I've been creating portraits and commercial images in Hawaii and in California for about 35 years now. I remember when, oh maybe 15 or even 20 years ago, it wasn't all that unusual for a person who wanted to hire a photographer to ask questions like, "how long have you been a professional?", and "who have you done work for in the recent past?" These are good questions.
In the last 12 years or so since so many hobbyists have "come out of the woodwork" with professional DSLRs and offering their services for hire, a strange thing has occurred...It seems the only question people know to ask a photographer they are considering hiring is "how much do you charge?"!!
With some things, you just know that what you want is the 'more expensive choice'. When buying fish for example. If you have 2 fish of the same kind, and weight, one is $5 per pound, and the other is $1 for the whole fish... Pretty obvious there's something wrong with the dollar fish! No Thanks!
When shopping for cleaning supplies, and the local grocery store has the detergent you're looking for priced at $10 for 24 ounces, and the "big box" store right next door has the same thing for just $6, it makes sense to walk next door to buy it! Detergent isn't going to "spoil", so you're not risking anything buying the lower priced product.
With photography, as personal as portraits are, price really is the least important qualifying aspect to use when comparing photographers! I always say, "Price is what you pay, Value is what you get". When it comes to portraits, and hiring a photographer to create portraits for you, this is indeed true! This is one of the main reasons I wrote the book, "The Guide To YOUR Perfect Portrait". (It will be available by June 1, 2012 on Createspace.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com)
For now I'd like to share a few excerpts from my book with some important questions to ask photographers you are considering to hire, and the answers you should hear from a photographer before you hire them...
First thing to ask is: “What is your guarantee?” I mentioned this before, and I believe it is vitally important. If the photographer doesn’t have a guarantee, or doesn’t guarantee that you will be really happy with your portraits, then he doesn’t have confidence in his work. If he isn’t confident in his own work, how can you be?! If he doesn’t guarantee you will be happy with your portraits, or he’ll refund your money, cross him off your list and move on to the next photographer!
Here’s another important questions to ask: “Why did you choose photography as a career?” I really don’t know why many who are in this business got into it. I’ve met a number of photographers who seem completely devoid of personality. I’ve met a lot of photographers who only complain about how demanding their clients are, and what jerks they are! If a person doesn’t love people and love working with them, portrait photography is just the wrong career for them!
In my case, I was raised in a family of artists. My dad was a professional pianist. My older brother was a great horn player. I took to drawing and painting at a very young age. It was just a natural expression for me, and I always loved drawing people. People have always been my favorite subjects, so when I discovered photography in junior high school, I fell in love with photographing people. (Especially pretty girls!)
I remember being so excited when in the summer of my junior year I got a job with the local newspaper as a “stringer” photographing local sports events! That progressed into working in the paper’s darkroom, and I was just in heaven! That only lasted for the summer, but from then on I have been constantly photographing people. I love making portraits, and I absolutely love
the reactions I get from the people I photograph when I show them their portraits!
If the photographer you’re talking with answers this question without any passion, you should move on to the next one on your list!
These 2 questions are, I believe, far more important than the question of price. I know we all have to live within our budgets, and investment is important...just not the most important qualifier when looking for the right photographer to create YOUR portraits!