Before you start comparing different family photographers in your area, I recommend doing a little research to decide what style of family photographs you would like to have.
There are so many styles of family photography out there – from studio photography, to outdoor lifestyle photography, to photography sessions at home and documentary style ‘day in the life’ photo shoots.
Once you’ve found a style you like, look for photographers in your area who have a similar approach. Almost all photographers will have their portfolio online and by looking through you can usually get an idea of how experienced each photographer is (are there photos of lots of different families or just one or two?), and whether you like their style as a whole.
Now that you have a shortlist of family photographers whose style you like it’s time to research each in more detail.
You’ll probably find that you can find a lot of the information you need to research each photographer online, but you may find that some photographers require you to contact them for pricing information.
You could also pick up the phone and talk to each photographer instead. This has the added benefit of giving you a feel for the chemistry between you; feeling at ease and relaxed with your family photographer will make for relaxed, happy photographs.
However you decide to do your research, there are six questions I recommend that you ask:
Where do the sessions take place?
Does the photographer provide a contract?
How will the photographer help you prepare for the photo shoot?
How long will you wait to view and receive your photographs?
How much retouching will the photographer do?
How much will it cost, and what will you get for your investment?
Let’s look at each of these in closer detail.
You’ll often be able to answer this by looking at the photographer’s website. The portfolio of their work, and information about how family sessions work will give you a good indication of where shoots take place. Do they have a studio, work in outdoor locations, come to your home or do a combination of these things?
If you have a particular outdoor location in mind find out whether the photographer has a relationship with the site and can arrange access. Lots of beautiful locations including public parks and National Trust sites require photographers to have permits, or pay professional photography fees when they have sessions there. You don’t want to have your session cut short half way through by getting caught without the right permissions, so make sure all the necessary permits are in place, and if fees are involved find out who pays them.
Having a good contract in place will also detail what services the photographer will be providing, pricing, and cancellation, or postponement terms – protecting both you and the photographer’s business.
As a parent you can probably imagine how often shoots need to be postponed because of a child not being well. Similarly, if you have a very specific date for your photo shoot – for example the one day that your entire extended family is visiting it’s important to know what would happen if the photographer was sick. Checking out cancellation and postponement terms early on will give you the peace of mind that you’re covered.
Most of us don’t have our photograph taken every day, and when you’re investing in new photographs of your family you’ll want to be sure that everyone is at their best.
What you’ll find as you do your research is that some family photographers will help you to prepare for your session. The topics they advise on may range from the best locations, to what to wear to how to prepare your children.
Every photographer will do this differently, so ask upfront how they can help. Some will send you a written guide, others have a chat on the phone, some will have an in-person consultation with you before the shoot. Generally speaking the more you pay, the more hands on the photographer is likely to be.
Once you’ve had your session you’ll be looking forward to seeing the photos, and once you’ve ordered your prints or products you’ll be excited to hold them in your hands! How long will you need to wait for this? This is going to depend on each photographer’s editing turnaround times, and how long it takes to produce your products. A handmade fine art album for example, will likely take longer than standard C-type prints.
Lots of families arrange a shoot so that they can gift the photographs for a special occasion – for example a birthday or Christmas. If you’re doing this do check whether you’ll have them in time for your special event before you book.
When you hear the word retouching you may think of the kind of airbrushing that we hear about magazines doing. In reality, there is a huge spectrum of retouching that a photographer can do to each photograph.
Some photographers won’t offer any retouching at all. Some will fix things like runny noses, crumbs from the breadstick your toddler just ate, or the bruise that your 8-year-old managed to pick up the day before the shoot. Others will offer as much retouching as you like – they may even take 10 years off if you ask them to!
The level of retouching that is right for you will depend on the kind of finish you’d like in your photographs. If you’d like a natural look, choosing a photographer who does very heavy retouching probably isn’t right. Equally, if you know that you wouldn’t want to display a picture of your child with a runny nose, or a few stray breadcrumbs around their mouth a photographer who doesn’t offer retouching may not be right for your family either.
As with any other industry, there are photographers at every price point. Take hairdressers as an example – when choosing where to have your haircut you have a choice between cheap and cheerful salons that are priced low and offer the basics of what you need, high-end salons where you’ll be pampered, served lovely frothy coffees or a glass of wine and will expect your stylist to be at the top of their game, and lots of options in the middle.
Photography is no different – there are photographers in every location offering their skills at different budgets and with a different levels of service.
What you’ll find as you do your research is that you’ll receive different kinds of service at different price points, so comparing family photographers on price alone isn’t really possible. Instead, I recommend finding out exactly what you can expect to receive from each photographer in terms of service and the final photographs, and how much it costs. Then you can make an informed decision about the kind of experience you would like to have, and how much you would like to spend.
I hope that this article has helped you to decide on the kind of family photography experience that you would like to have, and to feel confident that you’re choosing the best family photographer to capture your family.
What kind of photography style and experience do you feel would be best for your family? I’d love to hear. You can send me a message here, or let me know in the comments below.