I’ve been shooting pro for 5 years, and there are decisions that clients make (usually, completely unbeknownst to them) that drive their photographers crazy. To be fair to my awesome clients, most of these I have learned through my network of other photographer friends, but they’re all really important! Let me know what you think. 🙂
1. Tell your photographer, “Your camera takes really great photos!”
It takes countless hours of education, practice, and tweaking to develop a style, even if the photographer starts with a ‘good eye.’ A talented photographer can take a great photo with an iPhone, an entry level DSLR camera, or one that costs $50K. In fact, the more expensive the camera, the less likely someone uneducated in photography would be able to operate it.
Instead, if you like what you see in a photographer’s portfolio, tell them that THEY take really great photos. Like any other artist, we appreciate being encouraged by compliments. If you like it, say something! (Just compliment the right person.)
2. When posting a photo taken by a professional, never give credit to the person who took the photo.
To correct this [extremely annoying habit] means when you set your profile picture to a photo your photographer took, upload it to social media, etc., you should caption it with, at the very least, the photographer’s name or, at best, a link to their Facebook/website/etc.
As a side note – if your photographer had you sign a contract before your shoot/wedding/etc, you will notice if you re-read it that giving proper credit is almost always one of the points in the contract. Most of us don’t want to awkwardly point that out to you, but you did sign off on it. It takes a few extra seconds, and you will make your photographer feel very special.
3. Re-edit photos you have purchased.
Unless you’ve pre-arranged it with your photographer (for example, purchased the RAW images or receive artist photos for something like an album cover), it is never okay to edit completed photos. This includes anything from Photoshop to Instagram. It’s like purchasing a song online and then taking out the original singer’s voice and replacing it with your own and declaring, “I think this is better.” You should just never do it.
If you share your photo online, don’t crop or edit it. Even Instagram now allows you to show the full-size photo – it doesn’t even have to be in a square! The extra few moments it takes mean quite a deal. Photographers are artists, and even just cropping their photo is a jab – they have taken care to make sure the photo is framed (shot and cropped in a specific format) perfectly for you.
You should hire a photographer whose style you like. Then, trust their judgment.
Bonus point: if you have ever hired a good photographer and then edited their photo using spot color (making the whole thing black and white except for one element), you should write them a long, heartfelt apology.
4. Hire a photographer and then share your Pinterest board of 300 poses you want at your wedding or session.
It’s great to know what you want. Pin on Pinterest every photo you like to your heart’s content! If there’s something specific you are truly in love with, hire someone who shoots like that. And show them a few examples of your “must-haves.”
Pinterest is amazing, but you sending your photographer a link to your board should only be a way for them to confirm that their individual style is what you want, not to create someone else’s art over again. The exception to this is if your photographer asks you for examples of shots you like – in which case, that’s awesome!
However, don’t expect those shots to be exactly the same. If you try to simply duplicate a Pinterest board at your wedding or photo shoot, you are going to do the following:
- You will limit your photographer to be completely un-creative, thus defeating the purpose of hiring an artist rather than a button-pusher. It’s actually more offensive than helpful.
- You’ll never be as satisfied with someone else’s attempt at a very specific photo, because those amazing shots you see were shot in a unique lighting condition (every day’s light is different), with specific people, with a specific background, and specific equipment. Sure, I can duplicate something. But if you let me see the light and background that actually exists at YOUR shoot, I’ll create something that actually works best with THAT and YOU, rather than the Pinterest shot you’re in love with.
- You’ll compare the photo of you to the original, and never be satisfied. Your mind will see your photographer as sub-par, when in reality, that is not the case.
You get what you pay for, so pay for what you actually want, rather than whoever is around and can duplicate a Pinterest board.
5. Expect photography to cost about the same as a meal at Applebee’s.
Good professional photography is not cheap. CHEAP photography is cheap. Do not make your photographer feel bad because they charge what you believe is “too much.” Do you want to hire someone who runs a profitable photography business? Then, please understand that running a business costs money.
If you are on a tight budget, you will be limited to beginner photographers, part-time photographers, OR photographers who probably aren’t profitably priced. This is not because more experienced and/or full-time photographers don’t appreciate your financial situation. It is because we, like everyone else, must make a sustainable income.
You get what you pay for. If you want spectacular wedding photos, don’t expect to find someone reasonable on your $800 budget. Hiring cousin Susie who bought a DSLR last year and “really loves taking pictures” is also probably not going to help get you those spectacular photos, either. You INVEST in photography, because it is the way you have to remember events and time in your life. One of my biggest personal regrets is not doing this for myself when I got married. I now have no spectacular photos of my wedding day, at least not ones that were properly and artistically focused, framed, shot, and edited.
If you can’t afford it at the moment, save up. It’s worth it. And if you truly can’t afford it at all, wait for someone who is building a portfolio or wants to gift you a session. You may not get the results you would get from your first choice, but if that’s what fits your budget, that’s what you will get.
Let me repeat, you get what you pay for. Make the emotional investment. You only get married once (hopefully). Your kids are going to grow up fast. Your pregnancy will be over before you know it. Get photos of these times that look amazing that you can look at forever and smile.
6. Arbitrarily decide on styling for your photo session.
How you prepare for your photo session greatly affects the final outcome of your photos. If you have questions about styling, ask your photographer before your session. These are the simple rules I give my portrait clients before sessions:
- Reflect yourself in your appearance. If you shop at Nordstrom and never leave the house without high heels, don’t buy a trendy hipster outfit with flats and big, fake glasses for your session. Be you.
- Ladies, use more makeup than you would usually put on in a normal day. In a photo, wearing heavier mascara, bolder lipstick, and more foundation will help your results exponentially. It may feel a little funny, but it will be worth it!
- Wear clothing that doesn’t accentuate features you don’t like. If you are self-conscious about the extra little pooch on your belly, wearing a dress that clings to the pooch is a bad call. Make sure it’s something you’re comfortable sitting in and that looks good from the front and the back. And please remember that it is not standard for your family/engagement/wedding photographer to give you a tummy tuck. Just because something is “really cute” does not mean it will look amazing in photos.
Trust me, you’re gorgeous. But to make sure you love your photos as much as I love them, stick to these tips!
7. Take lots of camera phone photos while the photographer is snapping shots – and post all of them online!
WEDDINGS: When you go to a wedding, don’t spend the whole day taking photos with your camera phone or $200 point-and-shoot. The bride and groom have spent good money to hire a talented photographer, and often, we watch 25-50 people stand around staring at their phone screens instead of enjoying what’s going on. Is it bad to Instagram a couple shots? Nah. I do it, too. But if you find yourself taking more than a few pictures, especially if you’re trying to duplicate or take the same shots as the paid photographer, please stop. It’s very distracting to the subjects and the photographer. I’ll just be honest – we HATE it. Enjoy the day; don’t spend it duplicating the job someone else has already been paid to do.
PHOTO SHOOTS: Don’t stand behind the photographer and take the same shots he or she has set up with your camera phone. If it’s a family shoot or one for your children, encourage them to do as the photographer asks as much as you can, but don’t step in and try to control what is going on.
I wish I could express the importance of this point in a way to help people understand the impact it has on a photographer when other people are standing around constantly snapping shots. The most frustrating thing on earth is to watch someone do this and THEN see them post the photos online of the less professional (read: crappy) versions of the awesome shots I just took. It greatly diminishes the artistic effort involved in creating your photos.
Now, I don’t have a problem with someone taking “behind-the-scenes” shots of me taking photos and showing that they’re doing a photo shoot! However, in general, just be patient and wait for your final photos.
8. Choose never to invest in photography.
Look at the money you spend on photography as an emotional investment. In addition, print your photos. Digital drives and files will eventually fail, but the print you can hang will last indefinitely.
Look at your photos as the investment they are, and you will appreciate them much more. Think of how important they will be in 10, 20, or 50 years – to you, and to your family. If you’ve ever sat and looked at photo albums with your parents or grandparents, you begin to understand how valuable photos are. While I know we have all sorts of great camera phones (I Instagram all the time!), there is something special about professionally shot photos that you simply cannot duplicate with your phone.
9. Ask for the color versions of the photos you receive in monochrome.
Life is beautiful in black and white. Don’t insist on everything in color. (Also, you hired your photographer for a reason. Let them make the expert decision.)
10. Expect perfection and superhero-like behavior from your photographer.
Remember that your photographer isn’t perfect. He or she is a human being, just like you are.
We know it’s hard sometimes to understand why your photos cost so much money. We know it doesn’t always make sense when your photos take a 6-8 week turnaround when Aunt Susie posted the 500 photos she took at your wedding the next day. We know that sometimes, the way your arm was laying on your side makes it look chubby, or your chin wasn’t at just the right angle, or we caught the side where you have that mole you hate.
Creative services are some of the most difficult professions to choose in this day and age. That’s not because they’re impossibly hard to learn, or too expensive to start, or because demand doesn’t exist. They are difficult because clients have a hard time understanding the value of what they receive, and in order to run a profitable business, these services come at a premium. Because they come at a premium, clients often expect immediate perfection.
When you’re paying for someone to create art, you’re paying for much more than for someone to click a shutter or mouse. You’re paying for creativity, and expertise, and time, and someone’s livelihood. That someone may not be perfect. There may be parts you don’t understand, and hopefully, that “someone” will inform you as best they can as to how things work. However, it will be much easier to go on with things if we acknowledge that nobody knows everything, and no one is perfect.
Let’s all cut each other some slack. Happiness makes the world go round.
Enjoy these tips? Let me know!