As a mum myself, I'm a member of many mum related facebook groups or forums. I see many parents asking for recommendations on a photographer, or choosing one that advertises on the groups. I advertise there myself! But here are a few things to keep in mind. Pricing
I consider myself fairly priced - I don't want my clients to be limited to a one off, once in a lifetime luxury purchase - I want family photo sessions to be a regular part of their lives. The sessions capture your kids at different stages of their little lives, and I would honestly love to see my clients once a year and watch their kids change and grow. I have priced myself in a way that allows most families to afford me and end up with a reasonable amount of images, but allows others with a bigger budget to spend more and get the whole shebang (ie, the session disc!).
Don't price shop, but do budget shop if you need to. Photography prices range anywhere from $50 to $5000 for family photography sessions, and there is nothing to say that the $5000 photographer is better than the $50 photographer. Marketing, connections, personalities - lots of things effect how popular a photographer is that have little to do with how good they are.
The reality is though, most serious photographers intent on building a lasting business, price themselves fairly - for their own area and for themselves. Unless a photographer is 'portfolio building', then they aren't going to basically 'give away' their skill and time for free. The work continues after we leave your session - editing up to 60 images, as well as going through the session and culling the ones that don't make it - all takes time. Even without considering a 'creative' fee, photography is an expensive business to get into - insurance, the camera ($600 +), lenses (500 +), marketing materials etc. It adds up to thousands of dollars.
So if money matters, budget shop first! Find a short list of photographers who are offering sessions/packages within your budget. Out of those, then start looking for a photographer that has a style you love. Do you prefer studio shots or natural, outdoor shots? Classic portraits, or funky 'lifestyle' sessions? It is the style and skill of the photographer that will ultimately impact how happy you are with your session.
Why skill and experience matter!
While photography IS an artform, that doesn't mean technical skill is irrelevant. As a client, I don't expect you to know how to work a camera, but if you are looking for a photographer, have a good look at their images and really think about if they appear competent with their camera gear. Generally, images should be sharp. eyes should be in focus, not blurry, portraits shouldn't have harsh shadows, and black and white images shouldn't just look like they've been desaturated.
As a portrait photographer, I can tell you that understanding how light works is essential in any shoot. If a photographer doesn't know whether to meter for the sky or skin, how to expose for backlighting, what ISO even is, then your session may end up a waste of time. I don't expect you to know what metering or backlighting or ISO is - what I am saying is that photography isn't just about pointing and shooting, it really is about knowing how to work with light.
I have only been offering family sessions for a little over a year, but I have been a photographer for around 10 years. My main passion was photographing animals, and I slowly built my collection of animal photography over many years. I have been published in a few magazines, won 3 Silver Awards at the Australian Professional Photography Awards (APPAs), and been part of an exhibit over in the US. As most of my work was taken in zoos, I had to really learn how to work a camera and get past the dirty windows, the bars, the sun reflecting off the enclosures and so on. Here is one of my award winning images:
So when it comes to family shoots, understanding light is just as important. You'll notice that during a session I might move you around a lot - I will find the best direction for the light so that you don't have shadows across your face and your little girl or boy's eyes are bright and clear with a 'catch light' in the eyes. It's not always about having a nice location, it's about knowing how to use that location.
I love this image, but imagine how it would have looked if I'd faced Alexis the wrong way or hadn't suggested having the shoot later in the afternoon when the light is gorgeous. Imagine if the session had been at midday when the sun is harsh and overhead. If I didn't know how to expose correctly for the sun being behind her, then her face would have been dark and the image would have ended up on the delete list.
Similarly, experience helps you play with light, see the light, and be creative! I love to look for interesting 'backgrounds' and so achieved the subtle autumn feel of this shot simply by kneeling down and shooting 'up' so that behind little Archie was some autumn leaves!
Choose a Photographer you're comfortable with!
At the end of the day, a photography session should be fun. I've found a lot of clients are a bit on edge about their children's behaviour when they first turn up, but don't be! I have a 2.5 year old, I know all about tantrums, and snotty noses, and toddler 'attitude'! Honestly, I've had sessions with many kids who don't really want their photo taken, including one little girl who refused to 'ever have photos taken, ever again!'. None of this phases me - I have kids, have met many kids, and have photographed many kids. All I ask of parents is for them to help me make their kids laugh - not to worry about whether I'm going to get any shots at all. I can 100% assure you that I will get great shots of your kids even if it doesn't look like I am getting them during the shoot!
I am available for family sessions in Geelong, the Surf Coast and the Bellarine Peninsula. Melbourne sessions also have limited availability.