1) Clear, frequent, and detailed communication
(before, during, and after a session)
I make it a priority to respond to inquiries quickly and in detail. I also interpret every communication as another opportunity to get to know you better and to build a relationship. Communicating with clients is just another way to build and grow community for me. It reminds me of my days as a Kindergarten teacher where one of my absolute favorite parts was getting to know families through conferences, e-mails, pick and drop off time, and phone calls. It's also totally a chance for clients to get to know me. I don't take your trust in me lightly. Having someone take your photos is a vulnerable act. I want you to know that you can trust me and one way to build trust is through clear communication. You also deserve to know what types of photos your photographer offers. Is it more traditional, more lifestyle, or more documentary? Not sure what the differences are? I've got you here.
2) Style Information
This can come in different forms and some people desire this more than others. I am completely open with clients that styling is not my greatest strength, yet I am learning quickly. I also have made sure to partner with Style + Select, which is an awesome online tool to help give you ideas or even provide links to coordinated family outfits. You can see more about How to Style Your Family here.
3) Some form of a getting to know you questionnaire or conversation
I always send a questionnaire in order to better get to know my clients before a session starts. Our names are the most important words in our lives and thus it is my goal to remember each and every name. I also like to know the relationships (especially if it's an extended family session) and the main character's interests. It is super helpful to know about anyone that is camera shy or hesitant, any areas (conversations, topics, prompts, etc.) to avoid. I love to know any little bits of information that can help me build a relationship with each family member and engage in authentic and meaningful ways. Sure the session is only 20 minutes to an hour and a half or so, yet I get to stare at your lovely faces for hours while editing on top of the time we physically spend together and so building relationships is important to me. I also am not just out here doing my thing just to make a buck or two; I actually am invested in building and growing a thriving community of photography lovers whom understand the value of documenting your stories for years to come.
4) Clarity around the end result. Are you offered only a digital gallery or are you provided a digital gallery plus the ability to purchase prints, albums, and wall art?
This one is such a key when searching for the right photographer for you. What are you going to do with these images? Are you only looking for digital images so you can play them on your digital frame or print a few photos on your own time or for a holiday card? Do you want to have someone else curate your images into a beautifully designed album or print the best quality images for displaying largely in your home? Maybe you'd like a one stop shop to print gifts for family members right from your gallery. Knowing what your photographer offers ahead of time is super helpful. You don't want to walk away with only digital images to become overwhelmed at the idea of printing them yourselves. Or you don't want to feel a lot of extra pressure to buy prints if all you want is digitals from an online gallery. I personally have begun to expand my offerings for my clients in order to honor and recognize just how busy our lives are. I like to offer clients the convenience of ordering beautiful prints or an album directly from their online gallery and at the same time, I respect and honor if you have other goals in mind and will not pressure you to order more. I am here to help my clients achieve their own photo goals.
5) A fun and engaging personality who's values align with your own.
Y'all know if you need that super bubbly, outgoing, type A personality to bring you out of your shell or not. You know if you just need a calm, chill presence who doesn't get in your face. I would like to think that I, personally, fall somewhere in the middle of those types of photographers. I'm pretty good at matching the vibe (especially with toddlers) to know if I should add a lot more fun and bubbly or use my best calm and nonchalant tone for the session. I always bring a lot of fun and make the sessions all about the clients hanging out and enjoying being together. And...if you have a teenager, I can bring a "cool" vibe too. ;-) Often we don't think of needing a photographer whose values align with ours, yet photography is such a vulnerable act. You need a level of trust and alignment. What kind of causes does your photographer support? I am very clear that each month I support at least one nonprofit of my client's nomination. I also regularly contribute to Real Rent Duwamish, Westside Baby, and the West Seattle Food Bank.
6) A request for feedback and/or a testimonial.
Most photographers are going to request a review or feedback. Being a photographer can be pretty isolating and running a small business is a lot of work. You wear all the hats; marketing, accounting, shooting, editing, communicating, etc. So, hearing what it is that we are doing well is so extremely helpful. If we need a little constructive feedback as well, that's so super helpful too as we are our own bosses and sometimes just can't see what we can't see. And of course, as with all small businesses, word of mouth and ratings and reviews are the best strategy to grow our business. Your referrals and reviews mean the world to us. Well, maybe I shouldn't speak for all photographers. Ratings, reviews, and referrals mean the world to me.
7) Knowledge that they have insurance and a sound digital backup system for protecting your images.
This one is probably going to take a little more research, yet it's so worth taking the time to ask. There are a lot of hobby photographers out there. I am all for hobbiests and especially those just starting out. I've been there. And you really do want to make sure your photographer isn't going to lose your images. Imagine your gallery expires after a year and you've lost your zip file downloads. Are you able to ask your photographer to open it up again (even for a fee?)? How long do they keep your images for? If something happens to their computer or external hard drive will they have your photos backed up elsewhere? I personally keep all images on two separate external drives and I also subscribe to Backblaze, which backs up all my images to a cloud service.
What else do you expect from a photographer?
I'd love to hear from you. What else do you expect from a photographer? If you are currently in the search for a photographer and you are in the Seattle area, I'd love to connect with you. Just click here to get in touch.