What to ask when hiring a family photographer

What to ask when hiring a family photographer

In part 1, you identified the editing style you wanted for your photos. Part 2 covered the posing style, and from there, you started a shortlist of local photographers. It’s time to ask those photographers a few questions! Let’s get to it.

Are you dead-set on sharing images on social media? Do you make custom books/albums/calendars or other products with your photos? Is a sweet desktop background of your family a must-have to get you through long days at work?

If yes, you need a photographer whose packages include the option to get digital files.

Some photographers give all images digitally as part of your session fee (“all inclusive”, like a tropical resort, minus the free booze).

how to hire a family photographer

Some give a set number while others offer them as an upgrade. There are many pricing models, so make no assumptions.

If digitals aren’t mentioned in the packages and you need them, ask your photographer if they can be added on.

Some photographers don’t give digital images under any circumstances, ever. That might seem odd if you don’t understand the logic behind it.

Say you’re a wedding cake baker known for delicious cakes and amazing intricate decorating. One day a client asks you to bake a cake with no decoration—just a single layer of white frosting. She wants to do the decorating herself. “But don’t worry!” she tells you. “I’ll let everyone know you made the cake!”

how to hire a family photographer

Does the thought of handing over the final (and arguably most important) step to someone with no experience make you queasy?

Printing your photos is the frosting of photography.

When we hand over digital files, we’re trusting that you will make good choices for printing that won’t misrepresent our work.

Using retail photo labs (Shutterfly, Snapfish, Costco, Target, Walgreens, or CVS) is like topping a gourmet wedding cake with Betty Crocker frosting. Their lesser technology, lower quality paper, and uncalibrated colors lead to funky skin tones, too dark/too light images, curling paper, fading ink, and awkward cropping to fit the print size.

how to hire a family photographer

PRO TIP: I explain how to print your own photos from your pro photographer’s digital negatives, and which labs to use that won’t f*** it up.

Question 2: What’s your print pricing?

Some photographers share print pricing on their website, but you’ll need to ask others. You don’t want to be surprised later to find out that a single 8×10 is like a billion dollars.

Even if you’ll have the digital files, this is good to ask. And it’s especially important if you won’t have the digitals.

Question 3: What’s your turnaround time?

When I got married, our photographer promised the photos in six weeks, then delivered my gallery in a week and a half. I sang her praises to all my friends. Overdelivering made me a very happy customer.

I wasn’t in a rush to get my photos, but you might be. Christmas cards, a gift for Grandma, whatever… if you have a hard deadline, or if you’re impatient by nature, 🙋🏼‍♀️😀 be sure you’ll get your photos when you need them by asking what the turnaround normally is.

how to hire a family photographer

Question 4: What’s your backup plan if something goes wrong at our session?

A lot can go wrong during a session, and we can roll with most of it: pissed-off kiddos, pouty husbands, mosquitoes, wind, rain.

But equipment failure is only fixable if your photographer has a backup plan.

A backup plan includes:

  • Double memory cards in the camera. Their camera should save photos onto two memory cards at the same time, so if one card fails, you’re safe. Nobody wants to reshoot a session because a memory card failed. And yes, cards do fail.
  • Cloud data backup. After your session, your photographer should backup your images in at least two places, including at least one cloud backup.
  • Extra equipment. Your photographer should bring a backup lens to every session, and ideally a backup camera body.

How common are these failures? Not super common, but I see stories like this every week in Facebook groups for photographers.

Cards fail, the mechanics inside a lens stop focusing, and cameras break. It happens.

Still to come…

We’ll talk about editing expectations in Part 4, which gives you the key questions to ask so your expectations and your photographer’s are completely aligned—no surprises.

Part 1: Editing style

Part 2: Posing style

Part 4: Editing expectations

Part 5: Wardrobe

Part 6: Locations


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