5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Hiring a Professional Photographer

by Meggan Jacks

“How much does it cost for a session and cd/prints?”

For ninety percent of the prospective clients I talk to, this is the first, and many times, the only, question they ask.


Because most clients do not know what else to ask!  While I can come up with a dozen questions for people to ask their prospective photographers (that article will be coming soon!) I first want to turn the tables for a moment.

There are a few basic questions I like to ask my prospective clients and based on typical answers of  “I don’t know” or “Hmm.. that is a good question,” I think only a small handful people have thought about WHY they want to hire a photographer.  Many clients may be initially inquiring only because they have been told their event (such as a pregnancy or new baby) deserves professional photography to celebrate the occasion.

I completely agree with the notion of celebrating important events and milestones with portraits, but I think it is important to ask yourself a few questions and think about answers BEFORE you pick up the phone or submit an online inquiry.

The five questions I believe are important:

1. Have you hired a professional photographer before?

No? What are your expectations of the photographer? Not sure? Read THIS article for some ideas. 🙂

Yes? What did you like about your previous experience(s)? What did you NOT like? If there were things that truly annoyed you as a client (such as lack of communication, promised delivery dates that were missed, etc.) then be prepared to talk about this with your new prospective photographer.

MJP Insight: For clients who have never had a professional portrait experience, I want to make sure that I set the bar high and lead a process that is both relaxing and rewarding. And for those who have had previous experiences with professional photographers – sometimes knowing what you did not like helps me to tailor a session that will blow away your expectations. I never want to talk poorly about a fellow professional photographer and will never ask for names, but I do appreciate knowing any concerns my clients have about their upcoming portrait experience. I’ve had newborn clients concerned about the length of time of their session (a previous photographer took HOURS for their firstborn’s session) and yet another client whose photographer took over two months to deliver proofs from their portrait session.

2. What is your goal for the session?

What types of images do you want? Casual? Posed? A mixture of both? If you do not know for sure, consider visiting Pinterest or Google Images and doing a simple search on the type of session you need (i.e. family portraits, newborn portraits) and then pin/bookmark your favorite images – the ones that “speak” to you.  Please note – you are not going to ask the photographer to re-create these images for you – these images are to help you identify a style of work that appeals to you which will in turn help you to more readily identify the photographer who has a style you love.

MJP Insight: I personally don’t mind receiving links to Pinterest boards, so feel free to send them to me prior to your session. My approach is to review them and let the images inspire bits and pieces within your session. If there is an image that is a MUST HAVE (such as a portrait you are trying to match) please let me know ahead of time of its importance.

3. What type of end portrait product are you looking for?

Are you looking to put together a wall display of your portraits? Or do you want an album of images that you snuggle up with your child to flip through?  Gifts for family/friends? Digital files?

Not all photographers offer the same products, so knowing ahead of time which type of products you are interested in is important. If your photographer does NOT offer a product you have your heart set on obtaining, are they willing to obtain it for you or is it a product you can get for yourself if you purchase the files?

MJP Insight: This question is truly unique for every client and is usually the hardest question to answer. So, as a starting point I suggest that you pick at least one wall in your home to showcase your portraits. It may be smaller wall with just one portrait, or a larger wall where you can start to build a gallery of images as your family grows.  Take a picture of this wall to share with your photographer and be open to ideas and suggestions they have for you for that wall or other display/product ideas.  More often than not, once you see your images, the final product choices start to become obvious.

4. Do you have TIME to commit to digital files?

While a nice upside to print-ready digital files is the flexibility and convenience of being able to print what you want, when you want, a HUGE downside is that they add another “to-do” item to your possibly already miles-long to-do list.  So, before you decide to invest in files, REALLY think about whether you have time for this type of project or not.  And be honest with yourself about the answer to this question – the last thing you want to do is invest time and money into portraits that will just sit on a disc.

MJP Insight: If you REALLY want files, but are concerned about the time commitment factor, then you may consider ordering your main pieces (such as a wall portrait, framed collage or album) through your photographer, and then use the disc of images to order your smaller prints that you want to share with friends and family. This is something to discuss with your prospective photographer.

 5. What is your budget? How rigid is that budget?

This may seem like an easy question to answer, but I guarantee you it may be the hardest part of hiring a professional that you deal with. Why? Because if you’ve done a lot of homework and hired a professional whose work you are in love with, then you are undoubtedly going to LOVE your images. The single wall portrait that you thought would look perfect above the fireplace now turns into a gorgeous wall gallery of images you can’t bear to part with.  You thought you’d be fine with a few small prints to put on a shelf but now you want an entire album of the images from the session.

MJP Insight: For a majority of my clients, photography is an emotional purchase. Knowing ahead of time what your budget is and how flexible you can be with that budget will make the final steps of your portrait experience easier. Be prepared to be up front with your photographer about your budget. I personally am always respectful of my client’s budget and do my best to make sure they are aware of the options they have for portraits within that budget.

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