turn over 100+ portraits in a day, then there will likely be better options who serve that niche, and only that niche.
Here at Christopher J Photography the focus is on capturing timeless outdoor portraits for families and couples. My experience centres around crafting moments between siblings, between children and their parents, and between couples whilst incorporating my understanding for natural light and how best to use it to our advantage - whether in glorious sunshine or a completely overcast day. This specialist knowledge means the difference between having fantastic images that you'd be proud to put on your living room wall and the rest of those photos that remain on our mobile's camera role.
2) Does the photographer have a particular style (and is it a style that suits your needs / the walls in your home)?
There are some broad distinguishing styles of family and portrait photography. Even within a niche (as described above) the photographer can adopt different styles. Here's a brief overview of some of the most distinguished photography styles:
Fine Art Photography - Could also be described as creative portraiture. The photographer - perhaps more of an 'artist' - creates a stylised image, often with carefully selected outfits, props, textures and colours and usually involving some more high-end retouch work. As a customer of a fine art studio you're likely to receive a fewer number of images and almost always (should) drive towards the creation of a luxury printed and framed product. Paulina Duczman perhaps spearheaded the fine art style amongst modern photographers and is the perfect example of this type of work.
Documentary photography is probably the antithesis to fine art photography. And I love it. A documentary photographer will attempt to capture the candid moments as they unfold! They're 'life right now' moments preserved for the future. You never recognise those last moments at the time they're unfolding... you didn't know this was the last hand-held walk with you little boy or girl on the way to school; you didn't realise at the time that you wouldn't make that puzzle with your daughter ever again because she simply grew out of it. The most fantastic thing about our mobile phones is that they're also equipped with incredible photographic technology! We're all documenting our lives, almost on a day-to-day basis so you might need convincing that you'd ever need a 'professional' to document your everyday. But guess what... your kids will want to see you in the photos when they're older. They'll want to be reminded of that unconditional love only a mother and father can pour out for them. And you'll want them to know that you were there for them, with them, too!
Documentary photography finds its place in wedding photography too. Those candid, blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments around the room during the wedding speeches, or the toddler gorging on the wedding buffet (I spelt it 'boufet' on my first pass) make for some wonderful and hilarious memories to revisit in the future.
Cinematic Photography - this has become a bit of a buzz word in the photographic communities and a term that's probably thrown about a little too much. But what does cinematic photography mean? Cinematic photography is a style that attempts to mimic the feel of a still from a movie roll. Think edgy, wide scenes, creative angles, dramatic skies and bursts of colour, and throw in some 'fashion' inspired lighting: harsh light, strong shadows. If you want to get lost down the rabbit hole that is cinematic photography, then check out Los Angeles wedding photographer, Michael Anthony whose team creates the epitome of cinematic images.
3) Consider whether the photographer has experience creating wall art solutions
Are you looking for framed print solutions for your home? If you've used a professional photographer before but tried to have them printed and framed yourself you may have been disappointed with the results and were likely not be doing those images justice. It will be clear whether a photographer has the experience (and desire) required to create professional standard prints for you, as it will be prominent in their messaging and language throughout their website and social media content. A studio photographer will be able to show you their examples as they usually have samples on display at the studio. A location photographer like me relies on sharing images of the products online and should be prepared to bring you examples of the types of products and the quality of the products available for you to choose from.
There are quite of lot of technical considerations for photo printing and framing such as:
Dots per inch / File resolution / print size - Every camera has a predetermined number of pixels on its image sensor. And typically, for pictures on the walls of your home you'll need prints at a high 'DPI' (dots per inch) in order to display the fine details correctly and aesthetically. The combination of file resolution and DPI will determine how large an image can be printed. If you've ever tried to create a large print yourself you may have found that the print appeared low quality or quite pixelated when viewed. Either you did not have the full resolution file to print from or the DPI settings were not appropriate for the print size (or both; it was likely both).
Colour space - do you know that the photographer can choose (i) what colour space their camera captures images (ii) what colour space they edit their images in and (iii) what colour space the images export. And there are different colour spaces for different purposes: some are suited for digital publishing only, and others for printing.
Monitor calibration - Colours on screen don't necessarily end up being produced in print if a monitor is not calibrated correctly. This is particularly important if the photographer's style involves manipulating colours (e.g. muting harsh yellows and greens).
Paper type - Your photos shouldn't be limited to basics of a standard inkjet printer and consumer-level paper. There are different types of paper that lend themselves to different types of images, and Christopher J Photography has access to a professional lab with a range of solutions that you simply won't find on the high street.
If you'd rather leave such considerations to your photographer, then make sure you use a photographer with experience creating wall art solutions. You can find out about how it work at Christopher J Photography, here.
4) Does your photographer have a general handle on things?!
It's comforting to know that the photographer has a process - a good photography business doesn't just require good photography skills. Does the business have a clear process? Do you have a contract that clearly sets out the expectations and responsibilities that are designed to protect both of you throughout the engagement? Do you know when to expect to receive your photos and how (e.g. via email? Dropbox? live viewing session?). Does the photographer have a good file management system in place; are your pictures backed up? Is the photographer a strong communicator? Do you have a gauge on the level of investment required to achieve your goals before the actual photoshoot takes place? For example, at Christopher J Photography we use our pre-consultation call to understand your requirements in more detail, which allows us to provide you with an estimate for the level of investment you'll likely need to achieve that goal, and then decide whether it's right for you at this time before we proceed any further. You can see more about how it works, here.
Working smarter. If you were to contact me first via Messenger on my Christopher J Photography Facebook page, you'll be greeted with an automated 'chat' service that firsts qualifies what info you're after. You have the chance of redirecting to my website or my pricing page, or have the opportunity to book a chat. I've automated this initial part of my communications which frees me up to focus on other parts of the business and my customers who need my personal attention.
As I built this business I didn't want to stretch myself thinly and for the quality of the photography, quality of my editing or my energy for my customers to be consumed by the more administrative tasks involved with running it.
Check the reviews. A great indicator for the type of experience you can expect will be found in the types of comments shared via Google or Facebook reviews.
5) Find out about the person holding the camera
This is important and will be quite obvious to you! In order for you to feel relaxed and to get the best out of your photoshoot, you'll need to know the human being that is your photographer; the person behind the lens.
I like to encourage a zoom conversation before we proceed to book a portrait session, as it gives us all a chance to meet and (a) check we're on the same page about your photo needs and desires (b) see that we can communicate effectively with one another, and (c) clearly sets the expectations for the photoshoot and what follows after the shoot (e.g. styling and clothing, the end goal, viewing and ordering of your wall art).
Some people will find that arriving to a photo session 'cold' and meeting a photographer for the first time can be daunting. The best sessions are created when we're all relaxed and having fun, and a big part of that means building some rapport before the session itself! : )