Guide to Choosing a Professional Family Photographer

By: Grant Rushton

How to Choose a Professional Family Photographer

Why is this important

Getting everyone together for a family portrait is not easy, and as your children get older it becomes more and more difficult. So after you’ve gone through all that trouble, you want to hire a professional who will get it right, the first time. The moment in time you’ve worked to create will not come again.

Look carefully at the Portfolio on the website

Next to a face to face meeting, which is also necessary, this is a good way to determine if the photographer is the right one for you. There are certain clues, or red flags, which should tell you right away whether to call this photographer, or to keep looking.

NATURAL POSING: Are the people in the photo in natural, comfortable positions, or are the bodies manipulated into contrived and forced positions? Is the posing sloppy? For example, are some peoples’ heads clearly seen while others are partially hidden behind another person? A photographer’s skill at posing is especially important when dealing with large groups.

EXPRESSIONS: Do the people in the photo look happy and relaxed, and do their expressions match. Most important, is there life in the eyes. Do these peoples’ personalities come through, or are they just sitting there getting their picture taken. A good photographer will watch intensely as he shoots to make sure he is getting the best expressions possible.

CLOTHING: Do the people in the photo look completely unrelated by their clothing, or does the photo clearly show that planning went into coordinating everyone’s attire.

CREATING MOOD: Are there examples of photos that show the photographers skill in creating different moods using studio light and natural outdoor light.

For example in a moody portrait you’ll see rich shadows on one side of the peoples’ faces.

PROFESSIONAL LIGHTING: You can tell if the photographer is an amateur or a professional by how consistent the lighting is. Are the people in the back row too dark and in shadow, and the people in the front row too bright? While we’re looking at consistency, are some heads small and far away, while others are big and close?

VARIETY: Are there several photos of the same person on the website that look almost identical. This is a red flag. If such a photographer says he’ll shoot 30 photos, he will probably shoot 30 photos that look PRETTY MUCH the same. A good photographer has imagination and will come prepared beforehand with a number of "looks" for you to choose from.

OUTDOOR SCENERY: Is the background and foreground integrated. For example, in the photo below left, a cactus is growing out of the couple’s heads, but in the right photo care was taken in handling the background.

STUDIO BACKGROUNDS: Does the photographer use strongly coloured and gimmicky backgrounds that distract from the subject, or neutral ones that complement the subject.

Viewing the Portfolio on the website is a good indication of the final (unchangeable) images you will end up hanging on your walls.

Questions to ask the photographer

A studio should provide you with a face to face consultation so you can determine if you and the photographer are right for each other. This is the time for you to share your vision of the ultimate family portrait, and for other family members to give their input too. This is also a time for the photographer to share with you a variety of themes you may not have thought of (studio, portraits in the park, lifestyle themed portraits). Most important, this is a time to find out your likes and dislikes and the things that are most important to you.

LOCATION SCOUTING: Once you have selected a location, will the photographer visit the location beforehand to determine the best lighting and camera angles.

WARDROBE SELECTION: Will the photographer give you a thorough understanding of what works and doesn’t work when dressing for a family portrait.

DISPLAY OPTIONS: Will the photographer go over final display options with you in the studio, showing you sizes, frames and finishes available.

BUDGET: Will the photographer find out your budget, or price range, so he offers you proposals that are right for you.

GUARANTEE: Will the studio refund your money or retake the photo session if you are not completely satisfied with the results.

Grant Rushton of Front Porch Photography has been a professional photographer for over 15 years. He is also a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) and the Professional Photographers of Ontario (PPO). To reach GrantFree Reprint Articles, call 905-693-9331 or email grant@frontporchphoto.ca.

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