{how to choose the best} senior portrait photographer


Do you know what to look for when choosing your own senior portrait photographer? I have come up with six factors (all of which fit into the acronym S-E-N-I-O-R) and each criteria will be featured in it’s own lesson. Yesterday I started with S for session and you can lesson one here. Today I am sharing with you the second criteria you should evaluate in your senior portrait photographer. The E in S-E-N-I-O-R is for EQUIPMENT.

In this industry, a quality photograph is so very important and you will know quality when you compare the work from different photographers. Some of the difference you see is based on the unique style of each photographer, but some of it is based on what equipment they are using. What equipment has your photographer invested in?  I don’t expect you to know the different makes or models of cameras out there.  If your potential photographer is using their iPhone camera or a point-and-shoot camera, be cautious! You might be able to search your photographer’s website and see what gear they use. Nikon or Canon, it doesn’t really matter. It’s like asking “Coke or Pepsi?” But if you are hoping for those buttery, blurry, bokehlicious backgrounds and you pictured as sharp as a tack, you will want to make sure they invested in a good DSLR camera AND that they have a lens or two or three that they swear by. Most DSLR cameras are sold with kit lenses, which usually do not achieve those magazine-worthy portraits. So believe it or not, the best lenses out there will cost more that the camera body, which also costs a pretty penny!

Don’t feel bad asking your photographer what equipment they use and why they chose it. Most photographers treat their camera and gear as if it was their own children, so if you ask them a little question about it, they might never stop talking, praising, and even boasting! Most have their camera equipment insured because it cannot be easily or inexpensively replaced.

One thing you should notice during your session is that any time you move to a new location or the lighting changes, your photographer will take a few minutes and a few test shots, making adjustments in their camera. Why is this what you want to see? Your photographer is shooting in a manual mode, thus instructing their camera how to best photograph you and the light. They are thinking for the camera, not vice versa. Your photographer is in control and has their eye on YOU and your surroundings.

Some other equipment professional photographers use include reflectors and off-camera flash units. Did you know that just as important as the equipment used during your session is the equipment used after your session? Photographers have to invest a lot of money in editing software which helps them fine tune your photos and prepare them for to be “wall worthy.” We use programs like Lightroom and Photoshop and have either bought editing actions (think recipes) or made our own. This is why photographers take anywhere from 2-4 weeks before they are prepared to show you your polished pictures. If your photographer promises your portraits ready for you to download as soon as your session is over, you can suspect that they are not spending time adding subtle yet important artistic touches to your pictures.

As a senior portrait photographer, I love telling my clients how my business evolved to the point when I could invest in my Nikon D700, my favorite lenses, and everything else I need for my post-session workflow.  Here is my must-have gear during a senior session:

As you can see, I rely on more than just my camera during a session. I always explain to my clients why I am pointing a big round white disk at their faces during a session, and if they have a friend or family member join them during their session, that person is they lucky one to be in charge of my reflector. Once the session is over, I immediately transfer all my camera images onto my computer and start sorting thru them to pick out which ones I will hand edit with my favorite actions. This process is time consuming, but transforms a great picture into an amazing picture.

Isn’t that what every senior wants in their photographer… one who has the best equipment and knows how to use it? Of course! Don’t assume that is the case and please ask your photographer about their “babies,” I mean their cameras, lenses, and editing software.  And then just give them a minute or two to brag!

In tomorrow’s post will focus on N in S-E-N-I-O-R and we will discuss another way to judge if a photographer is worthy of being your Senior Portrait Photographer.

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