So you are ready to get your portrait made...
You have decided that you want to move forward and invest in a portrait session. Good for you. Everyone deserves to exist in photos and you won't regret your decision to have professional portraits made.
You have scrolled through the first couple pages of Google to find just the right photographer. There are many photographers to chose from but you have your eyes on a particular photographer, a shooter who has a portfolio of photos that you really enjoy.
Maybe you have even gone so far as to send that photographer an inquiry email requesting a package quote. But, there are a few critical points to consider before you finalize any booking.
Keep reading to find out what you should be on the lookout for when selecting the perfect photographer for your portrait session.
1) Website Impression
What does a photographer's website say about who they are as a photographer, a creative, or as a person? More than you would think... Head back over to the photographer's webpage. It's time to take a second look.
Peruse the photographer's portfolio galleries again with fresh eyes. If you don't like what you see on this visit to the photographer's site, for heaven's sake, close the browser window and move on. But, if you still love what you see, engage in a mental exercise.
Imagine that you are in the photos you see, you are the subject being shown. Ask yourself if you would be happy if those were the images delivered to you after your session.
If you answer YES to the question above, your responsibility as a consumer isn't over. You you still have more due diligence ahead.
The About Page
If you are anything like me, your first inclination is to view someone's work without acknowledging who is actually making it. Stop. Slow down.
Portrait photography isn't sculpture, watercolor, or mixed media. You aren't buying a finished product. In fact, you are a participant and a vital ingredient to the success of the portraits. You will have to be present for your portrait to be made so you better make damn sure that you are going to spend time with someone who is, at the very least, amiable.
If a photographer has an About component on their website, check it out. Usually a photographer will have a photograph of themselves and a brief biography. Take the opportunity to pry into the person. Having a glimpse of who a photographer is will help you feel comfortable with them through the communication and hiring process.
Other Website Considerations
It is hard to gauge a photographer's level of professionalism if you have never worked with them before. As a consumer, you should go beyond the "About" page, beyond the portfolio galleries. Luckily, there are a couple of things that prospective clients can do to really get the inside scoop on a photographer's level of professionalism.
Initial emails and communications can say a lot about a photographer. Reach out and ask for more information about a portrait session. You will be able to gather a wealth of information from their response (or lack thereof).
After you have received a response, ask yourself the following questions:
If you feel that the photographer is being short or rude in an email, imagine what it will be like to actually work with the photographer (and have that person around your loved ones). It is usually wise to trust your gut.
Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of stalking. But a little internet "research" never hurt anyone. With this being said, another thing clients can do to ensure professionalism is to check out the photographer's social media pages.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google+...
Each platform can give you a window into the character of a photographer. Take a gander at a photographer's social media accounts. You might be totally sold on a photographer because of their witty Facebook posts or endearing tweets about their previous clients. You might fall in love with their work even more because you share similar interests.
Or, your investigation could steer you in the opposite direction. You could find out that the photographer you have your eye on decides to trash their clients (after-the-fact) on their social media accounts.
Either way, having a notion of the photographer's social presence and demeanor will help you decide if you have found the perfect portrait photographer for you.
3) Reviews and Testimonials
Thanks to the internet you can find a wealth of public information about any business. By simply typing in a name of a company, prospective clients can find out what other customers really think about the product they purchased and the service they received. The same holds true for professional photographers.
Even if you are in love with a photographer's portfolio, make sure you go the extra mile and find out what others think.
Look to see if the photographer has client testimonials posted on their website. These testimonials will highlight a photographer's positive attributes. But remember, if a testimonial is displayed on a website owned and operated by the photographer, it was handpicked and carefully placed. Naturally, all testimonials you will read on a professional photographer's website will be positive in nature.
What if the portrait photographer you are considering doesn't have any Google or Yelp reviews? This scenario should also be a point of information to consider. Is the photographer just starting their business? If so, are you certain that you want to invest with a photographer who has no unsolicited reviews or who is new to professional photography?
Having professional portraits made is a wonderful opportunity. Perhaps this will be the first and last time you have ever have your portrait made. For such a special occasion, make sure you choose the photographer who parallels both your artistic leanings. But more, do all that you can to ensure that your portrait experience is just as amazing as the photographs you receive.
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Who Is Andrew Faulk?
Tokyo photographer Andrew Faulk specializes in portrait, editorial, event, and commercial photography assignments. With over a decade of experience living and working in Asia, he works with individuals, families, publications, and corporations to create timeless images under any deadline. His work is frequently featured in a variety of international travel and lifestyle publications. He is a husband, father, and lover of fried food.