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Choosing a Family Portrait Photographer | Dallas | Plano

Updated on January 13, 2009

You just looked at your wall and realized that the last family portrait you had made was when Johnny was 6 months old. Now Johnny is not so little anymore; he is 12 years old now. Maybe it is time to get a new family portrait made. Or maybe you have a high school senior who is about to graduate and you'd like to do something a little different for her senior portraits. Perhaps, you want a portrait of your children nice enough to display on your wall instead of ones that are hidden away in a drawer.

Choosing a family portrait photographer can seem overwhelming. You may not know what questions to ask a potential family portrait photographer. Here are some ideas to help determine what you want so that you can more easily choose a professional photographer. 

The first thing to consider when choosing a portrait photographer is whether you want studio shots or on-location shots. On-location means the portraits are not taken at a studio. They could be in your own home, your backyard, or a local park. Do you have small children? If so, having a professional photographer come to your home can be the least stressful way of having family and children's portraits made. The children will be in their own environment, have access to clothes in case an accident happens, and have all their favorite toys to calm them down. Or maybe your children spend a lot of time in your backyard. Having a professional photographer come to your home for children's portraits means that your children can be where they are comfortable. 

Once you have determined what types of shots you want, ask your friends for referrals and ask to see their family portraits. This is the best way to find a portrait photographer because your friend has first-hand experience of what the photographer's personality is like and how the session went. Another option is to use your favorite search engine to locate a professional photographer. Enter words like "portrait", "family portrait", "children's portraits", "senior photography" plus the name of your town or a large city you live near. Then go to the photographers' websites and look at their family portrait galleries. Do you like their work and their styles? Do the subjects' poses seem contrived or do they look natural? Do you want more of a candid approach or a more formal portrait? Consider these things as you look at the galleries. 

Once you have narrowed down your choices, call every portrait photographer on your short list. Interview them on the phone or ask for a consultation. The second most important thing about choosing a family portrait photographer - second to the actual photographer's skill - is whether you feel comfortable with the person. Remember, if you establish rapport with the photographer, you will be more relaxed and will get better photographs. If your professional photographer will be taking pictures of your children, have them come along to the consultation and see how the photographer and children interact. It's often better for children to meet the portrait photographer ahead of time so that when picture day comes, the photographer is not a total stranger. When choosing a professional photographer based on rapport building, it is always best to go with your intuition. 

Price is often another consideration. During your consultation, find out the sitting fee, if there is one, and the print prices. Ask how payments are made. For example, when is the sitting fee due? When are the print payments due? Can you pay with a credit card? If you want a CD of all the images, ask if this is available and what the prices are. Maybe you are a really busy person and want "one stop shopping". In other words, many photographers do everything, from taking the photographs to framing them. If the photographer offers framing, be sure they use archival quality materials so that your photographs do not deteriorate over time. Many times, your portrait photographer will give you better prices and use better quality materials than your local hobby shop. Your photographer may have specialty products like coffee table books, photo jewelry, and photo purses. If this is what you want, be sure to ask if it is available. 

Ask how you will initially see your images (or proofs). Will it be only on-line or in person or both? The disadvantage of on-line proofing is that your monitor's colors may be off, so you might not see a true representation of what the portraits will look like.

Another important consideration is the timeliness of the photographer's work. Ask when you will get to see the proofs and how long it will take to get your photos. Ask if the photos will be posted on-line for friends and relatives to look at.  

These days, with digital photography, most professional photographers do their own portrait re-touching using Photoshop. Never underestimate the importance of good re-touching work. Find out how much Photoshop work is included in the price. Are just minor problems touched up or does the photographer do things you might not even consider, like smoothing out skin, brightening eyes, etc. Do the proofs already have Photoshop work done on them or not? If so, you will get a better idea of what your finished product will look like. Other Photoshop tasks include changing the tones and feel of images. A person with good Photoshop skills can make an image look dreamy or crisp and sharp. An image could have a warmer tone or a cooler tone, black and white, sepia, highly saturated, or not. Ask if there will be a variety of tones in the proofs so you can see what is available. 

When you have chosen a photographer and are ready to schedule your appointment, be sure you ask the photographer for a good time of day for photographs if you are scheduling an outdoor appointment. Few things are worse than photographing in harsh sunlight at midday. The shadows are harsh and you may be squinting in all your photos. Better to photograph in the shade if you have to do them at midday. The best option of all, though, is to have the session during the "golden hours", either an hour after sunrise or an hour before sunset. 

Choosing a photographer is made easier if you do some thinking beforehand about what you want. The goal is to find someone you can use repeatedly over time. The photographer will get to know your family, everyone will be comfortable, and the photographer will better know your likes and dislikes so she can best tailor the sessions to fit your needs. With these tips, you will have a better idea of what you want and will be able to find the perfect photographer for your family portrait or children's portraits. 


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      Chad Griffin 7 years ago

      I am a professional photographer and I totaly agree with everything in this post. We prefer someone that is asking questions and genuinely into the whole process. It the the wallmart mentality we dislike. You get what you pay for and cheep isnt usualy the way to go with your memories. and to tag on to setting the time. Remember the children, Don't book your session anywhere near feeding time or a nap. Bring them at there best time and beleave me you will save your self a headache.