KNOW WHAT YOU WANT
When you sit down to choose a photographer, you typically (whether you’re aware of it or not) have a picture in your head of what that session will look like. You may have seen something on Instagram that sparked your interest, or a portrait in a friend’s home that made you realize it’s time to schedule your own session. Taking a moment to examine what you’re really hoping for will drastically help you to narrow down your options (in a good way).
You can check out individual websites or just click on the IMAGES search and find which pictures stand out to you. What do you dislike, and what do you love?
WHAT STYLE DO YOU LOVE?
I think one of the most important things you can do is to define the picture STYLE you’re hoping for.
First the staging style- are you looking for something that seems spur-of-the-moment and relaxed, with family looking at each other and seemingly caught in their every day life? Or are you looking for something more formal, with scenes and individuals carefully arranged?
Second, the color and contrast style. Are you looking for something dark and moody, light and airy, somewhere in between? Or maybe something else ultra specific like black and white?
Check out Instagram and Pinterest (tell your husband it’s homework) and find those pictures that just call to you. What do they have in common?
Once you’ve figured this out, you’re half way there! NOW check out Instagram and Pinterest and do some google searches and ask your friends- do a bit of digging and start looking at the work of local photographers. Make a list of a few who consistently have the style you’re looking for. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don’t choose a photographer with a light and airy style, and then ask them to edit your photos dark and moody. Don’t hire a lifestyle photographer and then ask for a bunch of posed shots. Find the experts who consistently shoot in the style you want. That way you will have the confidence that you’ll get what you’re hoping for, and your photographer will be happy because they’ll know they can provide it.
KNOW WHAT YOU’LL GET
Decide what you’re wanting to get from your session. Do you have a specific area where you’re planning to hang your prints? Are you wanting your photos to be printed in a particular way, such as ready to frame, or on canvas or wood?
Are you hoping for digital files that you can save as backups in case you need them again down the road?
Carefully check what’s included in your session fee. Will you receive a specific number of portraits? Will they be given only as print products or will you receive digital files as well? What is the specific price for additional photos if you want to purchase more? (This is especially important in those packages that only include 5-10 photos, as the price for additional photos may be surprising). Does the photographer offer quality products for you to purchase, and what are the prices of those products?
A NOTE ABOUT MINI SESSIONS
They aren’t just cheaper portrait sessions! Mini sessions are actually a very specific type of session which typically take place a few times during the year. Take a moment to learn all about what makes a session a mini session, or skip ahead to the next step.
DECIDE WHAT YOU’LL PAY
You probably started out with some idea of what you’d like to pay for your session. Do a little research and find out what is reasonable in your area. I’m a firm believer that there’s a photographer at every price point. But I’m also a firm believer that you’ll get what you pay for. There may be years that you can only afford a dollar menu type of photographer- and hey, it’s just great that you’ll have some pictures from that year. We all started out as dollar menu photographers, who were just glad to be given a break!
If you’re at a point in life where you can afford a little more, splurge on this once a year (or however often you get portraits) experience and make sure you get portraits you love! Take some time to plan your wardrobe. Choose a photographer that has some experience and can confidently get you photos you’ll love. Respect that your photographer has invested in time, education, and gear to help make sure they can give you a superior experience and product, and pay that photographer what they’re worth.
I suggest finding both an upper and lower limit to what you’d like to spend, based on your area research. Include a budget for your prints and products as well. This is also a really great time to make sure you’re finding local prices. A New York City photographer’s prices aren’t going to be very comparable to a Utah County photographer’s prices. Once again, pull out the handy “(session type) photographer near me” search. After completing the steps above, you could even throw in some more specifics. Maybe “posed newborn photographer near me” or “studio newborn photographer near me”.
Then after you have several pricing examples, decide what you are willing to pay. If you’re wanting to splurge, make a plan to save up for your session or check to see if gift cards are available. Often friends and family would love to help give you the gift of portraits of your little one.
BOOK YOUR SESSION!
This step feels AMAZING! You’ve found the photographer you love, and you can’t wait to get that session in the books! Reach out and let your photographer know exactly what you’re hoping for, and why they’re perfect for you. Sign your contract and start looking for what to wear to your upcoming session!