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What to Look for in a Family Photographer

Family portraits don’t come around every day! Here’s what to look for in a family photographer, so you can make the most of your special photos!

What to Look for in a Family Photographer: Why It Matters

I once had a phone call with a woman who told me this story. She knew she wanted family portraits done in the near future. She started to lay out some clothing options on her bed. Her husband walked in, saw the clothes, and let out a loud, exasperated “NOOOOO!” He knew what the coordinated outfits meant, and it’s obvious he hadn’t had great experiences with family photo sessions in the past.

It’s true! Family portrait sessions sometimes get a bad rap. Crabby kids, stressed out parents- there are certainly some sessions that feel this way. Believe it or not, how stressful things get has a lot to do with who’s behind the camera. The way photographers conduct their business can be make or break for your actual session experience. The question is- what is your photographer going to do differently, to make your session more amazing?

Family photos should be a highlight of your year, not a low point.¬†Want to experience what a five star family session feels like? Below, I’m breaking down what to look for in a family photographer so you can have your best session yet.

What to Look for in a Family Photographer: A Checklist

Genre

There are about a million photographers in every city it seems. It can feel overwhelming to try and find a family photographer whose images you love and is also someone you click with. One of the first ways you can start to narrow down options is thinking about genre, or specialty areas.

Ask yourself a few questions. Do you want a studio or outdoor setting? Are you looking for more perfectly posed or carefree and candid images? Do you want the cheapest experience even if it means cut corners, or premium service that solves all your pain points?

Just like restaurants, most photographers tend to pick a lane and build their business around it. If you’re running late and need food on the go, it doesn’t make sense to go to a sit down restaurant. If you’re craving an amazing culinary experience though, the McDonald’s drive thru isn’t the right fit. To reduce session stress, look for an experienced photographer who clearly caters to their clients.

Shooting & Editing Style

Photography is full of so many buzz words, it’s hard to keep them straight. While it can be confusing, finding a style that wows you makes it more likely you’ll LOVE the end results too.

First things first- if you need a primer on shooting and editing styles, be sure to check out this blog which explains them with some actual image examples.

One way to find someone who edits in a style you like is to search for that editing style term right along with your other search terms. For example, you may want to search for a “light and airy family photographer near me.” Then, once you find a few websites, check out their portfolios to confirm it’s a good match.

Instagram is another way to quickly find a perfect visual fit. Using Instagram’s own search feature, you can find photographers in your area and quickly scan a few feeds until you find some work you really love.

Art

Maybe you’ve found a genre and a style you’re drawn to, and it still feels like an overwhelming list. So, why not evaluate the quality of their artwork? After all, you’re in the market for beautiful images and do overs may not be possible.

While beautiful is subjective, there are some simple things that can help you weed out the amateurs from the pros. Are the horizon lines straight or slanted? Do the photos look overly crunchy, or fuzzy? Do skin tones look gray, green, or orange? What about white clothing or white clouds- do they actually look white, or do they appear off color? Do you see any weird circles or halos around people’s faces or bodies?

Maybe these things aren’t make or break for you. When it’s all said and done, what matters is that you are happy with the artistic quality of your photographs. Loving your images at first sight is a lot less stressful than back and forth editing requests.

Legal and Legit

An important but often overlooked aspect of finding a photographer is assessing their business basics. Do they have a website? What state is it in? A working email and phone number? Was their last blog published in this decade? Is the contact info the same across different profiles and search results? Are they responsive when you reach out? If there are videos or blogs available, how does the photographer come across? Are they licensed in the state they’re based?

Checking under the hood is good practice to keep you and your family safe and in good hands.

Kid Specifics

We are evaluating family photographers here after all! An awesome session often depends on the kids’ own experiences during it. So what are some kid specific things to look for?

Some questions to consider are: What’s their approach to kids in front of the camera? Is the family photographer willing to meet with your family beforehand? How would they handle a very camera shy child, or a very hyper child?

Looking through their portfolio, have they worked with all ages and all kinds of kids? Do the images show safety is a priority (especially important for babies)?

How do the kids look in the images- stiff and uncomfortably posed, or at ease and authentically them? Do the images show sessions that go with the flow, or is there a more rigid formula in play?

Locations

If you’re planning to take this family session outside, take a look at the different locations your photographer showcases. Are they visually attractive, or full of dead trees? Is it the same spot for all clients, or does the photographer know how to work around many different locations? Do the locations look appropriate for your own kids’ ages and abilities?

Some locations also require permitting or other fees. So, it’s also worth asking: who pays for the permits, if that is required? Some photographers foot the bill, while others do not.

Services

Aside from the obvious – the images – service also deserves a lot of considerations when searching for a family photographer.

How hands on do they get with planning in advance? How much communication is there leading up to your session day? Do they offer hair and makeup services complimentary, or do you have to DIY? How much time is your actual session? What items do they prep or bring so you don’t have to? Do you have to wait one week, or one month, to get your images back?

Can they help with consistency across your family’s images over the years? Do they help you with prints, albums, and wall art, or leave you hanging to figure it all out yourself?

Rave Reviews

While I’m all for supporting worthy new and small businesses, social proof does matter. What are other people saying about this photographer? What do kids themselves have to say, if anything? What things in particular do the reviews mention?

Rave reviews may also be living just outside your computer screen. Ask other families you know for recommendations, but keep in mind their needs and preferences may be very different than yours!

Social

A business’s social media pages can tell us a lot. Have they posted recently, or is everything outdated? Does their work look consistent, or is every post a completely different style? Do they talk only about themselves, or do they focus on people they serve? Do they respond to people quickly and kindly, or are they MIA? Similarly to the reviews and ratings, a quick look through a couple of platforms can be a good gut check.

What to Look for in a Family Photographer: If You’re Still Unsure

What to Look for in a Family Photographer: A toddler boy shows off a rock he found to the camera

If you’re still unsure of which family photographer is right for you, it may help to re-examine your priorities. Maybe there were two editing styles that you enjoyed, not just one. Maybe upgrading to a full service photographer will save you some major headaches.

Asking a photographer you already know (even ones that may not do family photography) can yield wonderful referrals. Photographers tend to bump into other photographers at networking and other functions. Especially when a photographer you trust recommends another photographer- you are likely in good hands!

It may also help to keep researching. There are so many social and search platforms out there, that a business can easily be hiding in plain sight. With many photographers willing to travel, you can also keep looking out of city, or even out of state. If you’re in love with the art they create and the business they run, why not splurge and enjoy the experience?

And of course, you can also reach out directly to any photographer you are considering for family photos. They are absolutely best suited to answer your questions!

Want to learn more about my services and hear what clients say about me? I’ve got it all laid out here!

Still haven’t booked a one-of-a-kind adventure session? Reach out to start planning one now!

What To Look For In A Family Photographer: A mom embraces her toddler son in a beautiful desert backdrop.