So we all see this on social media. A LOT. I see this typically on garage sale sites on facebook. A garage sale site. Typically, it’s phrased, “I’m looking for a really good and affordable photographer. Anyone know one?”
The response is as you guess (or already know)…it’s 978 billion posts from people who either WANT to be a photographer, ARE a photographer, have a FRIEND that is a photographer, or wants to be a photographer and on and on. It’s a mix bag of people who own cameras, or know someone who does. Everything from “so and so takes great pictures!” to “I have a xyz camera so I can!” to “ohhhh call so-and-so, she is SO NICE!” So…how in the heck are you supposed to be able to find someone legit in that streaming post of names?
Let me try and help you out, here. because I recently was put into one of those lists and as I got the notifications telling me about all the other people (and I sat here thinking WHO IS THAT!? on a lot of them…) it made me wonder. You aren’t going to call the whole million people list, so…how to start:
OK, let me first say, I don’t typically add my “I CAN” to those lists. It’s not me. I’ve noticed also, most of the amazing photographers that I know, don’t either. I’m fortunate enough to know most of the incredible photographers in my area, and they don’t market on garage sale sites. Know that. You probably already do, but I wanted to point it out. The cream of the crop isn’t on there, most likely, unless someone is referring them, which also doesn’t happen a whole lot on a garage sale post. So now we’re down to the crop, since the cream isn’t really there. The crop is VAST, isn’t it??? Finding what you want in the “crop” sounds daunting. It’s not as bad as you think.
First, obviously, look at their website, their facebook site, their “whatever” place they want you to look. Do! See if you like their style! If you don’t, move on! That one is easy. So now you see 200 people that “take great pictures…” so look at what they said. If they said “Hey! I’m $50 for a full session and you get ALL of the images!” THAT sounds great. It’s like finding a Prada dress for $50 at an estate sale. Here’s the rub. What are you GETTING? (I’m getting a full shoot, change of clothes ten times and 150 fully edited images on a CD! WOOT!” Wellllll, rock on! Does your computer even take a CD? If it’s newer, it doesn’t. It’s old technology. Furthermore, the average “disc” corrupts after 5-10 years so those photos are gone before they’re an amazing memory. “BUT I GET A THUMB DRIVE!” Same. You’re gonna lose that thing before it corrupts in 10-15 years. Your kids will thank you for THAT, huh? *eye roll* Also, this person is going to go do a shoot for an hour or so, edit everything, buy a thumb drive…and you get it for $50? Yeahhhhh. Clearly something is missing….
So rule out the “shoot and burn” because it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Ultimately, you’re not getting much. So, we go to the RIGHT question, which is “what do you OFFER?” Not just how much, but what do you GET??? This means, PRINTS. You want PRINTS. Should someone pass away, finding their photo is priceless. Finding an old thumb drive is worthless. Think about it. Finding a disc that you can’t read and it has lost the photos anyhow is devastating. If you find a photographer that can’t offer professional prints, walk away, honestly. They haven’t invested the time to find out how to fully serve their clients…. Fully. Serve. Their. Clients.
Yep. Do they offer a consultation? They should. Do you get to go back in and see your images in order to pick the prints that you want? You should. An online gallery is tough. You’ll show everyone the gallery, not get the prints, and we’re back to regret years later…truth. Why a consultation? Well, so each of you knows what you WANT. You discuss clothing. You discuss exactly what you want in this shoot. It’s so you GET what you WANT, on both sides. We want to make you happy. We want the best session just like you do!
So, now that you’ve taken your 20 billion people, narrowed them down to 200 (who I “like”), then narrowed them down to 5 (or whatever) that offer a full service, THEN…THENNNNN you can look at those people, see who you “felt best” with, who offered what you want, product and budget wise. Now you’re making a really informed decision.
If you’re “interviewing” your top people, listen to them. Ask what they do for continuing education. Are they a member of the PPA? (professional photographer’s association) or WPPI or some other professional association? Do they continually attend workshops? Do they help other photographers, too? Are they FRIENDS with local photographers? (This is a good one. Our community is really small once you aren’t including enthusiasts, and we know and love and support each other…some of my ABSOLUTE best friends are also my photography mentors.) If they poo-poo the others, that might be a signal, just sayin…. If they’ve been a photographer since they were 3, or started 3 years ago, that might not be as big of a sign as how INVOLVED they are in their craft… (This is not in any way to down the enthusiasts…we love them, too…but this is finding someone to shoot a professional session, not to just play with, and playing has its place, just not here! )
Now, with ALL OF THIS…you can go find a really great photographer that fits your needs and surpasses all expectations…and leaves you with amazing heirloom prints for you, your kids, your family and your friends to cherish even long after you’re gone….