5 Tips to Pick YOUR Photographer

Apr 29, 2019

Looking for a photographer reasonable priced, it’s THE question. It’s a quick post to a community forum like Main Line Parent Community, we’ve all done it! So I’m going to give you the skinny from the inside. A little analogy for you, because I can’t help myself. It’s kinda like asking the question, I’m hungry can you recommend a restaurant, reasonably priced! Reccos could range from McDonalds to Cornerstone.

Let me break it down for you, there are several types of photographers.  For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to focus on family portraits. The reason that’s important is that wedding, event, commercial, real estate (and the list goes on) are all different – it’s required different equipment, workflow, insurance and training. Yes, training. Photography is an art form, so different photographers have different styles. 

Family Photographers Defined:

  • Shoot and Burn: A shoot and burn photographer takes pictures, and then gives clients digital files, depending on the photographer those images may or may not be retouched. 
  • Full-Service: Also known as IPS, in-person sales, is when finished product is provided. It’s one-stop for your photography, retouching, and finished product that typically includes albums, framed pieces, canvas and digital images.  

Another key distinction:

  • Studio: this means the photographer has a studio, typically a staff and this is typically their full-time employment. 
  • At Home: this is a photographer who works out of their home or outdoor locations exclusively. This is typically a side hustle, but not always so do your homework if that’s important to you. 
  • Lifestyle: a kind of photography that mainly aims to capture families in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner and the art of the everyday. 
  • Retouched Images: ok this is a real thing. And there are a few ways that it’s done. Some photographers do a quick retouch (usual with shoot and burn) and some fully-retouch (typical with full service). The difference is those fine lines around your eyes, flaky skin on a newborn – that’s all taken care of when an image is fully retouched. (personal note: if the photographer isn’t retouching, they aren’t pros. And anything permanent like a birthmark, moles etc should NEVER be removed – it’s what makes us unique and we’d NEVER want our kiddos to be self-conscious about what makes them special.)

Ok so now that we are all speaking the same language. What does it mean? Honestly, it still means you’re hungry and no closer to picking a restaurant. You have to determine your goals.

What’s Your Goal?

  1. Who do you want to capture? I know this sounds like a silly question. You want images of your family, obviously. But most folks don’t actually know what they want, they know what they don’t want. A few questions to ask yourself: What do you want to capture? Your kids? Your family? In their sports outfit? Dressed up?
  2. Whats YOUR Style? If you have something in mind, make sure to review the photographers work. If you don’t take a quick look at Pinterest, see what speaks to you. If you are looking for light and airy but the photographers work is dark and moody – guess what your images are going to be?
  3. WHAT do you want to capture? This is important. This is about style. Do you want to capture their tiny toes? Their little giggle? Their dimples? Their senior portraits? Do you want it posed or do you want it casual?
  4. What do you want to DO with them? Are you looking for something to post on social media? Make holiday cards? Create artwork for your home? Here’s why that matters. This goes back to the retouching. It’s especially important when you print in larger format. So if you get digital that have a quick retouch, they might look good when you’re looking on your phone but then you take it to your favorite box store and get it blown up huge and your heart sinks when you see it larger than life. If you want wall art (or even think you might), you should choose a full-service studio. They work with professional printers, who’ve been calibrated to reflect true color based on the photographers actual work, great pricing on products including framing and are ultimately responsible for the finished product. If you go with a shoot and burn you need to be the expert in crops, color and scale.

How Do You Define Value?

Ok cool. Now that you know the details, the last question how do you define value?Again, this is different for everyone. Some define value as a straight dollar value, the cheaper the better. Some define value as what you get for that dollar value. For instance, I have my groceries delivered to my house because that’s a value for me as a working mom to not have to drag the ladies to the grocery store during my day off.

An easy way to determine how you define it. Do you pay for groceries to be delivered? Do you have a food delivery company? Do you cut coupons? Do you buy less clothes that are more expensive because they’ll last, or do you buy more clothes that are trendy and less expensive?

How much did you spend on the art you have in your home? Ok, so you might have a carefully curated collection. Or you might go to Home Goods and find a piece that matches your rooms décor. Either way, what did you spend? Would you be willing to not get that piece and instead spend it on a piece of wall art of your family that will be displayed in the same place, hopefully with a little more sentiment? 

What’s the Real Question?

So, I think the real question isn’t, ‘looking for a photographer reasonably priced’.  The real question should be, is there a photographer you love and why?

Check out your friends, see who they use, do they love them? Are they convenient?  Do they have your vibe? But most importantly, did they capture the essence of the kids?

IF you can answer yes to all these questions then you should take a look at the photographer’s website (hint: if they don’t have a comprehensive site, it’s most likely not their full time job). Do they have a gallery of images that capture your attention? Are they convenient ie do they do the work for you (you shouldn’t be the one to scout a location, pay the rental fees etc). Do they have the images you want – wall art, albums etc? What happens if it’s outside and it rains?

Ok, so you’ve read this entire blog and now the spoiler. Here’s one honest answer from one portrait boutique: there is no right answer, there is no one answer, there is not one photographer (I wish there were, and I wish it was us). 

But think about these 5 things as you choose:

  1. Does the photographer match your vibe and your style? Do their images touch your heart when you see them?
  2. Do they have diverse samples of their work (not just one or two families) posted on their website, Facebook and Instagram? 
  3. Do they provide YOU with value (are they full-service so you are in and out in an hour(ish) with wall art ordered or do they provide you with all you will really use)?
  4. Are all of the images FULLY retouched?
  5. Do they carry insurance, and do they cover all the cost of the shoot (i.e. you shouldn’t have to pay to get into a place to have them shoot – that typically means they aren’t paying the location)

PS: Ok, now one caveat because honestly, I see it everywhere and it scares the bejesus out of me. If you are looking for a newborn photographer, newborn safety is key. Please go with a professional, with a studio, one that carries insurance, and is fully trained in safety. This isn’t a learn on the job or by the seat of your pants kinda gig. This is YOUR newborn. They are fragile. They need to be handled with care. There is a right way and an unsafe way. Froggy, a wonderful pose if done in composite (if you don’t know what that means, your photographer should) isn’t safe unless someone is holding the baby’s head up and then photoshopped out of it. Here’s the reason, a baby’s spine can’t support their head yet. Please, please, please do your homework.



PSS: So, I hope this blog was helpful no matter who you choose. But I hope you love us and our work, obviously! So, here’s the skinny – we’re a full-service, studio who employees three amazing photographers. We primarily work in-studio but have Limited Edition Sessions available at amazing locations throughout the Spring and Fall. We are all fully trained in not only baby safely but also baby massage (yes, it’s totally a thing). We are IPS, which means we sit with you after your session and help you select not only your images but the finish appropriate for your style and your home!  Check us out!

#xoxoivorytree  #mainlinephotogrpaher #philadelphiaphotographer #mainlinephotography #philadelphiaphotography 

About the Author

Lara Aman Mattey

Founder I Owner I Ivory Tree

Lara is the coolest person alive, according to her husband, Nick, & two little ladies, Caitie & Lorelai. But she thinks her time is limited on that statement as they continue to grow older. Lara comes from a large family, with whom she is still very close with & you’ll often see shared through the blog and on social media. She went to Penn State (We Are…) where she met Nick.

Ivory Tree's very own photographer, Marcy shot her newborn photography sessions & Lara was hooked! Lara is not a photographer, super weird, we know. But lives for the experience, creative direction, and meeting all the cool folks who come through the Ivory Tree Portraits studio!

In addition to studio awards, Lara was also recognized at a Women of Influence on the Main Line in 2023.

Follow along as she shares studio antics, personal antidotes, & fun stuff going on in the community.

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