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The best senior photographer for you-5 ways to pick them

There are so many options to consider when you have to pick the best senior photographer for you…no photographer does the same as the other!  You might have the initial assumption that all photographers only photograph outside and they all give digital files for you to print whatever you like.  I highly recommend researching into your options because that is simply not the case!  Here are five things you’ll want to look at and consider when you are ready to pick the best senior photographer for you.

Seriously, read more…you don’t want to not know this stuff!

1.Experience.  Hands down, this is the most important thing to consider.  Sadly, anyone can pick up a fancy looking SLR camera (that’s the kind that lets you change the lenses) from a big box store and call themselves a professional.  The photography industry doesn’t regulate the way some industries do so it can be tough to figure out who to trust to capture occasions that only happen once.  A few things to look for: Do they belong to PPA?  That stands for the Professional Photographers of America and right there, membership to that organization shows how serious someone may take their business.  Do they show a large variety of different images on their website?  Not just the same person over and over or only outside images but truly a variety of images of people that are different shapes and sizes, in studio, outside at a park, on location in a home, with animals, at sunset, with different lighting, etc.  This can show you the skill level of that photographer with being able to handle anything you might ask them to cover.  Don’t be afraid to ask how long they’ve been photographing, what’s been some of their favorite images, where have they been photographing, do they have liability insurance, etc.  This information can be very helpful to decide if they are the professional you are looking for.

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2. Products.  You should expect to be able to see, touch and flip through a variety of products that your photographer offers.  If you are just beginning to look for someone, an in-studio consultation is highly recommended.  This gives you the opportunity to see the studio, find out if it’s a storefront or in someone’s home (not that home studios are a negative thing, you need to be able to check things out and decide for yourself) and whether or not you and your senior are a good fit with the photographer.  Just like restaurants are all very different, so are photography studios!  Some might be drive-thrus that are quick and only offer three choices while others like to spoil their clients and deliver an amazing experience that you’ll remember and rave about for years.  Does your photographer only offer a disc?  If so, you may only have the ability to print up to 8×10’s on paper at your local photo counter because they do not yet have the experience or knowledge to offer you more.  Does your photographer offer a variety of wall portraits, albums, prints and framing options?  You might have a recipe (aka digital file) that you make at home for dinner with okay results (gets everyone fed but the meal is forgotten the next morning) but in the hands of an expert, that same recipe can be the most amazing thing you’ve eaten.  Insist on a full-service photographer that can give you the ability to admire your child in professional products that will last for generations instead of a disc that will be uploaded to facebook and then forgotten.  Your past 18 years of commitment to raising this young adult is worth more than a misplaced disc of images that you didn’t bother to print.

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3.Are they listening to you?  Is your photographer asking you questions about your senior and suggesting ideas?  Or is your senior simply another “shoot” to them.  A professional photographer is going to inquire about your senior’s personality and what they like to do and make suggestions about the kinds of images they can create that suit your senior.  Everyone is unique to some degree with different passions and interests and the most personal art of your senior will come from that discussion.  (sidebar…my most entertaining place I’ve ever photographed was in a meat locker!  I had a senior girl that I discovered was in FFA, Future Farmers of America, and she was studying how to grade meat…what a FUN spot for a senior portrait!)

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4. Styling the Session.  A professional photographer should be asking you to bring a large assortment of outfits, accessories, and props to allow them the creativity to style your senior’s session.  Your senior might think that packing a duffel bag with 5 shirts is adequate.  What we see when we open up something like that is wrinkles, all the same style (maybe all short sleeve or tank style), all the same color, and all the same trend (all stripes).  Someone who views your portrait session as an opportunity to create something unique and creative will be asking for a variety of clothing in different styles, colors and seasons (long sleeve for studio even though it’s summer outside for example) as well as delving into your senior’s personality to suggest props to bring with.  Keep in mind not all clothing styles, trends and colors photograph well.  And just a reminder…prop is not a four letter word!  Props can enhance portraits and make them more personal.  Just imagine your grandchildren someday looking through their mom or dad’s senior portraits and seeing their portrait with a music instrument or sports gear that they practiced with for years.  What if mom or dad aren’t there to explain to their child that they loved playing the violin or they were a very serious baseball player when they were in high school?  Thankfully, there would be portraits that show off that love and passion even if it’s a hobby set to the side in their future college years.  Maybe those portraits would even provide the visual link to the same love of music or sports in later generations.

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5. Skill Level. This one can be a bit more difficult to assess as it requires training your eye for things to catch.  Are subjects well lit?  Meaning, do they have bright vibrant skin tones with sparkly eyes?  They shouldn’t look muddy and they shouldn’t sink into the background due to no light.  Are subjects posed well?  Again, another four letter word (pose) that is a good thing!  Posing is one factor that is necessary to make a 3-dimensional subject look amazing in a 2-dimensional product (lighting is the other factor).  If subjects look awkward or uncomfortable or are simply standing there straight on to the camera, the photographer may not have enough experience yet with posing people to help them look their best.  Are images white-balanced?  This refers to whether or not the tones in the image are neutral and look as close to natural as possible.  Are whites actually white or do they have a green or blue cast to them? Do people look like smurfs or oompa-loompas? It’s a color balance cast that will tone the majority of the images.  If you are looking at a studio image next to an outdoor image, are skin tones the same?  A professional photographer will produce images with consistent skin tones regardless of where the photography occurred. Is the background or scene well exposed and balanced with the subject as well?  Skies shouldn’t be blown out and white, backgrounds shouldn’t be terribly darker or lighter (unless done on artistic purpose).  One issue with natural light photography specifically is the need to overexpose the scene in order to get bright enough skin tone so you’ll end up with those white washed out skies.

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I hope that this can give you some good direction on how to pick the best senior photographer for you!  If we can answer any questions for you, please call the studio, we’d be happy to chat!  913-636-5478

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