Who’s the Best Photographer…For You?

A couple times a month, I’m inevitably tagged on Facebook in postings asking, “Who’s the best photographer?” Or my personal favorite, “Who’s the cheapest photographer?”  That one always makes me cringe a little!  While I totally appreciate and love the fact folks think highly enough of my work to tag me in posts like this, it also makes me realize I have a completely different view on hiring a photographer.  As a professional photographer and also as a consumer of  photography (taking pictures of your own children is like herding cats), I thought I’d share my own top five list of things I personally look for when hiring a photographer.  In no particular order…

  1. What’s their style?  Look through their galleries and really “see” how they shoot and edit their pictures.   Are they more of a storyteller –  meaning the subjects are not posed and more candid-type shots are offered?  Or, do they like traditional posing with candid poses thrown in for good measure?  Are the pictures vibrant and true to life or do they have an artistic flair?  Remember, you are going to have these photos forever – probably hanging on your walls for years.  A photographer’s style is very personal and their own look – but it should always be consistent within their gallery.  Also, there is absolutely no right or wrong when it comes to style – especially if you, as a consumer, love it.  By looking through a photographer’s galleries, you get a good idea of what you’re purchasing and how your family will be represented through their lens.  We are so blessed in Humboldt to have a plethora of photographers with so many different genres and styles.
  2. Are they legit?  There is nothing more irritating to me than someone who refuses to do the right thing.  If you claim to be a business and accept money, you need to be in the right with your paperwork.  Does your photographer have a business license?  Are they registered with the BOE?  Do they have insurance?  Are they claiming their income and supplying you with contracts to protect both parties?  I know you can argue being a legit business does not always affect the quality of a photographer’s work, however, it potentially can place the consumer in a bad situation – especially if something happens during the shoot or purchased items are not delivered in a timely or satisfactory manner.  I loathe paying taxes but it makes me proud to know I’m doing the right thing and contributing to our business community.  Support small business whenever you can – we appreciate it!
  3. How are they spending your money?  I love a good mystery but not when it comes to my photo packages!  It’s super important to know what you’re getting with the money you’re paying out.  If you don’t understand – ask!  In the photography world, it’s really split as to how photographers provide their goods to clients.  Some only provide digital files, allowing you to print on your own, while some will charge you a session fee and then allow you to buy their prints.  And even after those options, you’ll find a bunch more ways photographers supply their goods.   Every photographer does it differently and it’s up to you as the client, to find one that works within your budget while giving you the products best suited for your needs.  Photography is expensive but it’s one of those memories you’ll forever treasure.  I know when my Dad died, the photos I took of him really helped me and my family through the grieving process and I’m forever thankful for them.
  4. Do you like them?  I admit, that’s a weird statement.  But think of it this way,  you’re about to pay someone to make you look comfortable, natural and hopefully happy in photos you’re going to place on the walls of your home and office.  Is the photographer you’re hiring capable of making you feel that way?  Will your kids and husband get along with them?   Not everyone “clicks” with each other and when you have uncomfortable people, it truly shows in a photo.  Have a conversation with your potential photographer and make sure that they are the right person for the job.  When my very photo loathing hubby and I got married, my photographer’s personality was seriously something I considered foremost.  It made the whole process a lot smoother in that he “got” us and didn’t push my husband into shots he wasn’t comfortable with (which was most of them!).
  5. What are they shootin’ with?  As a consumer of photography, I don’t expect for a minute you should know everything there is to know about camera equipment – but I do expect your photographer to be well-versed.  Based on their portfolio and your talks with them, does it appear they know their equipment?  Are their portfolio pictures properly exposed and in focus?  Do they use artificial lighting or have access to a studio in case the weather becomes unruly?  These are all questions your photographer should be able to easily answer and better yet, demonstrate with their quality and consistent work.  By no means does having a studio make a person a better photographer, but it’s just one more style of photography they can offer and you can benefit from.  Also, something to consider is that an experienced  photographer who works well with their equipment will also strive to get their photo right in camera.  This will greatly reduce the amount of time for editing and culling during the post processing time period and hopefully equate for a faster turnaround time to get your products.

Remember, it truly shouldn’t be about who’s the perceived “best” or who’s the “cheapest” photographer, based on someone else’s opinion or research – it’s about who’s “perfect” for you.  Do your research and have confidence knowing you picked the right person to capture your memories.  Have a fantastic day and thanks for reading!

Lucky #14!

I’m getting ready to do my 14th (eek!) Pay It Forward shoot this coming Sunday.  I thought I’d take a minute to again share the backstory of my project and my business.  Thanks for reading!

On January 31st, 2014, my dad passed away unexpectedly from a massive heart attack. Prior to his death, he and I had done a fun photo shoot involving things he loved. I never realized how important these pictures would turn out to be, until he was no longer with us.

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With this thought in mind, I came to realize not all families have the luxury of having good, quality photos of their loved ones. Photography is expensive but it’s one of those things so greatly appreciated, especially after the death of a family member.

The goal I had with this project was to help out whenever I could. I had initially pledged to do one session a month and this quickly morphed into multiple projects. Thanks to the help of other local photographers, we’ve been able to photograph several hundred families, completed numerous fundraisers for local causes, captured (via photos) the work of many community groups and related projects, and have met a ton of awesome people. Also, we’ve able to assist the community with food and toy donations to the less fortunate while providing quality pictures to families.

One of my most favorite things I’ve come to do with my PIF shoots, is to work with our local foster care community.  I’ve met so many great kids and families; I feel truly blessed to be able to capture some of the childhood memories of these amazing kids.

I now operate a business and have a passion for photography and a desire to still help out when I can in the community. I’ve been shooting and editing for over twelve years, and want to share my experience with someone who might appreciate it.

Tending My Garden

One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned as a photographer was to stay true to myself and my creativity. In today’s world we live in an over saturated market of photographers – all with a variety of styles. And you know the cool part? None of these ‘togs are wrong because they all have an audience that loves their work.

I recently started to fall into the abyss of my own head – doubting my work and comparing myself to the styles around me. Was I as busy as them? Was I editing ok? Am I staying current enough? Am I still relevant? I could go on and on but I know the creatives out there totally get it.

The answers to these questions actually smacked me in the face last night while I was watching a boudoir seminar. The women teaching the class were pros and people I consider to be mentors to many of us. Established, confident, successful – and at times they both admitted – unsure in their abilities and sucked into that dark headspace of self doubt.

What?! Did I hear that right?! I sure did.

The answer for them was to basically tend to your own garden. Comparisons can be the killers of creatives and you must create work that fulfills your passion as a photographer. If you create just for clients it’s draining – and I didn’t realize how accurate this was until I heard someone I tremendously admire, say it.

So what’s that mean for me? I now have a bit of an inner excitement building at the thought of creating some new art with topics I love and want to explore. I may share some here or I may just keep the projects to myself.

I just know I’m not alone. No more peeking over fences – I’m off to tend to my own garden.

The Best Camera is the One You Have

I take my daughter to college next week. We’ve been doing our best to have some quality time and fun – even though my heart is heartbreaking. My daughter is my best friend. I’m so excited for her but selfishly, so sad for me.

I almost took my “big” camera last night but changed my mind last minute. Too often I live in moments through my camera rather than experiencing them. These are shots I took while “experiencing” them. It was awesome.

Ruth Lake

Over the weekend, we took the kids out to Ruth Lake.  It was so gorgeous and nice being away from home for a few days.  We did realize we aren’t meant for weekend camping – in that the drunken shenanigans from neighboring campers were a little overwhelming.  Next time it will be the weekdays for us and hopefully a trailer.  Rocks and hard dirt are unforgiving!

We rented a patio boat on Saturday and picked up my in-laws at the dock.  We had so much fun putting around the lake and enjoying the scenery.  We saw a bald eagle, two sets of momma ducks and their ducklings, and lots of fish.