How to Hire a Photographer
A Little Bit of Radical Honesty from Your Seattle Photographer
I can sit in a hot bath for easily an hour and look at Pinterest. It is by far one of my favorite time sucks. Pinterest is great at reminding you of all the skinny people who dress to the nines and eat perfect little salads in their DIY living rooms. I really can’t get enough, honestly. Yet as an artist and small business owner, I also hate Pinterest. It’s safe to say there’s a love hate relationship between us.
You would not go to your local plumber, lawyer or restaurant and tell them how to do their jobs. (Would you?)
There is something about photography where so many people are sudden experts or want to hold my hand and tell me what shots to take. Thanks to Pinterest, clients can have their pick of thousands of shots they’d love to incorporate into their session. It’s almost like the bride who goes into a bridal salon with a scrapbook filled with beautiful gowns. Yet reality quickly sets in when she tries on her dream dresses and realizes none of them look good on her. It’s what she thought she liked through the lens of a magazine and beautiful models, but not what worked for her in reality. She had to trust the salesperson to help her find a dress that suited her most. This is what photography is about: finding what suits you, and trusting your photographer.
As a professional photographer, when Uncle Mike chats me up about my camera because he wants to talk about his equipment, I simply nod and smile because it’s the right thing to do. I recently did a session where I was asked six different times by the grandmother why I holstered my camera (thank you, Spider Holster). At no other time in my life, in any of the careers I have had, has this happened as much as it does in photography.
If at any moment you feel the need to tell your photographer how to do their job, you hired the wrong one.
I work really hard at creating a consistent style that forms my brand. I like what I like; I dislike what I dislike. I love a natural style, relaxed pose, soft smiles and playfulness. I also hope my photography softly drips sweet emotions of moments captured. So when I get a call to so a smash cake session, well, you can see my thoughts on that here: Hello 2016, Goodbye Smash Cake. When I get requests to do a very specific themed session, my face contorts like I just drank warm beer. I struggle, I freeze and my creative process stops. My confidence as a photographer ends when my strengths are removed, and my comfort zone is miles behind in the dust of someone’s Pinterest dreams. If a client starts to take over a session and direct me, my photography starts to fail. If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ll be familiar with the strange phenomena that happens when a coworker or supervisor stands behind your chair. Words and processes that you have typed hundreds of times without fail become lost. You have typos galore, and you can’t access the database you need. Why? Because someone is standing over you, directing you, watching you. Photography is no different. When someone removes my professional leadership and hovers over my proverbial shoulder, we all lose.
I continue to lose in these scenarios because I suck at saying no. I am a client-pleaser. I want every single client to leave happy.
My heart breaks if I can’t deliver the images they so badly wanted to hang in their living room. I will do virtually everything in my power to make their photography dreams come true. This is a zero sum situation for the client who has a vision that is not cohesive with a photographer’s style. Both the photographer and client lose ultimately.
Dear Future Photography Clients of the World,
Here’s a quick guide on how to hire a photographer you love. Photography is an art, and photographers are artists. Like each painter has their own style, so does each photographer. It’s not something we can easily change though sometimes we wish we could to make you, our clients, happy. We have visions we work carefully to create with our lens. We plan sessions in our head or even in sketches far in advance. We are professionals who strive to create a consistent brand so you, our clients, feel confident that we will deliver your desired outcome. If at any moment you feel the need to tell your photographer how to do their job, you hired the wrong one.
I implore you to first be honest with what you’re looking for. Just because a photographer turns out a lovely image, doesn’t mean they’re right for you. Research as much as you can through any medium you can find. Find a photographer that you jive with. Call them on the phone, and speak with them. Look at their portfolio over and over again. If you feel a connection and are confident in their skills to provide you with the photos you have envisioned, hire them.
This is a learning process for us all. I always kick myself in the pants when I release my control during a session because the client and I lose. Let’s make a pact to work together. Photographers, please honestly convey your portfolio, and clients, please be honest with yourself and your photographer about your vision before you schedule your session. All we really want is for everyone to be walk away happy.