The advent of digital photography opened up the opportunity for many to have their own business. Some come with years of experience and training, others are naturally good at it, but there are photographers to be avoided. How does someone unfamiliar with photography choose correctly? The best way is to browse your would-be photographer’s website; look at galleries of past shoots and consider these criteria before making a commitment.
Here’s 6 questions for choosing the right photographer:
Is the background level/straight? It’s easy to focus only on the subject. The viewer sees the cute baby/couple/child and loves the image. But what about the porch in the background? Why does it look slanted? Straightening an image is fundamental. You never want to see water or any manmade structure not straight in the background of your image.
Is the photograph exposed properly? Another fundamental of a good image is proper exposure. If the photo is too bright or too dark, it tells the educated viewer that the photographer may not have the training or skill to take a photo correctly. Some images are edited to brighten the skin to soften the appearance of imperfections. This is fine, and depending on the customer’s taste, it is acceptable. But beware of too much of a good thing. If you are choosing a wedding photographer, be sure to view their past wedding photos. Over-exposed wedding gowns are common. An image showing a white blob where the gown should be in the photograph is not what you want to see. The bride, and her family, should look for a photographer with the ability to bring out the beautiful details of a wedding dress. The same thing goes for anyone in dark clothing. You want the detail – not complete darkness. Look at shots taken outdoors. Is the sky in the photographs completely white, bright, and showing no detail? If you’re interested in black and white images, be sure your chosen photographer is capable of a good digital conversion. Black and white not converted correctly looks flat.
Is the photograph in focus? Just as brightening an image can soften imperfections in the skin of a subject, soft-focus is a friend to skin. There is a difference, however, between soft focus and out of focus: the subject’s eyes need to be sharp. Our brains direct our eyes to the eyes of the subject by default. If we see something out of focus, the brain understands this as a mistake.
Is the photograph over-sharpened? It is common for portrait photographers to sharpen an image in post-production, especially in the all-important eye area. You should never be able to tell a photo has been sharpened. If part of the photograph looks unnaturally sharp in contrast to other areas, it is over-sharpened. The pixels can present a halo effect and break down.
Did the photographer over-saturate the image? Going hand in hand with over-sharpening is over-saturation. Colors should appear natural. The setting should complement the subject, not overwhelm it with exaggerated, brilliant colors. Look at skin tones in sample images – do they appear natural?
Is the photography composed in a pleasing manner? The way people describe a good photographer is that she has “an eye.” Look at images to see if the photographer takes the time to compose an image well. Bad composition is a common thread in photography, and shows a lack of training. A poorly composed photo does not show the subject well.
So you’ve selected a great photographer with good reviews and images online. Do you know what you receive with your package? If you are only getting digital files, do you (the consumer) know how to get the best print? Printing an image properly can be as challenging as shooting the photo. Ask your photographer for recommendations for printers and discuss paper selection. If your chosen photographer cannot help you with this, you may have found another reason to look for a different photographer. Digital files need proper care and back-up to avoid loss or damage. If you are not a techie person, ask your photographer for guidance.
The last point to consider when choosing a photographer is their style. Some photographers shoot from a fine art perspective while others lean in the direction of documentary. Either is good, and your selection should be based solely on your taste and how you would like the final product.
Photographs are the perfect way to preserve precious memories. It can be a confusing job to select a photographer, and it is best to do your homework to insure the investment pays off for years to come.