8 Things to Consider when Choosing a Photographer

We partnered with Heidi Sakallah Photography to share this post.

It can be hard to find the right photographer for your family. As a Twin Cities area photographer myself – I wanted to offer some helpful advice.

First things first! What type of session are you looking to have done? Be sure to find a photographer that offers that genre and does it WELL. Find a PROFESSIONAL. Someone who is legally conducting business, licensed and insured. This is not only to protect yourself, but also the photographer.

Family, Newborn, Birth, Maternity, Child, Baby Milestones, Seniors, Couples, Wedding, Events and the list goes on…

Not all photographers take on all genres. Many specialize in specific genres. It’s important to think about your needs down the road – finding a newborn photographer that also offers ‘Baby Milestones’, ‘Children and Family Photography’ would be a good move so you can stick with the same photographer for years to come!

Photo by Heidi Sakallah Photography

Consider the experience and what they offer and how long they have been in business. 

Review their website to learn more about your photographer and to see their portfolio. (If they don’t have a website that is your first red flag).

What is the experience going to be like? This should be laid out very well for you.

Do they offer a studio wardrobe and/or styling assistance for the entire family? Hair and makeup? Digitals and/or print products?

Decide what’s important to you and what will help make your session as stress-free as possible for the entire family.

Also consider everything that is included with your session and calculate the savings; for example, a studio wardrobe alone saves you a great deal of money and time!

Consider the photographer’s shooting and editing style.

Photographers are artists, no two are the same.

Do you prefer more lifestyle (which is still very posed with a lot of direction), documentary style (little to no direction, simply documenting the environment and people around them) or more specific poses for a posed in-studio or outdoor session?

Maybe you want a mix of all of that? Find a photographer that can offer you exactly what you want.

Be sure to review the photographer’s editing style, this is part of their individual art, so asking for something different typically is not an option.

Photo by Heidi Sakallah Photography

Ask Google for some help! 

“Family Photographer Near Me” or “Newborn Photographer Minneapolis” – this is a great way to start, but keep in mind, location isn’t always going to deliver the best results for YOU.

You may find someone you like better that lives across the Metro, and that’s okay, because the little extra drive time will result in a happy customer that receives photos they love… and photos last a lifetime! It’s always worth it.

Don’t always go with the first name that pops up. They may be the one you end up loving and hiring – but sometimes a better fit for you hides beyond page 1 search results. Make the calls and do the research.

Twin Cities Mom Collective also has a helpful Guide to Local Photographers.

Start CALLING around.

In my experience, a successful session always starts with a phone call. Not a text, not an email, but an ‘Old Fashioned – pick up the phone and dial – phone call’. This is where you get to ask all the questions and the photographer gets to explain what type of experience they offer.

It’s important to start building a relationship with the person who is going to capture your family and everyone’s true personalities. Often times emails and texts cannot do that. As a photographer, I value this time to really learn about what you want to get out of your session, who is all going to be attending the session along with a bit of information about everyone. This is also the time the client (you) and the photographer can decide if they are a good fit for each other. Not all people are a good fit. This is nothing personal, it’s quite professional and responsible of a client and photographer to understand each other’s preferences. If the photographer cannot offer you what you are looking for, why would you book with them? And if the client is asking for something that the photographer knows they cannot offer, why would they take your money?

Personalities matter.

Do you have kids attending the shoot? If the answer is yes, your photographer’s personality matters. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they are with kids, toddlers etc. It’s important that your photographer understands kids of all ages and how to work with them to get the results you want. Reading a toddler’s mood and their wiliness to warm up to the photographer is important. Taking the right steps in getting kids to warm up to them is important. Being “silly” is important. Your photographer must be willing to make a fool of themselves to provoke natural laughter. It’s a job requirement in my opinion!

Photo by Heidi Sakallah Photography

Post processing skill level.

It’s okay to ask about the photographer’s editing ability and what software they use. It’s no secret we all want that perfect family photo. And it’s also no secret that kids don’t always cooperate. This is where a talented editor comes in. Editing is more than just color correcting and personal artistic enhancements, it’s also about being able to alter the background and… your heads. Yup… “Head Swapping” is a thing. Let’s say everyone in one image is picture perfect except for the flailing toddler who suddenly decided they were over it. A talented editor can take the toddlers head from a previous photo where they are a sweet little angel and place it in the “perfect image” seamlessly and no one would ever know.

Last but certainly not least: consider your budget.

Budgets vary from person to person. Just as budgets vary, so does the quality of work provided by a variety of photographers. “You get what you pay for” can really come into play in the photography industry. As with any business, there is an overhead that needs to be met by the photographer so chances are, with a combination of their talent, experience and products offered – combined with cost of doing business, their price menu will (and should) reflect that.

If a photographer is out of your budget, let them know and move on to your next prospect. They won’t be offended and most photographer’s understand that their pricing structure may not be for everyone. The one tip I would offer in this case is to try not to devalue their art and their business by asking for discounts, they know what they need to charge to make ends meet for their business.

I did a little research just for reference: – JC Penny Photo Studio has a $14.99/Person sitting fee just for shooting the session (that would be $74.95 for a Family of 5) which allows for about 15 minutes of shooting time at their studio only. Once the shoot over, there are Packages available that range from $99-$309 – with a la carte options to add on. This does not include wardrobe, styling assistance, photo retouching and “head swapping” etc. Nothing is custom tailored to you. So if you are looking for a professional photographer that runs their own professional business, expect to pay more than the big box companies for a customized and far superior experience and outcome.

For perspective, if a professional photographer is charging $400 for a custom mini session experience offering 15-30 minute sessions and 5-10 professionally edited images, you are already getting a better deal than JC Penny is offering!

As a photographer and a mom myself, I see MANY posts asking for referrals to a photographer that don’t cost “an arm and a leg.” You can easily find cheap photographers out there, and chances are they are new and looking to build their portfolio and gain experience and that’s great! We all start somewhere, I know I did. If you are okay with that – go for it! Win/win for you and the photographer (just make sure they are a legit business if they are charging you as mentioned above).

That said, if you are looking for an experienced photographer with a specific style, customized experience and expertise in the genre you are looking to capture, take the time and find the right fit for you and don’t hesitate to spend the money because they WILL deliver.

Keep in mind that many higher end photographers do offer payment plans to help make any budget work! So if you LOVE a photographers work and really want to work with them, ask them about payments plans. Photos last FOREVER and are worth investing in.

I hope this was helpful in finding your photographer, for whatever genre you are searching for!

Photo by Heidi Sakallah Photography

Heidi Sakallah Photography

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Twin Cities Mom Collective is a locally-focused parenting resource for moms and families. Passionate about parenting and our community, TCMC strives to connect area moms to relevant resources, local businesses, can’t-miss happenings, and most of all — each other!

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