Photographers are like Doctors in that they are trained in the field of photography but they do have different specializations. For instance, you would not go to an ear doctor to have your foot looked at. It's the same with photographers. You wouldn't want to schedule a newborn photographer to photograph your wedding. Choose a photographer that specializes in the type of photography you need.
I specialize in portraits so weddings are not something that I shoot. That's a whole different ballgame. However, I would be more than happy to refer you to wedding photographers in the area that I know will capture beautiful images on your special day!
There are different styles in photography as well. I myself have a soft, rustic editing style that leaves images with sun-kissed warmth. Mostly because I prefer shooting outdoors in the wide open. There are other photographers who specialize in more edgy dramatic lighting for sports portraits and there are photographers who specialize in the simplicity of portraits that are traditionally posed in front of backdrops. It just depends on what you are looking for when it comes to the portraits that you want to display in your home.
That brings me to another difference. What photographers offer. There are different levels of photographers and what they offer you as far as service and products.
Shoot & Burner: This photographer is generally a novice in the field and just starting out. They will offer you one flat fee for the shoot and all of your images on a disc unedited. Granted, it can be cheap this way but you do get what you pay for in this instance. There is no guarantee the images will be color correct or even focused properly. You will have a disc with numerous images on them but if they aren't edited, you may have to deal with photographer mistakes like the wrong cropped angle, white balance too cool or too warm, tilting of the image, etc. You also see every little thing that's out of place because there is no retouching to fix tags, blemishes, lipstick on teeth, fly-a-ways, etc. They will offer you one product only, that's a disc with all of your images on it. They won't even help you with printing education or that it matters where you print your images.
Standard Portrait Studios: Like Portrait Innovations or Olan Mills. These are nice studios as they have the potential to be a cheaper option still but again, you will get what you pay for here. They will do very minimal editing such as color correction. There are lines you have to wait in even if you make an appointment weeks in advance because they have a strict scheduling regimen in order to make their daily quota. Every session is allowed 5-10 min of camera room time, that's it! The rest of the time is spent waiting or being hurrying through the print screen as you try to choose the images you want. Not to mention the cranky kids because the lights are bright and hot and they have already been sitting still for 30min waiting for get their picture taken. This can absolutely be a painful experience but worth it if you'd rather spend less. They will offer you mostly small prints below 11x14. They do have larger prints and frames available but they are pretty pricey. They also have novelty items such as key chains.
Boutique Studios: These are the local photographers who've taken the time to step out of the standard portrait studio regimen and open their own studio. They spend more time with their client and it is a more relaxed environment. That means, happier faces on children and less stress on Mom. Most boutique style studios will offer a good deal of editing from color correction to removing blemishes. It depends upon the photographers skill set and what they've been trained to do. They will be able to offer you more customizable items such as USBs with your family images on them, frames, canvases, wraps, metal prints, wood prints, albums, etc. It depends upon what they've chosen to offer their clients.
On-Location Photographers: Most studios will only shoot in or around their studio. Very few will do on-location shoots. Photographers who shoot on-location have a broader range to offer their clients. Especially when it comes to customizing the session to the client. They plan the session around the client from start to finish and there are no stuffy rooms client's have to sit in or wait. They can also come to your home, which makes like a lot easier, especially with newborn babies. The babies are already comfortable with being in the home and the parents don't have to chance taking the baby out into a studio filled with germs. They generally do the same level of editing as the boutique photographers. This type of photographer is definitely more expensive than the standard studios but well worth it if you value your time and the finished products delivered by hand. This is a level of customer service that standard studios cannot offer.
Large Scale / Well-Known Photographer Studios: Photographers like Sue Bryce or Sal Cincotta that are world renowned for their skill and art. They are considerably more expensive but they are masters in their craft. They are held to a higher standard and they have a team of professionals working with them to edit your images into masterpieces.
So your first decision needs to be...what are you looking for? If you are willing to sacrifice quality for a cheap price, then standard studios are an option for you. If you would rather spend a bit more and have amazing quality, then boutique or on-location photographers are your best bet. If money isn't an issue and you want to spend the extra money to get the absolute best images possible, then the well-known photographers are the way to go.
The next decision will be the style/specialization of the photographer. So let's say you've chosen the middle range (boutique photographer). Then check out a few local photographers who have their own studios or who work On-location. Ask them questions about what they specialize in like newborns, seniors, families, weddings, etc. Ask them about their editing skills. Will they be editing your images fully or just minimally? What type of products do they offer? Some will offer prints only but others will offer albums, framed wall prints, USBs, canvases etc. You are going to want a photographer who offers what it is you want specifically.
The final decision needs to be made after putting all of this information together. Talk with the potential photographer you wish to hire and explain to them what you want or need out of the session. Don't be afraid to ask them questions. They are there to educate you in their field. Ask them about print options, album options, announcements, etc. Don't be surprised when you ask for the price first and they redirect your attention to the product. Yes, they heard what you asked. They simply want to explain what they offer before putting a price on it. Just give them a moment to explain what it is they can offer. They might also ask you a couple of questions first in order to better understand what you need so they can give you a more accurate price.
Never be afraid to ask questions! Photographers are skilled in their field for a reason. They will be more than happy to help you with the process and explain the reasoning behind certain products or styles of shooting. If I'm not the exact photographer that you are looking for, I'd be happy to recommend you to another local photographer who fits your needs better. In the end, I want you to have the best experience possible.
Have a blessed day ^.^
Christa N. Reed