Tuesday Tips: Hiring a Photographer

Don't panic, but Christmas is only four months away. It sounds like a long time but doesn't it always seem to sneak up on us? Aside from scrambling to get my gifts in line and my decorations in place, I always rush to get my Christmas cards ready, namely having a nice family photo taken by a professional. Mark my words: I will get it done this year. I sought the help of local photographer Greg Knott and the Professional Photographers Association for some tips on how to hire someone to take a family portrait. Here are their tips:

Tip #1: Think about what kind of photograph you want -- formal, informal or something in between. A studio setting usually produces a more formal shot and an environmental shot can be more casual.

Tip #2: Ask friends for referrals of photographers they've used. The Professional Photographers Association also has a referral service on its site that allows you to search for certain types of photographers near you. Go on their Web sites to see samples of their work. "You can get a sense of the style of work they do and see if it matches what you're looking for," Knott says.

Tip #3: Once you've gathered a list of a few candidates, ask to meet with them. That way you'll be able to see samples of their work up close. Knott even suggests asking to see prints that they're currently working on to get an even more detailed view of their work.

Tip #4: Ask the prospective photographers to describe their style and how they set up shots. Ask how you will order the prints and what the turnaround is for getting the prints back. You'll also want to know how long the photo shoot will take. If you have small children, you'll want to ask the photographer what they do to make the children comfortable or if they allow more time for diaper changes and feedings during the shoot. Ask for their prices, including sitting fees, how much they charge per print and what they charge for re-touching the prints. Find out how long they've been in the business and how often they shoot family portraits.

Tip #5: Photographers have different ways of ordering prints for their customers and you'll want to know exactly how your photographer does it. Some will show you a proof of each shot on the spot and require you to decide which ones you want at the photo shoot. Others set up a Web site where you can go in at your leisure to order prints. And yet others will send you a proof book where you can decide which prints you want. Knott says just make sure you don't forget to order your prints. "People sometimes do the photo shoot and then mentally check it off their list," he says.

Tip #6: If you're on a budget, go to the community college or your local high school and see if any photography students are interested in shooting your family portrait. Some might do it for free or for a small fee to expand their portfolio. You'll need to make sure you do most of the creative legwork, like picking out a location for your photo shoot and thinking of the way you want the shot to be taken.

Tip #7: Another way to save money is by negotiating. Knott says it never hurts to ask the photographer upfront for a discount. Some photographers will knock off some bucks if you shoot at a location closer to them. Others may be willing to give you the prints for free or for a discount if you tell them upfront exactly what sizes you want.

Tip #8: Don't rule out the portrait studios you find in the mall. Their fees are significantly less than private photographers, so much so that you could go back several times until you're satisfied and still pay less.

Tip #9: If the photographer is willing to give you high-resolution copies of your prints, consider taking them to a cheaper printing place such as Motofoto or Ritz. Just make sure you get the best quality print. Knott recommends going to five or so different places with the same picture and seeing which one has the best print of your picture. When you've figured out which has the best quality, ask who printed your photo that day and request that they do the rest of your prints.

So have you had your family portrait taken? What were some of your best lessons for hiring a photographer? Post a comment below.

By Tania Anderson |  August 26, 2008; 3:00 AM ET Tuesday Tips
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Tip #8 is spot on. Don't overlook the "mall photographers." Stop in, take a moment to look at the backgrounds and price packages, talk to a manager, THEN set an appointment - weekdays and evenings are best... weekends are war zones.

Mall portrait studios are a good bang for the buck, as long as you do your research and come prepared.

Posted by: College Parker | August 26, 2008 12:40 PM

What about event photographers? Weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. Aside from word-of-mouth, is there a referral service for those?

Posted by: just me | August 26, 2008 3:20 PM

Hiring a photographer as with anyone you are hiring, compare the results of more than one photographer ask for recommendations and study their portfolios to ensure you are satisfied with. Choosing your photographer studio envogue james dean photographer welcome t he last decision couples often make for their wedding is hiring a photographer, and it can be the most stressful. James dean photographer place a description for your webpage here experience level - has this person photographed other weddings does he/she do this for a living or for fun. Colorado photographer doug reed high-quality shots are marketing musts, so it is critical for firms to overcome their fear of cost and contract issues. Working with an architectural photographer this site also provides information on hiring the photographer for freelance assignments this site contains a variety of photo prints that are available for purchase

Posted by: hugh | August 27, 2008 3:25 PM

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