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5 Tips for Choosing your Senior Photographer

Your high school senior's portrait experience only happens once ... here are some tips for when trying to decide which photographer will be the best fit for you!

Tip #1:  A professional can help you step by step.

Senior year is overwhelming to begin with -- homecoming & prom planning, college application deadlines, the social life of a 17-18 year old... it's a crazy busy year.  It's ok to ask for help - and a professional senior portrait photographer can and should guide you each step of the way to make it less intimidating.

Key questions to ask your photographer:

  • Can you walk me through the experience, start to finish?

  • How do you get to know the senior before the session date?

  • What steps do you take to make the session unique, different from his/her friends' senior portraits?


Tip #2:  "Everyone" is a photographer... 

Gordon Ramsay isn't a great chef because he has the best stove.  Give him some ingredients and a 1-burner hot plate and the meal he makes would still be delicious.  Eddie Van Halen could walk into a thrift store, plug any old guitar into an amp to play some riffs and you'd still know it was him playing.  Why?  Because they both have invested enough into their craft that the equipment they use is no longer a critical piece of what defines them as professionals.

It might be tempting to do senior pictures through your neighbor down the street who has an expensive camera, the photographer who did your friend's newborn photos, or the photographer who shot your wedding.  Being an expert photographer in newborns, portraits, and weddings are separate domains much like being a great BBQ Pit Master, Pastry Chef, or Sushi Chef - the skills and knowledge are quite different despite all being "Chefs."


Look for a photographer who, at minimum, specializes in portraits. Even better if they specialize in senior portraits.  They will know the best locations in the area to shoot, what times of day those locations have great light, how to supplement sunlight with off-camera strobes to make a subject 'pop' and how to pose your senior in ways that are flattering to them.  Those are all things that are learned with time and practice.

Key questions to ask your photographer:

  • Can I see your portfolio? (Look for portraits, especially ones that fit your senior's style and flare)

  • What kind of photography are you best at, and why?

  • What makes your photography different from other photographers I might call?

Tip #3:  "Fully Edited" does not mean the same thing to everyone.

Packages often include a certain number of "fully edited" images - but "fully edited" means something different to each photographer.  Do they make adjustments in Lightroom (an Adobe software package that has become industry-standard) by applying presets across-the-board to all the images?  Or do they take it a step further and work on each image individually in Photoshop (which has much more detail-oriented capabilities than Lightroom but can also be very time consuming)?  As you talk with different photographers, ask them about their editing process - try to get a sense of what things they look for and fix before calling an image "finished." 


While an offer like "includes 50 finished edited digitals" may be tempting, remember that these images will end up displayed in primarily 2 places: 

  1. Social media, where you might post 5, 7, 10 of your absolute favorite images to share with friends & family

  2. The walls of your home, where you might have prints made of your favorite 3-5 images from the session. 


So even if your photographer provides a large number of images from the session, only your absolute favorite ones will end up on display.

Key questions to ask your photographer:

  • What do you look for when editing an image and how do you decide when it's "done"?

  • What is your typical editing turnaround time?

  • Are there any situations where you charge extra fees for certain editing steps?  (acne removal, flyaway hairs, teeth whitening, etc)


Tip #4:  Call and talk to them.

Senior portraits are kind of a big deal, and you only get one shot at getting it right.  So take the time to call a photographer rather than emailing them - you'll get a better sense of their personality, and can have an actual conversation with them about what you're looking for. Ask lots of questions about their style, process, and experience, and, most importantly, get a sense of their personality and professionalism.  If they don't answer right away, how quickly do they call you back?  Do they seem flexible?  Engaged?  Knowledgeable about their craft?  Do they make you feel comfortable?  Do they ask you questions or just answer yours?

Tip #5:  Packages, Pricing, and Prints

You'll find several different approaches to package pricing, what's included and what's not.  The questions below will help you make an  apples-to-apples pricing comparison.

Key questions to ask your photographer:

  1. Does the advertised price include digital files or is it only a "sitting fee" for shooting the session?  If anything is priced separately or in packages ask for the details up front.

  2. Are there any additional fees for extra editing or retouching?  If so, when are these applicable?

  3. How do you handle prints - am I allowed to print the images anywhere, or do I have to buy all prints through you?

If you want my answers to the above questions, give me a call!  (See Tip #4)



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