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Shopping for a photographer: red flags + things to ask about

Mar 10, 2020

Photo Tips, Planning

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You probably have 12 cousins, 2 aunts, 5 uncles, and 400 friends who are photographers. Everywhere you look you can find someone with a camera trying to make a little money.
But here’s the thing—just because everyone you know is a photographer, doesn’t mean they’re all good photographers or even worth paying for.
That sounds a little harsh, but it’s true. I believe that every photographer has a place, but not a place for every person. What does that mean? What you think is “quality” and what someone else thinks is totally different. What you think is “expensive” someone else thinks is reasonable.
It’s so easy to compare us. And sure, there are usually similarities across the board, but even that is a little bit of an overstatement. We are all so. very. different. Different styles. Different business models. Different price points. Different knowledge. Different personalities. Different norms. Just so many things are different from photographer to photographer.
And you might think, what’s the worst that could happen? I’ll just pick someone and the photos will be fine.
Let me walk you through some things to be aware of when shopping for a photographer. These are scenarios that have not only actually happened, but happen more often than you realize. (My DMs on Instagram flooded with stories from each of these scenarios. It’s crazy, y’all!)
Things that can go wrong:

    1. Worst-case scenario—you pay for photos and never get them. It sounds crazy, y’all, but this happens too often. Yes, your worst-case scenario happens so. much. more. often. than you can imagine.
    2. You pay for photos and they aren’t what you expect (The quality isn’t what you thought it would be; you didn’t get the types of images you thought you would; The images are ugly, blurry, weird; etc.)
    3. Your photographer is rude / causes more stress
    4. You only get half of what you expected (number of images, things missing)
    5. Your photographer never shows up (This is probably a close second for worst-case scenario, but at least in this case there’s a chance for you to find another photographer. It would be very easy if your photographer doesn’t show up for a portrait session, but if it’s your wedding—my best advice is to get everyone you know to JUMP on Facebook and ask for help in finding a photographer. You’d be surprised at how many people would be willing to help you if you were in that situation. So don’t hesitate to ask Facebook if your wedding day comes and your photographer is a no-show. At that point, any pictures would be better than none.)

Yikes! Just thinking about all of these things makes me want to just scream to the world: YOU CAN TRUST ME!! I WOULD NEVER!!! I just can’t even imagine this. People are nuts.
So, what can you do to make sure none of the scenarios ever happen to you?
Here are my best tips and things to look out for:

    1. Ask your photographer if they are licensed and insured. It’s not offensive to ask this. Ask ask ask! Their response to this question could tell you a lot about them.
    2. Are they willing to talk to you on the phone or in person? People who just want to steal your money probably won’t do either of these things. Probably.
    3. Will they show you a full gallery from a recent wedding or session? A portfolio on someone’s website or Instagram account is veryyyyyyy different from an entire gallery. In a portfolio, you’re only seeing the best of the best. But not every photo every photographer takes is going to be their absolute best. What you really want to see are the not-so-good photos. And you’ll find them in a full gallery. If you can browse a full gallery of images and think, “wow, yes! This is good. This is what I want.” Then you’re set! But if you view a full gallery and think, “Yikes. That was a really bad angle” or “Hm there are a lot of not great pictures in here” then you know this photographer isn’t the one for you.
    4. Last but not least, ask to speak to their previous clients! This one sounds kind of strange, but it’s the #1 way to ensure you’re getting the photographer that is being represented to you. A photographer might lie. Photos on websites can be stolen. Reviews can be cheated. But talking to a few of someone’s past clients is a hard thing for someone to fake or slight you on. It’s not weird in other industries to ask for client references, and it isn’t weird to ask your photographer for a few either. Chances are they will have clients willing to talk to you and tell you about their experience!

I hope this is helpful. Finding a great photographer for YOU can be so hard. I know. I’ve been there too. I’m always happy to help—whether that’s being your go-to photographer, or even just helping you find someone that fits what you’re looking for. I know a bunch of photographers too, and I’m happy to help you find the perfect one. Don’t ever hesitate to ask!

My passion is in documenting the lives of our families well (mine and yours), and teaching you how to do it too. Follow along as I share photography tips, inspiration, and beautiful portraits.

hey! I'm Karly

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  1. Roxanne says:

    Love this post Karly!! 100% agree with all of it!

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