Choosing The Right Photographer

I want to start by saying that one photographer is NOT the right one for everyone. There will be photographers that you just don't click with....you want to get along with your photographer, make sure you like their personality or you won't get the 'magical' portraits you're looking for. 
When you start off looking for a photographer that is right for you, you will have three main choices.
1. The retail chain 
2. The professional
3. The shoot and burn

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The retail chain
The goal of retail chain portrait studios is to reel you in with an AH-MA-ZING deal, like free sitting fee and a few freebies, but what are you really getting? Sure the sitting fee may be free for the first person, but what about the rest of your family?
A simple search of a major portrait studio says their special offer is 26 portraits for $7.99 - crazy deal, right?
Did you read the fine print....one pose, one subject, natural color only, additional sheets $19.99 (which are typically 8x10, my 8x10 is $15). That session will probably last 10-15 minutes and you will get 7 shots to choose from, not necessarily usable shots. If you wanted an 11x14 canvas, guess how much that is...$149.99 (want to know how much MY 11x14 canvas is...$100).


The professional
The goal of professional photographers is to create a lasting experience that yields quality portraits. There usually isn't any crazy deal to reel you in and then give you sticker shock after you're there. You are able to ask for a comprehensive price list before hand so you know what you could be investing.
Your 6 person family will probably be charged a sitting fee of $100 - $200 or maybe more and that probably will include only the photographer's time and talent. The session will typically last 1-3 hours, yes HOURS! That means you can change outfits and maybe even locations, and did you say you needed to feed your baby-there is plenty of time for that too. You will end up with 20-40 great images for you to choose from. For print orders professional photographers use professional labs and give the highest quality prints. The professional also edits with one of the Adobe programs such as Lightroom or a version of Photoshop's Creative Suite.


The shoot and burn
The goal of the shoot and burn photographer is normally to make some quick cash. Please do not confuse the shoot and burn photographer with a portfolio building professional photographer. You will probably spend $25-$50 and your session will last about an hour. You will get a CD with the images from the session, probably around 100 or so and a 'copyright' release. The shoot and burn photographer may not offer prints and if they do most likely they are printed from a consumer company that anyone could order prints from. Basically the shoot and burn photographer is like a friend with a camera...except they are a stranger and you are paying them to do what you could get with any point and shoot or cell phone. Just remember that just because they have a 'big camera' does not mean they have any idea what they are doing with it. The shoot and burn photographer typically uses free editing software such as picasa or picnik.


With all of that being said, the equipment does not make the photographer! I have seen amazing images taken with iPhones or point and shoots, and horrid images taken with top of the line pro level DSLR's.

This post is about the care and consideration as well as the intentions of the different types of photographers that you can book a session with. You may be a retail kind of consumer- if that works for you then go for it! Just like you may prefer a shoot and burn to a professional- again if that works for you then go for it!
Just know that not all photographers are created equal : in price, quality, or experience you receive.
No one can tell you what the right photographer is for YOU



What to expect:
Retail store: in and out in 15 minutes, 1-3 good images, spend $10-$300
Professional: 1-3 hour session, 20-40 great images, spend $200-$1000
Shoot and burn: 1 hour session, 100 maybe decent images, spend $25-$50
The difference is in the quality and experience. When you look back at your images on your wall how will they make you feel? Will you even remember how that day was? Will they make you smile because of the memories they bring back?
I know that when I look at my favorite images of my kids hanging on my wall, which are professionally done, I remember every detail of what happened that day and can't help but smile at the chaos that went into getting that priceless image.
When I look at the retail images from when my son was a baby all I can remember is that we only got the one image and we spent so long just waiting to be seen for a 10 minute - what felt like going through a fast food drive thru- session.
When I look at the images from when we had a shoot and burn session, those are all on my external drive - never printed because they honestly weren't wall worthy at all. I just remember that my life would be no different had it never happened.



Let's get down to recognizing good work and bad work
  
You will notice on the bad newborn image the lighting is bad and very uneven. Not to mention the use of selective color, the bad posing of the baby and the fact that the baby has a pacifier in his mouth. In the good image you will notice the nice even lighting, a serenely sleeping baby that is well posed. The good image  looks over all more put together and effortless.



Another example but this time maternity.
The bad image well....that's a dreadful color cast, she really wasn't that color-she was not an oompa loompa.
The good image has even lighting and good composition.



Notice the bad image- on board flash used, harsh shadows and that crazy oompa loompa color again. Poor composition and I could go on and on about no vision or real connection with the subjects. Of course the bad angle and posing too...I just, no.
Notice the good images- Nice even lighting, clear communication and you can feel the way the subjects feel ♥



Bad image- wow lots of bad in this one. Terrible posing, completely crumpled background, it's just really bad, like really really bad.
Good image- interesting angle and composition. Good color and exposure, great tonal range and depth.

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A note from Morgan

For all of you that are thinking OMG, she is totally bashing aspiring photographers and I feel so bad for the photographers that have their images put up on this post....don't feel bad, all the craptastic images are mine! Yes the bad images are from when I first started portfolio building almost seven years ago. Let's just say I thought I was awesome and knew what I was doing, and thank every day that someone told me I sucked...now I strive to prove them wrong :)
Every professional photographer starts out not knowing what they are doing, what you need to know is that there is a difference in someone doing it for a hobby, someone doing it for the quick cash, and someone operating a business or aspiring to do so. With each different type of photographer there is a different style and quality that you will get. A good rule is to look through your potential photographer's portfolio/website and if you love 80% or more of their current work then they may be the right photographer for you, I also suggest having a chat with them by phone or in person to see if your personalities match up. Lastly ask yourself if you would want to hang these images on your wall for years to come and pass them down through the generations to come.
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Tarkington Senior Photographer | Ashlyn

I absolutely adore shooting seniors! There is always so much personality and beauty at each and every senior session I have. The girls are definitely killing it in 2015, they are all so stunning, inside and out.






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The Woodlands Senior Photographer | Ashley

When I get a message from a client that says we can do whatever I want, I totally get giddy! This chick messaged me and she sent me every fabulous outfit possibility (even from her friend's closet) and we set up a great set of styles for session. I think they turned out AH-mazing! From flower child, to USA in honor of her brother that is a Navy S.E.A.L, from street glamour to vintage fab we rocked the heck out of every set up! You're gorgeous girl! Rock it :)


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Houston Newborn Photographer | Baby W

I just adore shooting itty bitty babies! This little dude was over 2 weeks and it was storming outside and had only two small windows to light this session, but it all worked out amazingly well :) He was so squishy and loved being swaddled. I'm always so happy to meet new clients and become their go-to gal, because it allows me to watch their little darlings grow up. Welcome to the world little man!



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How I more than tripled my clients | Part 2

Hopefully you have read Part 1, if not, go now :)
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So, now that I know who I am marketing to and what is working I need to create a call to action moment for potential clients.

Evaluate the time of year
Is it Senior, Wedding, Baby or Family season? Yes, there really is a season for each thing! As of today, December 28 it is heading out of Family season and into Senior season and will be there for the next 3-5 months. After that is Wedding season from May-September, then Baby and Family season July-December with each overlapping at times...stragglers :)


How do I create a call to action? I find a model if I don't already have one on the books. Usually, for senior season they need a kick in the boo-tay to book, like seeing someone else's rockin session! I scout a model that would emulate my ideal client's look and offer them a heck of a deal for them to model MY idea...that's right, every detail is what I want, what matches completely with the direction my brand is heading. Tag the heck out of their images and drag them out over a week and posting at varying times and on every platform. This will drum up interest for an immediate need, for both you and the client.


Let people know what your clients think!
Encourage clients to write reviews, screen shot their reactions to their images, brag about them bragging about you! People want to know that other people were happy with you, your professionalism, personable personality and quality of work. Before you drop several hundred dollars for something do you look at reviews...I know I do!  If you have trouble getting clients to organically write a review, try a reward system ie. 5% off your next purchase, $10 toward prints, etc. Sometimes, clients need a little encouragement :)

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Will your memories be seen?

One of my most treasured memories as a child was sneaking into my parent's and grandparent's closets and quietly pulling out large bins and boxes littered with dust. Inside the bins and boxes were little moments in time, long gone and nearly forgotten...pictures of people and things past. Faded images of my parents as children, my grandparents, great-grandparents and plenty of people that I had no idea who they were filled my childhood. Even though I would sneak in and find the places they gathered, I always ended up pulling them out and taking them to my elders and asking about the people in the images, who they were, what it was like and every little detail about that time. I'll admit, it really made my parents and grandparents light up and reminisce with me about days long gone.


Do you get your pictures printed? I know, we all assume the internet will be around forever. That smart phones, back ups and everything in between are infallible and that's how we will look on things from the past...but what if it's not. What if tomorrow, Facebook was hacked and it was all gone, forever. What if the cloud fails, what if your phone kicks rocks? Do you have printed pictures? I'll admit it, I'm guilty of not getting pictures printed often and that has to change! For me, for my children and grandchildren I will get pictures printed! I want them to sneak into my closet and pull out boxes of faded, dusty old pictures from when I was 20, or they were tiny little babies. I want them to run into the living room, box in hand asking about their cousins in the pictures, or the house we used to live in. I want them to remind me of what was, at the same time making me grateful for what is.


Will your memories be seen? Or will they be forgotten, left to rest on a hard drive or cloud until it's purged forever. Print them, hang them, store them just let them be seen, let your memories be remembered.

Did you ever do this as a child? Maybe you do it still....I know I do.
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Cleveland Engagement Photographer | Adams

During this busy season, I rarely take last minute clients, sometimes I make exceptions :) I've known this guy since he was about 4 years old, and I can't believe he is about to get married! Congratulations you two, you are an absolutely adorable couple and I wish you a lifetime and more of happiness!


 

 

  

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Conroe Child Photographer | Raegan

Can you believe how absolutely adorable this set up is? Little Raegan's momma totally came up with this idea and came with an SUV full of goodies for her 2nd birthday session. We trekked down to a little river in the woods and set up shop, however, Raegan just was not interested at all! Hooray for smart phones and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse! (I swear it has saved more smiles that I can count)






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Conroe Baby Photographer | Jake2

I've known this gorgeous couple for ages! I was so honored when they contacted me to photograph their maternity and new baby shots of their little J2. I visited them and snuggled with their fabulous new little guy in their home, which was warm and full of love for their new little guy :)






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How I more than tripled my clients | Part 1

In 2013 I moved over 200 miles away from my very established clientele, that was terrifying! My family moved from a town of approximately 500,000 people to a town with a whopping 7,000 residents. Our previous town had a great, stable economy and sadly our new one is quite poor. So, how did I go from 17 paying sessions in 2013 to 83 and a wedding in 2015, all w ith no rep or referral programs. I listened to my clients, I put myself in their shoes and rocked the heck out of every single session!

I know, you want to know more...grab your hot cocoa and a comfy seat, you may be here a while :)



I asked questions & listened
I don't mean that I made small talk, I mean I asked the meaningful questions I needed to know. I asked each new client a few questions.

1. How did you hear about me?
     I asked how they heard about me because I wanted to know what was working and what wasn't.
2. Have you ever hired a professional photographer before?
     The typical answer was yes, so why not hire them again?
3. Why me?
     This answer was mostly that they were unhappy with either the experience or the images from the previous photographer.

Once I knew those answers I KNEW what I had to do.
I knew I had to quit wasting time where it wasn't fruitful. I knew I had to make my clients laugh at every session. I knew I had to make it feel easy and planned. I knew I had to follow up.


So, how did I figure out WHERE to share my business? I made up a person in my head by asking myself a few questions. You can do this right now!

Is my ideal client that I am trying to catch their attention a woman or a man? 
Woman
What does my target person do?
Stay at home mom, or just starting a career

Are they married or single?
Married

Do they have kids?
Yes, 1-3

How old are they?
25-30

What are their priorities?
Kids and social mom life

What is their average annual income?
$75,000-125,000

Where are they online?
Facebook

Now that I know where and who to look for, I do it! Where does my target client frequent? Since she is a mom, she is at her child's school. She is also always on FB, because in a small town they are often technologically behind the times, so IG and Periscope aren't quite the it place to be...yet.
Step 1: Contact local PTO to volunteer a gift certificate for a fundraiser
Step 2: Contact local Senior group to give cards at next parent meeting
Step 3: Join local FB groups and share fanpage link
Step 4: Once you get new client, make sure to tag them online
Step 5: Find local boutique and ask to partner, or at least leave cards 


What made me think I could outshine the other local photographers? Nothing, I can't beat anyone else...I am no better than any others. What I can do, is make my clients feel like I am their only choice because they couldn't dream of working with anyone else.

I am honest with my clients. I let them know I am busy, this way they know that my time is valuable and that every piece of information I share with them is important. This is from the moment they contact me all the way through their session and after. I find that my clients are in the same boat, wearing many hats and corralling several little darlings.

I prepare them. I have a client catalog that covers what-ifs, full cost disclosure, their next steps, wardrobe, make up, tips and everything else they could possibly need to know. At the session, I walk them through it step by step. Hand here, chin here, relax, elbow here (I don't do crotch shots) lol.

I let them know I value their input. I don't simply say 'your session will be here at this time' and just wait for the day and show up. I ask them their style, I have them make or view a Pinterest board and we discuss locations, colors, feel, etc. I show them different ideas on outfits, why things work and don't work. We talk about everything so that they can be proud of their memories on the wall.

I am their girl! Women are the hardest critics of themselves, they hate this or that and no matter how amazing everyone else is in the picture...if mom isn't happy with how she looks, it won't go on the wall! At the session I tell mom how to pose, and more importantly WHY. For example, put the weight on your back leg and bend your front knee (I then show the difference with myself), I show how it creates a much nicer line. I tell her, I show her and I honestly rarely EVER need to tell her again :)


If you start with a handful of clients, make sure they are full prepared, feel comfortable with you and themselves, make sure that they feel well guided throughout the entire process. You can begin to spread your business via word of mouth and be too busy to breathe in no time :)

Want to learn even more? Check out my Discover You program.
Stay tuned for Part 2!
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Houston Couple Photographer | Johnson

This absolutely stunning couple contacted me for anniversary pictures, I was so excited! They asked to include their fur babies, and told me that they felt they were very difficult to photograph (both the people and the furry friends)...they were so wrong! The pups were amazing, and the couple, to die for!






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Houston Boudoir Photographer | Woman

I love shooting boudoir! Typically when a woman contacts me for boudoir images she is either doing it for someone else or for herself (or a mix of the two), they are excited but EXTREMELY nervous....heck, I would be too. I adore helping her shop for the perfect, most flattering outfits. More than anything though, when we're at the session and I flash the back of the camera toward them and let them see how absolutely stunning they are I see a piece of their 'sexy' come back that she was sure was long gone. I love that, helping women rediscover their own beauty.





Want your own fabulous MKP Boudoir session? Book now :)
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