Every year I look forward to “senior season”. It’s my favorite time of the year! As a professional, I am often asked from friends, and sometimes potential clients, “What are the best ways to go about finding a photographer for my child’s senior pictures? There are so many!” they say. It is true. Since the digital age has taken over, the industry has been booming. There are not only brick and mortar studios but boutique, home-based studios, like mine, which also offer full-service options. This just adds to the confusion. My advice to them is this; make sure that no matter who you select, you take the time to do your research first, in order to make an educated decision and select the photographer that is truly right for you!
First: Do you want a professional? Is it important to you that your photographer is a professional? There majority of senior photographers are not part of PPA and are not certified and they are fabulous at what they do! For me, PPA membership is essential. PPA offers it’s members a host of incredible benefits including equipment and liability insurance, continuing education (both for skills and business education), professional certifications, marketing/promotional tools & support, amazing networking opportunities and chances to work with and learn from some of the top professional photographers in the country. They provide ongoing research, education and communication to help us all stay current on our amazing and ever-changing industry. Annual membership does not come cheap, but to me, it’s valuable, so I incorporate it into my annual budget. My business is important to me and I value my clients and my relationship with them. I want to be able to continually grow, both personally and professionally, so I can be the best photographer and business-owner that I can be. PPA helps me do that. My membership with PPA is also acknowledged by my clients and for these reasons, I feel that it sets me apart from my competition.
Second: Are they licensed and insured? Often, people forget to inquire about this aspect. There are a lot of people out there who are running photography businesses from home. There is nothing wrong with that! It saves on overhead costs by eliminating costs for rent/mortgage. However, if your business is legitimate, and you are servicing customers, you should be licensed and insured. Example: I book a senior portrait client and we shoot in-studio and then on location at the Henry Ford Village, for example, and that shoot results in a final proofing gallery of over 60 AMAZING images. I then experience a data loss of some sort (knock on wood!) and I have no protection of any kind against that type of loss. My customer is then, well, you know….(SOL). Insuring my business not only protects me, but also protects my clients. As a business-owner, it is my responsibility to be insured.
Third: What is the experience like? You may think that all you want are “pretty pictures”, but if I had a dollar for every person I have talked with who said how frustrated they were with another photographer due to poor service, lack of attention or lack of follow up, well, I’d be rich! Customer service is everything. Period. I spent 25 years working in retail as a manager/HR Director. I want you to sit back, relax and allow me to manage the experience for you. That’s what the consultation questions are for. Let’s ensure that we get it right up front so everything can go smoothly when your photo shoot day arrives. In life, it’s the little things…and we work hard to manage all of those little things so you don’t have to! What do you get to do? Relax…Have fun! You only get one chance to have your “senior portrait experience”! Don’t you want it to be something that you’ll remember forever?
Fourth: What type of products do they offer and what is the quality like? Most studios offering quality portrait art products will have packages ranging anywhere from $600-$3,000. So, it’s in your best interest to know what you want and then plan to spend a little time searching for the right photographer that ticks all your boxes. A good photographer will make themselves available for an in-person consultation, give you a tour of their studio, show you samples of their work and answer all of your questions prior to making a commitment and booking a session. They should never require you to make a deposit in order to complete a consultation. Also ask about minimum order requirements; some have them, and some don’t.
Lastly: What is their personality like? Connectivity is important. Do you seem to have a connection? Does the photographer seem fun and outgoing? Do you enjoy talking with them? Are they open and engaging? Are they asking good questions and are they listening to your responses? Do they seem genuinely interested in learning about you and meeting your needs? You need someone that you feel comfortable with, who will be easy to talk with and make you feel comfortable, so everyone involved will be relaxed enough to just be themselves. If you feel a good “vibe” with the photographer, that connection will go a long way throughout the experience.
The bottom line is that when faced with the task of finding a photographer, you should treat it just like any other major decision (like finding a new dentist or a new bank)…Do your research, collect all the data and find the one that’s right for you. Basing this decision soley on price will not result in the best match for you. Have an idea of what things are most important to you before you start looking (ie: service, quality products, communication, creativity, price, product guarantee, payment plans, turnaround time, etc..) In the senior portrait market, your total investment can be large. But this is also a very important, monumental time in your life that deserves to be documented by a professional, so you owe it to yourself to choose wisely.
Not sure exactly what to look for or what to ask? I’ve got you covered! HERE’s a great “Top 10” list from some of PPA’s professionals, to help get you started.
In the market for a senior picture session any time soon? Feel free to give me a call for a consultation. There’s only one way to find out if my studio is right for you…I’m always open for a consultation/studio tour. Plus, I love to chat and my fridge is always stocked! 734.391.8662.