The Most Important Things for Selecting a Photographer

We know that it can be challenging and confusing to find a photographer for any type of photoshoot, so we have put together this short guide of the top things to consider.

These aren’t the only things you will be thinking about, but they are certainly the best criteria to help you whittle down a shortlist of photographers to make a final choice.

The single most important thing

Style, style, style. The most important thing for you to be comfortable with. When you hire a photographer, your ultimate goal is to have beautiful photos that make you feel good. If you don’t like the style of photos, you aren’t going to be happy and probably won’t look at them. You might wish you had done a bit more research and found somebody different.

So whilst the other points (price, location etc.) are important, why pay for something you don’t like?

Style can be a hard thing to define. Photographers can spend hours agonising and trying to boil down their own creativity to a defined “style”, and some never can, so don’t expect it to be written in the Google Search results. The simplest question to ask yourself – can I see a photo like this hanging on my wall, on my social media profile, in an album? If your answer is “OMG, I didn’t know the 70s/80s/90s (delete as appropriate) are back in fashion” – maybe you don’t like that particular style.

Location

Don’t be put off by where a photographer shows up on your Google Maps search. They could be located in a different town, but they still might travel to you. Check their website for their policy on travelling, and if it isn’t there then drop them a message. They may include travel in their prices, charge separately for it, or they may not travel at all and you have to visit them in their studio.

An extra tip – any photographer is willing to break their rules on travel if it benefits them somehow. For example, if a photographer is missing material from their portfolio on a certain type of photoshoot, they could be willing to go out of their way to work with you to fill that gap.

The one thing to keep in mind if you are having a photographer travel from far away – make sure that there is a well thought out plan. What if they are delayed? Can you delay the shoot, or do you need to find a backup? Your photographer should be made aware of any time sensitivities so they can factor that in to their travel.

The money factor

Generally, people see photographers as expensive. The client wants a good deal, and the photographer needs to make enough money to support their cost of living and family.

“I only want you for a 2-hour photoshoot, £200 is way above my budget!” is a common response for any photographer.

This is partly the fault of photographers for not making it clear how much more time than just 2 hours it actually takes. Let’s look at a rough example of how much time it costs your photographer:

  • 2 hours at the photo shoot
  • 30 mins travel in each direction to the location of the shoot
  • 3 hours of post processing and retouching for 30 finished photos (or paying someone else to do it)

So that is actually 6 hours in total! Then there are the many business costs you don’t see:

  • Paying their assistant
  • Public liability insurance
  • Cost of camera equipment
  • Website and online gallery hosting
  • Travel costs
  • Studio rental costs
  • Marketing (have you ever advertised on Google or Facebook? Extortion I tell you!)
  • Business tax, income tax, VAT.

This all adds up! Unfortunately, photographers are not earning £100 per hour without costs (I wish we did).

If you hire a photographer based on who is cheapest, you are probably compromising on all of the other factors

First impression

I am a firm believer in trusting your gut. Do you ever go on a business’ website and it looks like it was made by someone who was using a computer for the first time? In this scenario my gut is screaming to leave immediately. If this is how they treat their online presence, I feel like the in-person experience won’t be much better.

If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. You won’t feel comfortable with your decision to hire the photographer, so you won’t feel comfortable during the shoot, which will show in the photos, so you won’t be happy with the end result. Don’t be afraid to walk away and keep looking.

Availability

This one is not as simple as it looks.

“Are you available on May 19th?”

“Yes.”

“Great!”

Ask some follow up questions, such as “how many other [insert type of photo shoot here] are you shooting that week?” If the response is along the lines of “two every day, that is my busiest week of the year!” then the photographer probably won’t be able to give the required attention to your day. Remember how many hours went into a 2 hour shoot in the earlier example? A wedding shoot could last 12 hours and take multiple days to edit and retouch. You cannot add more hours in to the day, so if your photographer is trying to do 30 hours of work a day, then it is the quality that has to suffer to get it done.

Experience

This one I feel is sometimes slightly mistreated.

Imagine you are looking for a photographer to take a family portrait, when you come across a photographer who has a portfolio full of business headshots and couples engagement shoots. You love their work, they have been shooting for years, and the style is a great fit. But they have no family portrait images in their portfolio – would you rule them out? I hope not. Often skills are transferable, and remember that style is the single most important thing. If you love their work that is similar to what you need, they can probably produce what you need and you will love it too. Just remember, Prince Harry and Meghan’s official wedding photographer was a fashion photographer by trade!