Notice: What you are about to read really happened to me two nights ago.
Me: Hello, Thank you for calling Rebecca LaChance Art & Photography. Rebecca speaking. How may I help you?
Caller: “How much do you charge for senior photos? I’m just calling a bunch of photographers to find out who's the cheapest for my son’s senior photos.”
Oh, gee…the opening sentences that every professional photographer dreads. Through further conversation, I determined the caller was feeling a time crunch to get those senior photos done. And, she wasn't completely sure what services/images she wanted. She hadn’t been to my website nor my Facebook page to see which type of photography is my specialty.
I don’t know how many photographers were on her list, nor how many she had called by the time she got to me. What I do know is, she needed a method to make her search more efficient and satisfying.
Maybe this information will help.
Tip #1 - Plan ahead
The soonest you can find and contact a professional photographer, the better. If your child is starting her senior year of high school - start looking immediately. Don’t wait until one or two months before the graduation date.
Professional photographers are busy. They have clients already on their books and may not be able to fit you in for a photo session as soon as you desire or need.
Professional photographers are artists. They want to produce the best and most artistic work for you. They want all their art to be something your family will cherish forever. It’s not possible to churn out artwork like widgets under tight time constraints.
Professional photographers work with other professionals, such as printers, to produce your final product. Spring is a very busy time for printers what with all the photography competitions, engagements, weddings and other senior images being printed. You may not receive your final images as quickly as you desire or need.
Tip #2 - Determine EXACTLY why you want the images.
What do you want to remember about this time in your child’s life? What is so incredibly special about your child that should be documented for your family, friends and future generations?
Are you celebrating this right of passage in your child’s life? What story does your son or daughter want to tell about themselves? What do they want the world to know about them?
Once you determine the exact reason you want the images, it will be easier to choose your professional photographer. And, your odds of being satisfied with the final art pieces will be increased as well.
Tip #3 - Build your list, then research, research, research
Do a Google search for local professional photographers. Professional photographers specialize (i.e., weddings, newborns, portraits, seniors) so you can search for the specialty you need. Ask friends and family members about their experiences and recommendations for professional photographers.
Your next step is to start researching the professional photographers on your list. Go to their websites and look at the images on their websites.
Do you see any Senior images?
Do you see any mention of senior photography or senior packages?
Do you see any images of teens?
Do you like the style of images you see on the website?
Is there a description of what your experience with the professional photographer will be?
Step two and three, go to the professional photographer’s Facebook Business page and Instagram page. (You can usually find the links on the professional photographer’s website.)
What do you see? If you like what you see, it’s time for Tip #4.
Tip #4 - Call the selected professional photographer for a conversation
Please do not start the conversation by asking what the professional photographer charges. When the first question is, “How much do you charge?” the professional photographer’s brain jumps to the thought, “This person doesn’t care about the art. This person is bargain shopping.”
We understand costs may be a concern for you. Many professional photographers have a payment plan. Most often, you will find a reference to payment plans on the photographer’s website.
This call is the time to ask questions about the experience. What types of service does the professional photographer offer? What can you expect to purchase?
What if your research led you to a professional photographer with a style you like yet there is no mention of Senior packages on the website? Did you see portraits of teens that you liked? Would you be interested in artfully created portraits instead? This is the point where knowing why you wanted the photo session (see Tip #2) will help you make a decision.
Take the opportunity to ask about studio policies and procedures. Does the professional photographer require a consultation? (Hint: the consultation is the time to do all your creative planning for the photo session.) Is a retainer required? (most often, yes) Are you required to purchase a minimum amount?
Now, you have accumulated enough information to determine if you value what the professional photographer has to offer. Trying to find the “cheapest photographer” may not be so important anymore.
The best information I could offer the caller was to visit my Facebook page and my website. I felt she really needed to see what type of photography I do. Once she saw my previous works, she could decide if my style matched her and her son’s visions.
I think these tips are relevant to artists who accept commissions also. Want or need to commission a painting, a sculpture or any other piece of art? Start with Tip #1 and use the same process. I think you’ll be happier with the outcomes.
Was this article helpful to you? Would other pieces of information be helpful in selecting a professional photographer or commissioning an artwork? What would you like to know?
You can share your thoughts, questions, and comments in the comment section below or over on the Facebook page.
Until next week…