Look, there are A LOT of photographers out there. I'm well aware that I am just one of many. When you do a search for a photographer in your area, there could be dozens, hundreds, if not thousands, of photographers in your city to wade through. So where do you start when finding a photographer? What questions do you ask to whittle down your options? The good news is that with so many photographers, there is a good chance you will find the perfect one to cover all of your needs. This post was created to help give you some ideas on what to consider through your search, and useful questions to ask so you can be rest assured your photographer is a good fit for you beyond just pricing!

women holding onto fiance's arm rainbow flower wall

1) What do they photograph?

Let's say you are looking for someone to photograph your surprise proposal, or maybe your yearly family portraits? Look through the photographer's website to see if they offer sessions for that genre of photography, as well as examples of that work. You want to be sure they have experience in the subject they are photographing. Someone who may only have pictures of weddings or food photography displayed on their site or social media, may not have experience managing portraits of young children. There are so many types of photography out there, and most photographers pick the niche they enjoy the most and specialize in that. Scope out the ones that specialize in what you are wanting photographed.

family photos next to pool

2) Do you like their photography style?

A photographer's style is like their signature. Photographers spend years trying to hone in their editing to be consistent and represent the aesthetic that appeals to them the most. It is crucial that you look through all of their recent works, portfolios, or even blogs. Make sure you love the colors, tones, and framing of the photos of the photographer you choose, because that is what you should expect to receive. If their portfolio seems as though all of the photos look incredibly different: maybe some are soft, while others feel grungy, or some are very warm when others are cool and blue? You will have to decide how important it is for you to get a specific look out of your photos. But I CAN NOT STRESS ENOUGH how important it is to find a photographer who has a photo style in place that you really enjoy. Most photographers will not completely change their way of shooting or editing photos to mimic the stylings of the photographer you "wish you could have hired". If you like dark and moody, find a dark and moody photographer. If you like light and airy, find a light and airy photographer. I know this may be more difficult to accomplish in a more rural area with less options or less range in budgets, but just be aware that what you see is what you should expect to receive. (I know I repeated myself there, but it's worth driving that point home.)

Keeping in line with the "style" topic, beyond the colors, contrast and tones of their photos; are you looking for more posed or candid shots? Do you want your photographer to focus in on little details like a close up on holding hands, or do you want to see more of the big picture scenes? Do their photos tend to be more fun and playful, serious and regal, or passionate and steamy? Those cues could also tell you a little about the vibe of the photographer themselves.

girl in pink dress siting on stone staircase

3) Plan ahead!

Do you have a "deadline" for when you need your photos? You may need photos for a "Save the Date" or your yearly Christmas cards. A very important question to ask any photographer is what their turn around time is for your final images! Some photographers may have your photos ready within days, some may take weeks. Those times could also fluctuate based on their busy or slow seasons during the year. When it comes to planning your session, the sooner the better usually. Many photographers start booking family Christmas sessions as early as October. You will want to take into account things like your photographer availability, potential weather reschedules, editing turn around time, turn around time with the printers if you need prints, and delivery time if you plan on sending out things like printed invitations or printed gifts using your photos. During your photographer's busy season, they may not be able to rush your images, especially if they have several client sessions ahead of you to edit. It's better to give yourself that extra cushion of time if at all possible.

couple laughing on couch at Laguna Gloria

4) Do you and the photographer "click"? (pun intended)

I don't have the perfect recipe on how to check whether your photographer passes the "vibe check" or not, but you may want to ask yourself if they give you a good feeling when you are communicating. Are their responses timely and thorough enough for you? You could check out their "About Me" page on their website to see how they describe themselves and their business. You may follow them on social media to see if they post behind the scenes or personal stories about themselves. My suggestion is to consider whether or not you would want to use this photographer for all of your future photography needs. If you plan on taking family photos every year, or need regular photos for your business, it is a great feeling to build a relationship with your photographer. When you feel like a friend is taking your photo it's more likely you will look comfortable and more natural during your session. That is especially true when choosing a wedding photographer. You will be spending almost more time with your photographer than you will your spouse on your wedding day. For that reason alone, I also suggest using the same photographer for your engagement photos as you do your wedding photos. Just trust your gut as well as you can. And if you feel any sense of doubt, maybe look through the photographer's reviews to see what others have liked or didn't like about their experience with them.

bride and groom in front of Cathedral Oaks event center

5) The technical questions.

Let's say you have done all of the above, but just want to be sure you are asking your dream photographer all of the important questions before you officially book. Here are a few questions that may be important to what you are looking for:

- "What all is included in my package?" You don't want to be blindsided by additional fees after you have already booked. Some photographers have additional fees for travel, purchasing digital files, purchasing a "license" for use or printing rights, some may even have a pint order minimum. Every photographer runs their business and set up their packages differently. It's best not to assume anything, and ask about these things directly.

- "What is your file backup system like?" This is especially important if you are asking someone to photograph a moment or event that you will not be able to recreate. (Such as a wedding). Does the photographer have a dual card camera? Do they keep the photos backed up in more than one place? How do they deliver your photo? If via online album, how long will that album be available?

- "Can I print my own photos?" There are some photographers that are boutique style studios. They typically only allow you to order prints through them and not through another vendor. If they didn't already mention it when they told you what all was included in your package, it is a good fallow up question to ask.

- "Can I get the RAW files? / Can I edit them myself?" I'm gonna say about 95% of the time the answer is going to be NO to these types of questions among photographers. I personally have it in both my contract and terms & conditions that no raws are given out, and no photos can be altered by the client after delivery. In all honestly many photographers take offense to someone slapping an IG filter onto a photo they spent a good deal of time editing to match their style and quality of work. If an image is altered like that it is no longer a representation of their work. It's like wiping an artists signature off of a painting. If someone sees their friend's photo that they had altered, absolutely loved it, and reaches out to the photographer... they will be very disappointed that their photos don't look like their friend's photos. As a photographer, that is the last thing I would want to happen. If, for whatever reason, it is important for you to get unedited or RAW files, that is something you will need to ask a photographer BEFORE hiring them.

photographer sitting in wicker egg chair with camera

I hope something about this post was useful to you in your hunt for the perfect photographer. And if you happen to be in the Austin, TX area, I would be happy to see if I am the right fit for you! Either way, you now know all the strategies and hard hitting questions to include in your photography inquiries.

Happy searching!


Sierra Marie