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5 Tips on choosing a photographer

Updated: Jul 11

japan photographer for hire
Photoshoot at Osaka Castle, Japan

If you're here, there is likely an important or joyous occasion that you would like to document and remember in the years to come. Be it a proposal, micro wedding, honeymoon, vacation, or a milestone in your life. Congratulations!

Professionally taken photographs serve as an invaluable souvenir. A good photographer may even make your precious occasion even more memorable. However, choosing a photographer that'll satisfy your needs may be a daunting task. Maybe you don't know where to start, are not sure what to look out for, or are feeling overwhelmed by the many choices out there.

As a professional photographer, and having been a photography client before, here are my top 5 tips on how to choose the right photographer for you!

There are many different styles of photography. This means that there's a perfect photographer out there for everyone. To determine if a photographer is perfect for you, you first have to ask yourself, "do I like the photos I'm seeing?". Below are some pointers that will help answer that question.

Observe the editing style. Some popular editing styles are cinematic, vintage film, 90s film look, dark and moody, high contrast, Korean style. Do the photos align with your preferred style? If so, is this style consistent throughout their work? I find it important that a photographer is consistent in editing style, as it demonstrates that the photographer is confident in his work and artistic direction. This allows clients to have a higher level of trust from the get-go.

Observe the mood(s) that the photographer has captured in their portfolio. Are they joyous, moody, whimsical, etc.? Each photographer has their own way of directing a photoshoot. As such, identifying whether the photographer tends to a certain mood or is good at capturing certain emotions can be helpful for your selection process. For example, if you want to photograph a honeymoon with joyous vibes, a portfolio showcasing ample amounts of joyous expressions would be favourable to your decision making process. Although a strong indication of a good photographer, this may not be a deal breaker. Be sure to speak with your photographer to ask if he/she is able to capture the mood you are looking for. You can also ask to be shown any relevant work that may not be posted on their portfolio.

japan photographer for hire
Photo shoot at Lake Kawaguchi, Japan

2. Personality

It is important to understand the personality of the photographer, as choosing one you have good chemistry with can help you feel comfortable during the shoot. This could help subjects who are camera shy or have less experience in photoshoots to express their emotions more naturally.

Having a photographer that can create an environment for you to have fun and be comfortable in will enhance the very milestone you wish to remember. The intimate moments captured are just one frame of a beautiful experience.

The best way to ascertain this, in my opinion, is to schedule a chat. You'll then be able to ask all the questions and doubts on your mind. If you leave the chat feeling confident, then you're in good hands.

3. Customer journey

What your journey as a client looks like is equally as important as the photographs delivered. Before committing yourself to any photographer, it's important to understand what your journey with them will look like, should you engage their services. It would also be good to know how flexible the photographer would be if plans change, especially for surprise proposals or during bad weather.

Here are some potential questions.

  • What would the pre-event planning look like?

  • How will you communicate, and how prompt?

  • What would the flow of the photoshoot day be like?

  • What happens if the plan is deviated (common for surprise proposals)?

  • What happens during bad weather?

  • What is the editing lead time?

  • How will you receive the photos (USB/digital album/etc.)?

Most of these would be answered during the quote, but if they aren't, don't hesitate to ask.

4. Budget

Now, for the age-old and constant question, "how much should you pay for a photographer?".

There are many factors that influence how a photographer values his/her work. Such as equipment, skill and experience, unique style, attention to detail during editing, the list goes on.

Regardless, I find that it's easier not to view the charges as a cost, or just an absolute number. Instead, think about value.

When we think of something as being expensive, we're not really considering how much it costs, but how much value it means to us. We are thinking about whether we're getting the most bang for our buck. If something is of no value to us, we will still find it expensive regardless of how low the cost relatively is. For example, a book on productivity hacks for $10 may be a steal, but a dummy's guide on internet basics for $10 is hopelessly expensive since it most probably poses zero value to us at this stage.

Apply the same concept when it comes to choosing a photographer. Consider his/her portfolio versus the price he/she charges. Do the photographs speak to you? Does the style match your vision? Is the photographer someone you foresee having loads of fun with? Bearing this in mind, are you getting a lot of value for that price? If you are, then though the amount stated may have seemed high at first, the price may not actually be that expensive.

What is key, is how much you value the photographs that you will receive. Price itself isn't that much of a concern, if of course everything is within budget.

I have seen people settle for a cheaper option, only to regret it later on. You can't relive moments damaged through disappointing photographs.

5. Availability

The perfect photographer, for you, is so hard to come by, and their schedules usually fill up quick. Now, fingers crossed that your schedules align!

Most photographers operate on a first come first serve basis and require a deposit for them to reserve the date, or a range of dates. As such, once you've found one that checks all the boxes, it's highly recommended to book them early to avoid disappointment.

Sometimes, you may also come across a photographer whose work you thoroughly love, but they do not operate in your venue of interest. In such cases, be sure to ask the photographer on his/her flexibility on the photoshoot location and/or what it takes to make it work.

6. Bonus tip!

Now that you’ve successfully decided on your photographer, all that’s left to do is to relax and trust your judgment! You have selected your photographer based on evidence of their expertise, professionalism and maybe even personality. So, entrusting the process to them will allow them to shine in their craft.

If there is anything you're worried about, leverage on your photographer as an experienced resource. A good photographer will give you the comfort and confidence to be your true and best self on the photoshoot day.


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