How to Find a Good Portrait Photographer

a photographer holding a camera capturing someones photo

Ready to be the star of your own photoshoot? That’s the fun of portrait photography, especially today. Portrait photography has shifted from something stiff and formal to something more accessible and enjoyable. People are investing in portrait photography for everything from elevating their professional presence with a great headshot, to creating a keepsake family photo you can treasure for generations.

But you don’t want just anyone snapping these photos. That’s why it’s so important to spend a little extra time and effort to find a good portrait photographer.

What Makes a Good Portrait Photographer

Photography as a hobby has exploded in recent years as equipment prices have become more attainable than ever before. But that doesn’t mean anyone with a good camera can produce exceptional photographs.

portrait of a lady posing in a rose garden portrait photo of a lady in red

Portrait photography is a niche skill in the industry. It makes sense when you think about it. For example, someone who specializes in real estate photography knows exactly how to light large rooms and find angles that maximize space. These skills are the opposite of what you need for portrait photography. 

That’s not to say they couldn’t take a decent picture of you. However, a good portrait photographer studies and understands people. Instead of a static room, they’re working with the thoughts, feelings, insecurities and nervousness of real people in the moment. This proposes a whole host of challenges, in addition to the usual considerations. 

Let’s take a look at what a good portrait photographer can bring to the table.

Put the Subject at Ease

Even the most carefree person can be awkward in front of the camera. If you’re feeling stiff and self-conscious, it’s going to show in the photograph. An experienced professional portrait photographer is adept at finding ways to put their subject at ease, finding little ways to get them to loosen up and get out of their head to grab that perfect pic. 

a candid portrait of a lady in black hat and red background

This is especially true with family portraits. We all know that asking kids to stay still and pose is never going to work! A family portrait photographer is comfortable working with kids and bringing out their most adorable side for the instant needed to get a picture.

a family photo for 4 laying on the grass

Has a Signature Style

While photographers can mimic other styles, portrait photographers tend to develop their own unique flair. It could be the way they choose settings or lighting. It could be the mood of the photo (artistic and serious versus fun and light). It could be a signature way of editing final photos. 

Can Improvise on the Spot

No matter how well planned a shoot is, a portrait photographer must always be ready to capture an unexpected moment that leads to something truly special. You could discuss poses for hours beforehand, but you never know when real life will bring you an even better option.

a family photo of 4 in a wheat field

Photo credit: Robin R

How to Find a Good Portrait Photographer

To find a good portrait photographer, you may want to start by asking your friends, family or co-workers for referrals. Given how popular portrait photography has become, it’s likely you’ll get a name or two out of this.

But if the idea of just casting a wide net through Google or Bing doesn’t sound very appealing, Photobooker can make the search process a lot easier. Forget combing through website after website and submitting endless requests for pricing—we’ve done all that. Instead, you can just input the type of photography you need, when you need it and where you’re located, and you’ll get a curated list of photographers with listed prices, portfolios and even customer reviews. You can even filter the results by budget!

Most importantly, you want to find someone who is truly a portrait specialist. You may love a photographer’s landscapes, artistic commercial shots or architectural interiors, but you likely won’t be happy with the pictures they take of you. Look specifically for portrait photographers with experience shooting what you want, whether its professional headshots or fun family snaps.

a professional portrait photo of a lady in formal clothing

How to Choose a Good Portrait Photographer

Once you’ve amassed a selection of photographers, it’s time to get down to the business of actually choosing who you want to work with. Here are some tips to make that a little easier.

Find a Photographer Whose Style You Love

We talked a bit earlier about how photographers tend to have a signature style. This is one of the most important decision factors in choosing a good portrait photographer. Whether you start out with a vision in mind or simply gravitate towards someone’s style, you definitely want to make sure to choose someone who has the aesthetic you want in a portrait. Some examples are:

  • Editorial/photojournalistic – here, the photographer is looking to capture unposed, in-the-moment photos
  • Studio portrait – the more traditional style. This is also popular with newborn photoshoots.
  • Fine art – let the photographer’s true artistry shine through
  • Edgy – explore unconventional angles, viewpoints and framing for a completely original look

Check Their Portfolio for Consistency

This can help weed out unscrupulous photographers who might have “borrowed” someone else’s photos to put on their website. Look for consistency both in the quality of the photos as well as the types of reviews from people who have booked them.

Interview for Personality Fit

Regardless of a photographer’s talent, you really want someone you/your family is going to feel comfortable with. Have a phone call or meet in person if you can to just chat about what you’re looking for, their experience, their process, etc. Get a feel for who they are as a person and what they might be like to work with. If you just don’t feel it, it’s probably time to move on to the next one on your list.

How Much Do Portrait Photographers Charge?

You’re going to see a bit of a range in pricing for portrait photography. A lot of factors go into that price variability including:

  • Single portrait vs family portrait
  • Length of shoot (for example, a family session takes longer than a headshot)
  • Location of shoot (studio versus other setting)
  • City location
  • Photographer’s experience
  • Number of final photos you want

Let’s also address some questions we hear a lot from people choosing a good portrait photographer.

How much do photographers charge for family portraits?

On Photobooker, we have hundreds of family portrait photographers located around the country. On average, you’ll find rates anywhere between $75 to $300. Again, it all depends on the different factors involved from length and location to how long a photographer has been in the business.

Do you tip a portrait photographer?

Tips are not mandatory, nor are they generally expected. But if you are exceptionally pleased with your experience, tips are certainly welcome and appreciated. Let’s say, for example, your family portrait encountered rain, a rambunctious dog and an unhappy toddler but your pictures still turned out great. Or the photographer went above and beyond to capture an incredible portrait. Use your best judgment, but a tip is always a nice reward for a job well done.