They say it takes 10,000 hours of experience for someone to become a master of their craft/art, so ask how much experience the photographer has. Be sure to ask to see an extensive portfolio of their work. Ask them what some of their favorite shoots or sessions have been. Do they have a degree in photography? Are they certified? Are they a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America)? PPA photographers abide by a strict code of ethics and have unique skills and training in the artistry and technology of creating beautiful images that will reflect your unique personality and talents.
Some photographers’ styles are more retro, some may be more “sexy,” some edgy like in a magazine, some photojournalistic, some more classic and clean…which one appeals to you? You can get a good idea of a photographer’s style by checking out their website and viewing their senior picture image gallery; but it’s a good idea to ask them about it too! When you look at a photographer’s portfolio, look for images that speak to you and that you can see yourself in.
If a photographer does not offer you an in-person consultation to get to know you and understand your needs, you may not want to hire him/her. This is valid whether the photographer has a studio or the meeting happens at a local coffee shop or in the comfort of your own home. A meeting is super important because you need to know if you’re going to click. Feeling comfortable during the photo session is the most important thing—if you don’t like the person behind the lens, it will show in your pictures. This is the time to ask the photographer lots of questions. See how friendly and knowledgeable they are. Do they communicate well? Do they seem accommodating and flexible? Pros should encourage you to bring along anything that represents you – musical instruments, athletic gear, dancing shoes, purses, pets and BFFs! When you’re relaxed and comfortable around someone, you become more natural in front of the camera, allowing for great pictures.
As you shop around, be sure and ask for samples of full sessions (not just a small selection of the best). Photographers can shoot hundreds of images, but may only get three that are good. You don’t want to be limited to just three choices, do you? That’s why you need to see an entire session to tell if the photographer is consistently good, or just lucky every now and then. When you look at an entire gallery of images, picture yourself in the photos. Are these the types of images you want? Is there enough of a selection for your tastes and desires?
You only have one chance to capture your senior year. Make it count! Most people don’t know that photo/portrait printing is an art that takes tons of experience to master. Take a look at the photographer’s canvases, albums, wall portraits, and keepsakes like phone cases, key chains, etc. If they can’t show you examples of each, there is a good chance they don’t have the experience or expertise that you deserve. Remember that printed products last forever. Insist on a full-service photographer who gives you prints instead of a CD that is just going to end up at the bottom of a drawer.
Try to remember that your senior portraits are an investment, rather than an “expense”. These are images that you (and your parents!) will keep forever, so go into the selection process with an open mind, but make sure you understand what you are paying for. Is it just for the session or does it also include prints? How long is the session, where will it take place, can I wear more than one outfit? How many proofs can I expect to receive? How are the proofs delivered and how long after the shoot?