Last week I had a photo shoot with the lovely Tina Cleary (see my earlier blog post about it)… Choosing Tina was very easy for me. I’ve known her for quite some time, I love the work she does and most importantly we have a wonderful connection on personal and professional level. I knew I’ll be able to relax and let go of all my insecurities during the photo-session with her. It was a very pleasant and fun experience and I love the photographs that came out of it…

That experience made me think that not everyone has a personal photographer friend, so I decided to share some tips on what to look for when you are choosing a portrait photographer.

Tip 1.  Portfolio. There are many different styles in portrait photography. You could end up looking very different with different set-ups. Look up some images on line and think about what type of photographs do you like, and what sort of look would you like to create? studio or natural light? colour or black and white? contemporary or more traditional? Make sure you’ve seen the portfolio and you like the style of the photographer’s portraiture work. If a photographer does not have anything to show you, it would be a reason for concern.

Tip 2. Personality. Everyone is different and that’s why only you would know if the photographer’s personality is right for you. Perhaps you are a bit quiet and a need someone very bubbly and outgoing to relax you? or maybe you are very confident and chatty and a more reserved photographer with great listening skills will suit you better? Liking your photographer’s personality is the first step towards liking your experience of being photographed. A portrait photo-session is all about connection, so don’t feel bad to say no to someone with whom you are not feeling it.

Tip 3. Technical Skills. You may like the person very much, but that alone is not sufficient. You would want to entrust your portrait to someone who understands the technicalities of portrait photography and will be able to bring out the best of you. By using different lighting techniques and correct posing, your photographer can enhance your facial features and perhaps “hide” some of the imperfections. Ask some questions about the session, how will it go, how will the photographer prepare for it? You could also ask what qualifications the photographer has, and how many years of experience. Though having a qualification is not compulsory in the UK,  photographers who have taken the trouble to get a qualification can guarantee a certain technical standard (compared to many new-ish /amateur photographers).

Tip 4. Passion. When you speak to photographers, do they appear passionate? do they love what they do? Passion is contagious, and it makes you feel excited and special… If a photographer seems bored or indifferent, how do you think you’ll feel during the shoot? If you can’t feel any enthusiasm at the time of your first contact, it’s very unlikely that it’ll suddenly appear when you are in front of the camera. You would want to work with someone who loves what they do!

Tip 5. Pricing and deliverables. Not everyone lists their prices on line these days, but any photographer you speak to should be able to give you a very clear answer in regards to pricing, deliverables and timelines. Are you getting prints or digital images? Will they be professionally retouched? Do you have to travel to the photographer’s studio or will the photographer come to you? How quickly will the photographs be ready?  If you are buying a package/responding to a special offer, you should be able to gain good understanding how much it would cost if you go beyond what’s included. If a photographer is not open and clear about the pricing, there might be some unpleasant surprises ahead.

Tip 6. Location. When you are going for a portrait photo-session, you probably don’t want to travel too far…The location should be easy to find and you should have clear directions about getting there, parking, etc… The closer and easier it is to get to the studio/session location, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Most of my clients are local (up to 45 minutes travel to my studio, though I’ve had a few clients travelling 2 hours and longer to get to me, it’s more of an exception)… If a photographer is travelling to your home, check if there be any extra charges for photographer’s travelling?

Tip 7. Co-operation. Creating a portrait is a joint effort…Your photographer should be able to guide you on what to wear, what to bring and how to prepare for your session, depending on the type of portrait you are doing. If a photographer is leaving it all up to you, unless you are perfectly clear about what to do,  you may wish to choose someone who could guide you in your choices of clothes, accessories, colours, props, etc. You want to feel that the photographer main priority is to make sure you look amazing and you are working together to make it happen!

Tip 8. Personal connection. Portrait photo session is a very intimate experience.. Even with perfect make-up, lighting and the best camera in the world you won’t look great if you don’t feel relaxed…. that personal connection is the secret ingredient that makes a portrait truly beautiful and captivating. If you feel comfortable in the presence of the photographer, you will have much greater chances of looking your best.

Tip 9. Testimonials. If you don’t really have a chance to speak to the photographer or get to know him/her in advance, then look for testimonials…Recommendations is a great way to shortlist the best photographers in your area.  What do people say? Are there any reasons to be concerned? Any established photographer should have many testimonials on their website, social media, etc. etc…. do a bit of homework before making your final choice.

Tip 10. Gut feel. If there is something inside you that does not feel right, listen to it! Choose someone who makes your feel good… Gut feel is not necessarily logical, but it’s usually right. A portrait photo-session should be a fun/positive experience. If something is telling you that you won’t enjoy it, just move on and choose someone else.