5 Red Flags when You're Looking for a Photographer
You've found a photographer whose images you love. What's next? How can you be sure that this photographer is going to give you a truly professional experience from start to finish? We had the honor of collaborating with five amazing portrait photographers from across the country to go over 5 red flags that you should look for when searching for that perfect photographer. Find their advice below.
Red Flag #1:
Not Communicative / Lag in Response
"If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs for weeks just waiting to hear back after inquiring with a photographer, that’s a clear signal that the communication and customer service is a bit off. The photography process has a lot of back-and-forths: the chats before, during, and after your session. And heaven forbid, if something ever goes haywire with your photos or your order, you’d want it fixed in a jiffy! If a photographer’s first response takes ages or seems to dodge your questions entirely, that’s a red flag for some bumpy communication ahead. A trustworthy professional will be quick to respond, and when they do, they’ll be friendly and thoroughly interested in serving you. In most cases, you’ll even be invited to a longer consult call for deeper discussions and getting to know one another before the session. Let’s be honest: first impressions do some serious talking. So trust that gut feeling, and stick with a photographer who’s interested in YOU and your story."
-Daisy Zimmer from Daisy Zimmer Photography (Ohio)
Red Flag #2:
Price is Too Low/Too Much is Offered
"I know what you are thinking, shouldn’t that be a green flag? Let me explain! We all like a good bargain but not at the expense of quality. These days everyone has a phone that takes great pictures; I am sure you do too! However, when you hire a photographer you are paying for their eye, their expertise, their ability to color correct your images after the shoot, their skill at positioning you in the best possible light and during the best time of the day, and their ability to bring the best out of you and your family. In other words, you are paying for a professional. Paying below a certain amount often means you are getting amateur work. After all, working as a professional photographer is very costly. Camera equipment, insurance, the constant need for new props to keep up with trends, backdrops, paying assistants, studio costs: these things add up and if those costs aren't reflected in the price, then you have to wonder at the experience and skill level of the photographer. Of course, we all start somewhere and when I started out 13 years ago my prices were lower but over time as I became more practiced and my business grew, my prices went up because the value of my work was worth it. So when someone charges significantly lower prices than their competitors, pause for a minute and think why that could be the case. Is it worth paying less money but in the end regretting not getting the images you wanted? There is a reason you aren't just using your phone! These are memories to treasure for a lifetime and if you miss them they are gone. Spend for the photographer that speaks to you!
I often hear from people that they went with another photographer because they included ALL the images. Let me be frank here, no one needs all the images. My job is to give you 20 great images, not 100 mediocre ones. It may take me 40 shots to get those 20, it may take me 400, but the end result will be 20 amazing photos you will treasure forever. I spend time with each of those 20 photos, adjusting the color, smoothing out the background, and fixing small flaws. Professional photographers that have been in business for a long time know what it will take and cost them to deliver flawless images to you every time. They also know it is impossible to deliver all images from one session without making sacrifices in the quality department. So they focus on a select few to show you the best of the best – and that is what you want from a session. You don’t want mediocre and you don’t want to pay for it either. When choosing your photographer price is an important factor, and there are different pricing tiers that work for different budgets, but make sure you don’t sacrifice the outcome just to save a few dollars. The saying “you get what you paid for” very much applies in this situation. Invest in the best photographer that you can afford over the one that will give you everything for less. You will be enjoying these photos for decades, sharing them with friends and family, and handing them down through the generations to come; don't shortchange yourself."
-Ute-Christin from Ute-Christin Photography (Connecticut)
Red Flag #3:
“I LOVE Dogs!” (or babies, weddings, etc)
"What does that even mean? Does the fact that you love dogs and you might be good with a camera mean that you can photograph them? Nope! There is a LOT more that goes into pet photography than being an animal lover. Just because someone loves dogs doesn’t mean they can run a business around their love for dogs.
Pet photography requires setting up a safe environment for a dog and knowledge of dog behavior. Your dog photographer should be able to sense when your dog needs some space or needs a little break. You aren’t hiring them to be your dog’s best friend. They should be able to share knowledge with you on how they work with anxious dogs or dogs that need a bubble of space and don’t want to be pet or given attention.
What is the process like? Will there be other dogs and distractions around? Can we choose a quiet location? Is it ok if my dog is leashed? My dog doesn’t love people… can we still get photos?
These are important questions for you to ask, and your pet photographer should be confident in each and every response. You should feel at ease, too. A pet photography session should be fun AND safe for both pets and their people." -Darlene Woodward from Pant the Town Photography (Massachusetts)
Red Flag #4:
"Specializes" in Everything
"A photographer can't "specialize" in everything. And if they claim to, this is a red flag. Here's why:
While the principles of photography may be the same in all different types of photography (ie: composition, exposure, etc.), the nuances of photographing different types of sessions are very different. It requires a very different set of skills to photograph a newborn versus photographing a non-living landscape. Heck, it even takes a very different set of skills to photograph a newborn wrapped and posed in a studio versus photographing the same newborn in the context of their family in their home. Specialization, by definition, means that the photographer is an expert focused on one particular subject or service. If a photographer is claiming to specialize in weddings, families, seniors, newborns, and dogs -- then, by definition, they're not specialized at all. They're generalized. (To be fair, I don't think there's anything wrong with being generalized -- the problem is when someone is claiming to be specialized when they're not)."
-Leslie Castleberry from Novita Family Photostories (Nebraska)
Red Flag #5:
Little to No Online Presence
"When searching for your perfect photographer, it is important that they have an established online presence, a professional website, and positive reviews from past clients.
Having an established online presence, such as social media profiles, or search engine pages (ie: Google) allows a photographer to showcase some of their very best work. You can easily determine if they are serious about their business simply by viewing the work that they have already completed.
Another important piece to consider is how professional and informative their website is. A well-designed website shows professionalism, as well as shows credibility to how invested in their business they really are. Along with an extensive portfolio showcase, a website will also offer full contact information, making it convenient for clients to reach out if they have any questions. Important information such as services, pricing, availability, and any specialized areas of expertise are often showcased on a photographer’s website as well, which can be extremely helpful for families who are looking for a photographer that will match their vibe perfectly.
Positive client reviews, or lack thereof, can also be a red flag when choosing a photographer. Photographers more often than not share client reviews and testimonials, which helps build trust among potential clients who are seeking validation of the photographer's skills and professionalism. Not being transparent with past client experiences can leave you with an uneasy feeling, just as well as reading through a laundry list of positive reviews can help you in your final decision-making process.
An online presence, a professional website, and positive reviews are vital tools for photographers to establish credibility, showcase their work, and connect with potential clients. The absence of any one of these can indeed be a red flag, signaling a lack of professionalism, transparency, and accessibility that clients commonly expect from modern photographers."
-Jennifer Brandes of Jennifer Brandes Photography (Minnesota)
Thanks for reading! You can find these 5 photographers along with over 1,000 more across the country on our photographer directory.