How to Choose a Family Photographer

Getting professional family photos taken is a great way to capture a special time in your life. However, when you do decide to get family portrait photos taken, you do not want to waste your time or money hiring the wrong photographer. With so many photographers out there, it can actually be quite difficult to choose a family photographer that is right for you.

So How Do You Find the Right Family Photographer?

You likely have some ideas on how you want your photos to look like but how do you turn your ideas into reality? Finding the right photographer is the key to creating the memories you will cherish for a lifetime. 

The first step is discovering a style of photos that you enjoy and think will be a good fit for your family. Your photographer will provide suggestions but the clearer you are in describing what you like in a family picture the more likely you will be happy with the photos from your shoot. 

The best way to find inspiration is to browse photographer’s portfolios of family photos. Mark the ones you like and then review them to see if certain styles, e.g. outdoor natural light or staged costumes in a controlled setting, are consistently picked. If one style dominates then you have a starting point for finding the perfect family photographer. 

Once you’ve found the photographic style you like the next step is searching for a family photographer near you. Making use of social media pages, search engines, referrals, and websites like Photobooker.com  will give insight into the kinds of photographers that are available near you.

Once you have an idea of your options the next step is asking the right questions to find the right photographer for you. In this article, we’ll look at what questions you should ask a potential photographer, and discover how far in advance you need to book your family portrait photographer.

How Much Does a Family Portrait Photographer Cost?

A large part of choosing a family portrait photographer comes down to cost. When figuring out your budget for hiring a family portrait photographer, there are some considerations to keep in mind. One of those considerations is the different classes of family photographers. There are four general classes of family portrait photographers out there, namely:

  •     Novice or new photographers
  •     Department store photo services
  •     Independent photographers
  •     Professional portrait studios and photographers

 Each of these different classes of family portrait photographers will have their own pricing ranges. In general, the expertise and type of photos you would like for your family portraits will be the biggest factors in determining the overall cost. .

Novice Photographers

Novice photographers are among the least expensive options when it comes to choosing a family portrait photographer. Often new photographers are in the process of honing their craft and are looking to build their portfolio, making the photo experience mutually beneficial to the photographer and your family.

One drawback of hiring a novice photographer is that they do not have the same level of expertise as other classes of photographers. However, for roughly $50 to $100 a session, choosing a novice photographer can be a great option for those who are budget conscious. 

Department Store Photo Services

Department store photo services are a great option for families looking to get an in-studio, professional look out of their family portraits. Another benefit is department store photo centers often have sales or promotions which can save you a lot of money.

Some department store photo services advertise photo shots for as little as $20. However, you should be mindful that those starter packages are often extremely limited in the photo options and items not included in the sale or promotional packages can be much more expensive. Also, the photographers in the department store may not be very experienced, meaning the quality can suffer sometimes when you choose this option.

Independent Photographers

Many independent photographers have years of experience and can produce images to your exact specifications or provide ideas for the perfect shoot.  Of course, you will likely end up paying for that expertise. To hire an independent photographer for your family portraits, it will likely cost between $300 to more than $1000.  

Professional Studios

Professional studios are a mix of what a department store photo center has to offer and what an independent photographer does. Professional studios only employ expert photographers to ensure high-quality photos and an enjoyable family portrait session. 

Professional studios often have the ability to change the setting of the photos while remaining inside the studio. But sometimes you can hire a photographer from the studio to venture into an outdoor setting. In general, professional studio photographers roughly charge $350 to $1500 a session.

Other Cost Considerations

There are a number of factors beyond the type of photographers that can dictate the price of the family portrait session. Other considerations include: 

  •     Editing costs
  •     Extra prints
  •     Desired location
  •     Time of year
  •     Tip

Whether you decide to tip your photographer is up to you, but tipping a family portrait photographer is becoming more common. Basically, tipping your photographer is not required, but it is always welcome. That being said, some types of family portrait photography experiences do not warrant a tip.

In general, since many photographers are self-employed, tips are much appreciated. But the long and the short of it is that tipping a department store photographer is not required, whereas tipping an independent photographer is often the implicit expectation. When it comes to tipping novice or professional studio photographers, that is up to your discretion. 

What Questions Should You Ask a Potential Family Portrait Photographer?

After deliberating over all of the different family portrait photographers out there, you likely came up with a shortlist of potential photographers that you would like to hire. 

In order to find the perfect photographer for you, it is important to take the time to ask questions. Taking a moment to talk with the photographer will not only give you more insight into how they run their business, but it will also help you discover if you mesh well with them and if the chemistry between the photographer and your family will work out.

Having good chemistry with your photography is something that will come through in the family portraits. Meshing well with the family portrait photographer will make the difference between a stiff photoshoot and a more natural, comfortable photoshoot that will bring about beautiful photos.

 In general, there are 9 questions you should ask all family photographers before hiring them:

  •     How much will the session cost?
  •     What is included in the fee?
  •     Is there a contract?
  •     How long will it take to view and receive the photos?
  •     Is retouching and color balancing included?
  •     Will the photographer assist in shoot preparation?
  •     What style does the photographer specialize in?
  •     What is the duration of the session?
  •     Does the photographer have experience working with children?

By asking these questions, you can get a better idea of who and what you are working with. For example, if you find out that two of your shortlisted photographers specialize in your preferred style of photography but only one includes retouching and color balancing in their package, then the choice is basically made for you.

Finding a photographer that covers all of your bases is only discovered through interviewing your prospective photographers. Of course, you can go beyond the 9 baseline questions to help narrow down your choices but make sure to start with the basics.  

One question that will likely give you the most insight into what the photographer is like is asking what style they specialize in. Unlike some of the other questions, this question is open-ended, meaning they have to provide a more detailed answer than a simple yes or no.

Asking an open-ended question is a great way to help determine if that photographer is the kind of individual that you want to work with or not. Remember, since chemistry can make or break a family portrait photography session, it is important to take a moment to ask these sorts of questions.

How Much in Advance Do You Need To Book A Family Photographer?

After figuring out the style of photos, your budget, the available family photographers near you, and the questions to determine fit, there is still one last consideration to keep in mind when choosing a family photographer⁠—what is your timeline. 

Having a timeline in your head will help you figure out how much in advance you need to book a family photographer. Of course, how far in advance you have to book can vary quite a bit depending on a number of factors:  

  •     If the photos have a theme (holidays, summer, etc.)
  •     If there is a specific location you want the photos taken
  •     How popular the photographer is
  •     The class of photographer you want to hire

These factors all play a role in figuring out your timeline and how much in advance you need to book your family portrait photographer. For example, if you are looking to get some nicely lit outdoor photos taken, then you likely want to plan ahead so that your photos are taken in summer.

In-demand independent photographers are often booked for many months in advance. As a general rule of thumb, you should contact family photographers 4 months in advance in order to ensure a smooth booking experience. The more popular the photographer and the busier the season is the father in advance you will need to book. 

This also plays into the type of theme of the photos you with your family portraits to have. If you are looking to have a fun, family holiday photos taken then your timeline needs to reflect that fact that these photo shoots have to be planned many months in advance.

The class of photographer that you want to hire will also play a huge role in how much in advance you need to book. Independent photographers are discussed above but let’s take a closer look at each of the other classes:

  • Novice photographers often do not need to be booked too far in advance. As they are just starting out, their schedule is not as filled out as an established family photographer near you. In general, you need to book a novice photographer 3-4 weeks in advance.
  • Professional portrait studios often need more notice than novice photographers but usually less than in-demand independent photographers. Try to book a professional portrait studio 6-8 weeks in advance.
  • Department store portrait centers often require the least amount of notice out of any class. At times you can walk in and get a family portrait session done on the same day. Nevertheless, try to plan 1-2 weeks in advance.

To put it simply, when choosing a popular independent family photographer, you need to think months ahead. However, if you choose to go with a less experienced photographer, a professional studio, or even a department store photo center, then you do not need to give as much notice.

In Conclusion, hiring the right family photographer may seem like a daunting task but with a solid game plan and tools like PhotoBooker, it’s not really that hard. Follow these guidelines and you will have memories you can cherish forever 🙂  

 

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