Finding the best photographer for your family can be a bit overwhelming… like choosing a pediatrician, or dentist, you want to find a professional who is experienced, friendly, and someone you look forward to seeing (ok, maybe comparing it to the dentist wasn’t the best idea)! It can be overwhelming to take that first step to finding the perfect photographer to create those beautiful images of your family that you will cherish forever. Now, also like the dentist, some people may put off having family portraits taken… you may be waiting for something to be “just perfect” (to lose that 5 lbs, for teenager to get their braces off, etc.) but here’s a tip, it will never be the exact “perfect” time (you can always find an excuse to wait) but you will want to remember your family just the way they are, even if you don’t think so today! To quote Nike, “Just do it!” We promise, when your kids are grown, you will never look back and wish you hadn’t had those photos taken! (We know from experience). So, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you find the right photographer for your family…
You can easily look at social media sites and your friends homes (virtual walls and actual walls). Almost everyone knows a photographer these days, so begin by looking at your friends professional portraits (either in their home or online) and maybe you’ll find one with a style that fits you and your family. You’ll want portrait art that’s going to look great on your walls, and fits your home decor. Maybe the latest trend in photography isn’t your thing, so look around and find a photographer with a style that speaks to you. You can make notes of images (what you like about them) is the light pleasing, is the image well composed (do you like the crops and edits) does the photographer capture the uniqueness of the family through their images? Check out the photographers website and see if they have complete galleries displayed, or just one or two images from many sessions? You should be able to see an entire session somewhere (either on their website, blog, or social media) posting multiple images from a family session, or a slideshow of a complete session. (Tip: If the photographer doesn’t have a website, be cautious, they may not be running a legitimate business if they only have a social media page or blog).
2)Their Style/Your Style:
Professional photographers generally have a specific style you will see throughout their work, while others change with the trends (or with the clients who hire them). We recommend you look for a photographer whose professional work consistently showcases the style you’re looking for. You’ll also want a professional who’s experienced and comfortable photographing a family, whether it’s just a family of four, or parents with grown kids and dogs, or a large extended family group. (Not all photographers know how to work with large groups). A true professional will know how to instruct their clients to stand/sit in a manner that is flattering, but as you’ll find, some may not. It’s usually obvious by how pleasing the lighting and posing is in the final portrait (trust us, proper lighting and posing make a huge difference!) If you want a beach session, find a photographer who has photographed families at the beach at the right time of the day (for the best light) or with amazing sunsets if that’s the look you’d like. (FYI, not all photographers have the necessary lighting equipment to do this!) Some “professionals” are just people who own a nice camera, and some are Certified Professional Photographers, true professionals that have spent years in training, and have years of experience creating beautiful photographic art.
You can ask for referrals from your friends. If you have a friend who has beautiful family portraits, ask them who they hired to photograph their family, and if they would recommend their photographer. Find out what the session was like… was it fun? (It should be!) How did the photographer interact with their children? Was the photographer friendly and outgoing, and were their children comfortable and at ease during the session? If you find a friend with beautiful portraits created by a photographer they love (and have been going to for years) that’s usually a good indication that they are an experienced professional. We think you should not only love your portraits, but also enjoy the photography session experience!
Most professional photographers will have a Studio, either in a professional/commercial space, or a private studio set up in their home. If you hire a professional with a studio space, we recommend you make an appointment to meet them, see their work in person, and get an overall feeling for their personality before your session. You’ll want to hire someone you get along with, who is friendly and fun. (We have become wonderful friends with many of the families we have photographed over the years!) Some studios will have only one photographer, while some have many, so that’s important to know before the session. We at Kari Douma Photography do a planning meeting with all new families before their session… we want to meet you in person and get to know your style and what you’re looking for before we photograph you. We give you tips about planning for your session, and clothing suggestions as well as session options and pricing information. If you decide to hire a photographer without a studio space, you may want to find out what the backup plans is in case of poor weather (or if you want to have a session when your baby turns one in December, then what?) Some photographers call themselves “natural light” photographers, which usually means they don’t have access to a studio (or they may not know how to use studio lighting). This is all good to know ahead of time, and information you should be able to find easily on a photographers website, or by calling and asking to set up a time to meet. With so many photographers out there, you should find one you LOVE, not just settle for the one with the best deal.
Get all the necessary information before you hire a photographer. This can either be done in person at the studio (which is the best option, so you can talk face to face about details, and ask questions) or via email or over the phone. You should see everything in writing… if there’s a miscommunication somewhere you don’t want it to become a “you said ____ on the phone” disagreement. If overall cost is a deciding factor to you, you will want to know what your total investment will be before you start. Most professional photographers will not have their pricing information posted online, and for those that do, it’s best to clarify details in person. (Shopping online pricing can be deceiving as most photographers will have different standards for their sessions and portrait options). Some photographers may seem to be a great deal from the start, but end up being the most expensive in town after you finish ordering everything you wanted. Some may have very low up front fees (little or no session fee) with nothing “included”, while others may have higher up front fees (session that included print credit or digital files) so it’s best to ask those questions ahead of time. A professional will always provide session and pricing information in writing (either at their studio, or via email/PDF etc). If you find someone who seems much less expensive than all the other professionals you’ve found, you may want to ask yourself why. Do they have professional equipment? Do they have a licensed business (and pay taxes) as well as insurance? Are they booking numerous sessions each week (trying to get them all in during the fair weather months) and if so, will they devote the time necessary to to your family session? Will they provide you with proofs in a timely manner? A photographer who owns a professional studio should provide you personalized attention, and understand the time necessary (as well as their expenses involved) when setting up their sessions and portrait pricing. If you find a deal that seems too good to be true, it probably is!
6) Ask questions! These are some good questions to ask:
How long have you been in business? (Are you insured, etc)
Where is your studio located? Is it family friendly?
Do you regularly photograph families? (Large family groups, if necessary).
What’s included in the session (time, number of proofs)?
Are their different session options?
Is there an order/print credit included?
What are portrait prices/options?
Can I purchase digital images as well as prints? What are the options for poor weather (cancellations or rescheduling)?
What days/times do you schedule sessions? (Time of day is important!)
How long will it be between the session and when I’ll see the proofs?
Will I get to see the images in person at the studio, or will I only see them online?
We think the most important part of finding the right photographer, is building a relationship with a photographer you can trust with documenting the milestones of your family. If you find someone who creates beautiful portrait art for your family, you are going to want to go back to them over the years as your family grows. You’ll want a photographer who remembers you and your children (and knows you all by name). Someone your kids are excited to see when it’s time for a new family portrait! Your photographer is going to capture those precious moments between the people you love the most in this world, and they should be someone you can trust with that important task. We cherish the relationships we’ve built over the past 10 years with the families we’ve been trusted to photograph! It’s such an honor for us to be asked to photograph every wedding day (for siblings) of a large family. When they’re engaged, and we’re one of the first people they call, we feel so blessed to be able continue creating their photographic legacy! When we’re trusted to photograph each newborn baby as a family grows over the years, their families become like family to us. There’s nothing we love more than capturing those priceless moments and creating beautiful portrait art that will last for future generations. We think you should have a photographer who does that for you too!
Written By: Jayne Wirebaugh
Kari Douma Photography
Grandville, Michigan 49418
Hooray… you’re getting married! Whether you are the bride or groom, we are thrilled, and so happy that photography is important to you! Of all the things in life you can capture by freezing a moment of time in a stunning image, your wedding day is one of the most important, and that’s why you should hire a professional to photograph your wedding day! All the details of the wedding are important, but the photographs are the only thing (other than maybe the dress) that you’ll keep forever!
We meet with lots of brides and grooms every year, and some come with lots of questions, and some walk in just planning to meet us and get a feel for our studio and style. If your wedding day photographs are important to you (and we think they should be!) then here’s a list of questions we really recommend you ask when deciding who to hire to capture the moments and details of your special day (assuming you are looking to hire a professional photographer, who is not only talented, but also qualified, experienced, and dependable).
Question 1) How long have you been in business? Do you have a registered photography business? Are you Insured? Are you a Certified Professional Photographer? Do you belong to any Professional Photography group/associations?
*Every true professional photographer will own a legitimate business and be insured (but you can’t expect everyone calling themselves as “Pro” to actually be one, so these are important questions!) Certified Professional Photographers are rare (they are the creme-de la creme of Pros!) You can find a Certified Professional Photographer in your area. Also the Professional Photographers of America and Professional Photographers of Michigan are both groups that only allow professionals to join.
Question 2) How many weddings have you photographed? Can I see samples of your work?
*An experienced professional should be able to show you a complete wedding (not just the best few shots from several different weddings). You should see actual printed albums too, not just digital files on a computer. Actual prints and wall portraits will show the quality, and if the images are sharp, in focus (not blurry or grainy) and well composed etc. It takes most photographers several years of experience (being a lead photographer) to be excellent at capturing and showcasing the entire wedding story with poise and ease. (The last thing you want is a stressed out photographer trying to run the show on your wedding day).
Question 3) ”How many photographers will actually photograph our wedding? Will you be our photographer, or do you contract that out? Will I meet the photographers before my wedding day? What do you do if you are sick, or in case of an emergency?
*We don’t know any professional photographers who photograph a wedding alone (nor should they!). A true professional will always have a “second shooter” or at least an assistant to help with equipment and lighting, etc. Also, some Pros’ are the “face” of their business, but they hire other photographers to work for them (so they can book more than one wedding on a day). We recommend that you hire a photographer who will personally photograph your wedding (which is what we do at Kari Douma Photography, you will always have Kari Douma there!) We suggest that you meet with the actual person who will be photographing your wedding day. Personality has a lot to do with how comfortable you are, and how the day will flow. Also, the photographer you hire should be able to have another professional friends to rely on in case of illness or an emergency. These are good things to ask ahead of time!
Question 4) Can you tell me what equipment you use, and what you have for backup in case of camera failure? Do you back up files? (when & how).
*These are really important questions, and good indicators if they are truly a professional! You can ask about camera quality (a pro won’t be using an entry level DSLR). A legitimate photographer will not be offended by your questions (they will probably appreciate your concern) and they would also NEVER agree to photograph a wedding with only one camera body. They should have a minimum of 2 camera bodies (most have 3-4+) and at least 3 lenses (more likely 5-10+). Cameras and lenses can fail, as well as memory cards. A professional will have back ups for everything. You definitely want to know if/when/how they are backing up your wedding day images! Images should be downloaded and backed up immediately after the wedding (if not throughout the day).
Question 5) Will we go over the schedule of the day together? (Who sets the schedule?) How many hours of coverage will you provide? Will I see a certain number of proofs, and how will you show those to me? How long will it take for me to get my proofs?
*Great photographers will plan the schedule with you (and your wedding planner, if you’re using one, such as Michelle Torno from Red Heels Events, who we recommend. To make sure the day will flow well, they will go over the entire schedule with you in detail, hour by hour, a few weeks before the wedding. You should have a specific number of hours of coverage in your wedding contract. A professional will do basic editing of all the images they show you (white balance, color and b/w, cropping, etc) before presenting you the proofs. You should receive either a digital album, online image gallery, CD (or DVD), or printed proof book, to view your proofs within a reasonable time after your wedding. (Waiting months should be a red flag). The number of images will vary greatly from photographer to photographer. More is not always better! Some photographers don’t want to “cull” through the images (to take out the ones where the groom is blinking, or the Father of the Bride is not looking at the camera) so they just show you all of them, and let you spend hours trying to choose the best images. A true pro will select the best images and present them to you in an easy to view album or online gallery.
There are so many other things we could recommend (like making sure you hire a photographer who makes you feel relaxed, and someone you feel comfortable with) but if you focus on asking potential photographers these important questions during your interview, they will know you are serious about your wedding day images, and that’s great place to start! If you are planning a Michigan wedding, you’ll find “Pro” photographers are plentiful here! Due to their being so many (because there’s no degree or license required to practice photography) it can be a challenge to weed through them to find out which ones are truly qualified professionals. If you start with the links we included at the top of the article (to find a CPP, or PPA/PPM members) you will know you’re getting a highly qualified professional photographer!
Since digital DSLR cameras are now available and more affordable, there are a lot of people with “good cameras” calling themselves professional photographers. If you’re going to pay hard earned money to hire a professional, you should get professional quality images! You don’t want to mess around with an amateur photographing the most important day of your life! Pricing alone isn’t always an accurate indicator either. There’s a huge price variation for wedding photography, as you can find photographers from $1,000 all the way up to $10,000+. This can vary greatly based on hours of coverage, and many other factors, from a “shoot and burn” package, where you have a set number of hours and images on a CD, all the way up to complete 3 day weekend coverage (for a destination wedding) with high quality professional albums for the Bride and Groom and their parents. This is why we suggest meeting potential photographers in person to go over all these important factors, to make sure you’re getting everything you’re hoping and expecting. (Shopping for photographers online can be tricky, by just comparing prices posted on websites you can miss a lot of important details).
We are happy to share these tips with you, hopefully they will help you make an informed decision, so you can hire the best photographer that’s a perfect fit for you! If you are planning a Michigan wedding, feel free to contact us at 616-437-5603 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out if we have your wedding date available! We’d love to meet you at our Studio in beautiful Downtown Grandville (just 20 minutes from downtown Grand Rapids) where we have studio hours by appointment. We wish you all the best as you plan all the details for your once in a lifetime day!
Kari Douma Photography (Copyright 2015)
I was so excited when Jessica emailed me and asked me to photograph her wedding next May. I had photographed Jessica’s family last summer, and also her sister’s wedding last winter. I love working with families over and over. I love the relationships that we create! Jessica and Ian had their engagement session last month in downtown Grand Rapids. We had some fun with ice skating, then walked around downtown. I can’t wait for their spring wedding!
Now that it’s winter, I have time for teaching again! People ask me quite often if I teach classes. Well, I do, but only during the winter months. The summer and fall months are dedicated to my portrait and wedding clients.
Due to popular demand, I am offering another photography class! This class is designed for those of you who are ready to start taking your photography to a whole new level. Space will be limited, so call today to reserve your spot! 616-437-5603
Photography 201 – Feb 07, 9:00 – 5:00 Cost $120
Lunch is included and also admission to Frederick Meijer Gardens in the afternoon for hands on practice of what we learned.
What this Class is:
1. This class is designed as a beginner to intermediate class. It is ideal for those desiring more out of their pictures, but don’t know how to get it!
2. Get off the program modes! You will learn about aperture, shutter speed, and ISO so you can set your camera manually to get great results!
3. I will help you understand the limitations of you camera and lenses, and what you can and can’t expect them to do.
4. We will have some hands on practicing what you learned in the afternoon at Frederick Meijer Gardens.
Requirements for this class is that you have a DSLR camera, and manual. You will bring both to class. (Every camera is different, and you will be required to look up things in your manual to learn how to change some settings.) You may also want to bring a notebook for notes, and a tripod if you have one.