How to Hire a Professional Photographer


With the ubiquitous cell phone, it’s unlikely that a day goes by when your child isn’t the subject of a candid shot. Professional portrait photography, on the other hand, is certainly not an everyday occurrence. So whether you’re a parent, grandparent, school director, or principal, it pays to do your research. If you’re going to go for it (and you should) we’ll help you do it right!

Start Googling: Look for Portraits that Move You

The internet is a wonderful, marvelous research tool. Brew a nice strong pot of coffee, and enjoy window shopping from the comfort of your couch! Check out local portrait studios and photographers online to get a sense of what you like. Does the studio or professional specialize in the kind of portrait you’re looking for? Is the quality of their editing and posing consistently high? Do they capture something special about every subject? When you find your favorites, bookmark the contact info of your top professional portraitists and studios. You’ll be reaching out to them very soon!

Make a List: Focus on Photographers

Once you’ve identified your top contenders, think about your priorities and your concerns and develop questions for your candidates. In fact, think of the process like hiring a new employee — you want to make sure you’re getting what you want and what you’re paying for. Here are a few great topic areas and questions to get you started:

  • Ask about your photographer’s equipment
    • Most professional photographers shoot digitally these days; so, if your candidate is using film, make sure it’s for the right, artistic reasons and that it’s appropriate for your shoot.
    • If you’re booking an indoor photo shoot on location — at a school, for example — ask photographers about their mobile studio and lighting.
    • For outdoor engagements, make sure that your photographer has a plan for naturally bright or dreadfully dreary days.
    • Make sure they’ve got a back-up plan! Things go wrong, it happens — no biggie…assuming your photographer has second set of equipment to fall back on.

  • Assess their responsiveness and demeanor
    • If you left a message, did they respond promptly?
    • Were they easy-going, respectful, and personable in their conversation? If they can’t put you at ease over the phone, they’re not going to do any better in person!

  • Know what you’re getting into
    • Ask your candidates if they have a “theme” planned for the session or if it’s a standard shoot.
    • Are costumes your thing? If so, ask! If not, make sure that you can act as your child’s stylist.
    • Does the photographer include styling and makeup in the session? If so, be clear about your preferences for your child.
    • Bottom line: you’re in charge and you’re paying! Make sure you’re getting what you want.

  • Talk about money and to ask for references
    • Ask about rates and package costs. If one photographer or studio charges dramatically less, be wary and try to determine the reason.
    • Experienced photographers and legitimate studios will be happy to put you in touch with happy clients. Don’t be bashful, reach out to them as well!
    • If you’re trusting your minor with a photographer, ask if they have experience with children and if they have the appropriate clearances and background checks to work with kids.

Read the Fine Print: Understanding Your Rights

We all do it, we all skim the fine print. In this case, it pays to pay attention. As we noted earlier, you don’t hire a professional portrait photographer every day; so, take the time to read the contract closely. Understand what will happen in the event you or your professional is forced to cancel. Some questions to ask include: If you’re completely unsatisfied with the shoot, what are your options? How will your photographs be delivered, digital or print? Will you have to sort through every shot, or will they select the best options for you? Is digital editing included in the fee or is it extra? If your prints are poorly processed, fade, or degrade over the years, will the studio stand behind them?

Sitting for a professional portrait should be fun and exciting! Take charge, do your homework and enjoy the process. More than anything, treasure those portraits!