5 Things to Consider when Hiring a Portrait Photographer

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In a time when your online profile is responsible for making most of your first impressions, having a professional portrait of yourself is paramount.

But how do you hire a portrait photographer who can capture you in a way that you want to be portrayed? And what are some of the key questions to ask yourself when looking for a portrait photographer?

These 5 tips are by no means a definitive guide but they may get you one step closer to hiring the right portrait photographer for the job!

portrait photographer

Studio vs. Location

One of the main things to consider when hiring a portrait photographer is whether they work out of a studio or shoot on location. Natural light photography is a totally different ball game to studio photography and this decision will probably have the single biggest impact on the aesthetic outcome of your photo shoot.  

The answer to whether you should hire a portrait photographer who shoots studio or location is completely dependent on what you are trying to achieve. Are you an entrepreneur looking to communicate creativity and professionalism? Or a model looking to create a diverse portfolio? Then probably a studio is best. Or are you an author looking to show your love for natural history? Or an architect looking to showcase your work? Then perhaps location is best for you.

Ask yourself – What message am I trying to send and what is the best environment to frame this?

Full Creative Team vs. Solo Photographer

Just as constructing a beautiful house requires more than just a builder, taking stunning portraits requires more than just a photographer.

A professional photo shoot normally involves at least 4 unique skill sets:

  • Photographer: Responsible for lighting and positioning the model as well as operating the camera. Generally for portrait photography the photographer will also direct the photo shoot.
  • Hair & Makeup Artist: Most portraits are not overly creative with hair & makeup however having a professional HMUA on set is crucial for achieving that high-end look. 
  • Stylist: There are many different types of styling however generally for a photo shoot the stylist is focused on the outfits and how they fit into the picture. A photo shoot stylist may also get involved with the background, sets, props and accessories. 
  • Photographers Assistant: Works as an extra set of eyes and hands for the photographer. Holding wind machines and reflectors, changing memory cards, and anticipating the needs of the model and photographer.

Ask yourself  Do I want the full shebang with professional hair & makeup done and advice on what to wear? Or am I happy with a more low-key one on one experience?

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Be Part of the Art

Flat Rate vs. Price Per Image

 Some portrait photographers charge a flat rate for a photo shoot. I.e. $3000 upfront for 20 hi-res images. Other portrait photographers charge a booking fee up front and give you the opportunity to buy images at the end. This is what we call a ‘viewing session’.  

Pro’s of paying a flat rate: Easier to budget. No nasty surprises!

Con’s of paying a flat rate: You are stuck with the images even if you don’t like them.

Pro’s of paying per image: Flexibility in pricing.  Only pay for images you want.

Con’s of paying per image: May end up spending more than you initially budgeted.

Ask yourself – Would I rather know exactly how much I’m going to spend or have the flexibility to choose based on the results? 

Male Photographer vs. Female Photographer

While this factor is not important for everyone, some people feel more comfortable working with a female portrait photographer. This is particularly common when working with children or when doing a boudoir photo shoot.

For some people working with a female portrait photographer is an additional safety measure. For others it’s a personal preference. Posing for a portrait photographer can be a confronting experience and therefore you want to do everything possible to feel comfortable on camera.  

Regardless of whether you hire a portrait photographer who is male or female, it is important to check the photographers credibility and reputation. This should be easily scoped out online and if there is any doubt then bring someone with you to the photo shoot or don’t go at all.

Ask yourself – Will I feel just as comfortable posing for a male as I will a female?

Quality vs. Quantity

Every now and then I get a client say “How come you charge $295 for a single image when there are other photographers who charge just $450 and give you the whole memory card..?” The answer is simple:

No self-respecting portrait photographer is going to give you their memory card with every image from a photo shoot.

Portrait photography is an art and artists have too much pride to release their un-edited, un-curated work to the world. Can you image a film director putting every failed take onto Netflix? Or a journalist sending every scrunched up draft to their editor? It is no different for a portrait photographer. 

Unlike some things, the value of portrait photography is intangible. It comes from the joy that it brings people and the admiration it evokes. Would the Mona Lisa be valued at 600 million dollars if Da Vinci had painted 1000 of them? Would diamonds be so desired if they were as common as quartz?  

Quality and quantity do not go together.

Ask yourself: Would I rather 10 portraits that I LOVE or 500 that ‘aren’t bad’? 

portrait photographer

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