4 Questions to Avoid the Wrong Photographer

You glance at your last family portrait as you walk through the living room and you notice that it isn't your family anymore. Yes, it is your children, your spouse and even your dog, but the children in the portrait are now teens, the vibrant young dog is now a little slower and your spouse is sporting some grey around the edges. You decide it is time to hire a professional photographer and update your portraits, but how do you know if the person you hire is truly a professional photographer?


Photography is one of the easiest careers for someone to get started in. Let's face it, all you have to do is go down to a big box store and buy a box that has a camera and a lens in it, go home log onto Vistaprint and order a set of business cards. Hey, you are now a professional photographer! You have to be not only do you have a camera, you have the card that says "Skinky Dink Photography". The next step is to click the Facebook button to start your very own business page and invite all of your friends to "like" your page.

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The problem with this scenario is, I'm not making it up. You can find oodles and oodles of these "pro" photographers at the drop of a hat. The problem for you is, how do you evaluate if they are truly a professional or not? You can't just judge the images they post on a page, it is a common practice for people who portray themselves as pros, to post other photographers images as their own. You have to evaluate them through your interview with them. You have to know what questions to ask, and know what answers they should give.

4 Questions to Ask Your Photographer

  • What kind of file do you shoot? With a digital camera you have the option to shoot in jpeg or RAW. Your pro, should always, always, always tell you they shoot in RAW. There are a couple of reasons why a pro will shoot in jpeg and not RAW, but they are normally when they are shooting against a deadline for a local newspaper (for example). If they are shooting your family portraits, your child's senior session, your wedding, your baby pictures they should be in RAW. The reason why is, a RAW file contains all of the information the camera gathered for the image. The photographer has more control over the color correction, white balance and exposure with a RAW file. A jpeg file does not contain all of the data so he is limited on the edits he can make to your finished image.
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  • Do you shoot only natural light, or do you use strobes? When you hear a photographer saying they only shoot natural light, that is a secret code for you. They are telling you they do not know how to use the tools that should be in their tool box. Would you trust a mechanic to work on your car that said he didn't need wrenches? When a photographer tells you he doesn't need strobes or a flash, he is saying he has not learned to make the light work for him.
  • What brand of presets do you use? Presets are actions that other photographers have created for Lightroom and Photoshop. They will sell a bundle of their presets to anyone that will pay for them. If your pro edits with bundled presets, his finished images will have the same look, feel, textures and tones as dozens of other photographers in your area. If you settle for someone that is going to put the picture they take of your family and slap a generic preset on it, you should go back to 1988 and pay Olan Mills for your session. A real professional will use his own actions in his editing, to enhance his style that separates him from the flood of other photographers.

           The first church picture is edited with a preset, while the second is not.                                                           

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  • What do you shoot in your free time? A true professional photographer started as someone that loved photography. Every professional has a genre of photography they shoot, simply for the love of capturing the image. These sessions are not bringing in a paycheck or awards, they are simply filling the desire the photographer has to feel his camera in his hand and to look through the view finder. These are the times the true professional grows in his talent, he learns new techniques and expands his limits. This is the photographer you want to pay to make your images for you. A photographer never takes a picture, he makes it.

While this isn't an exhausted list of questions,  it is a foundation for you to learn how to save money by not paying for a bad photographer. Leave me a comment if you have any questions. Follow me on Facebook.