Photographer Profile

My name is Melissa Howell and I specialize in custom portrait design for your home. You can visit my official photography website at to view more of my work and to contact me to set up a consultation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to choose a great photographer part two

If you missed part one of this topic, you can read it here.

All of us like to get pictures taken of our kids. Let me rephrase: All of us like to have fabulous pictures of our kids. Not all of us like going through the whole process of getting them ready, taking them to a photo studio where we have to wait, all while our kids are getting more and more restless and messing up their clothes. Then after all that, we get maybe 10 minutes in the studio and six whole pictures to choose from, and that's it. Sounds like a bit of a letdown! That was my (repeated) experience when my two oldest children were young. I thought there had to be an alternative. Luckily, there is! Unfortunately, a lot of other people have come to this same conclusion and are offering sub-par photography. Did you know that you don't have to go to school to become a photographer? Anybody can claim to be a "professional photographer." All you have to do to gain that distinction is charge money. There is a HUGE range in the quality and service these photographers offer, and it's up to you to decide who will give you the best portraits. But how can you tell who is a great photographer who still needs to work on their craft? Here are a few things to look for:

1. Beware if your friend says, "Hey, my cousin just got a great new camera! She can take awesome pictures!" This is like saying, "Hey, my cousin just got an Electrolux oven! Now she's a gourmet cook!" Or, "Hey, my cousin just bought some really expensive scissors! Now she is a fabulous hair stylist!" Yes, you need a nice camera, but you also need a knowledgeable and skilled photographer. The nice camera alone won't do it.

2. Take a careful look at their website. (If they don't have a website yet, this almost surely means that they have not worked with enough people to be able to post any images and definitely need more experience). As you look through their pictures, do you see the same people over and over? This is also a sure sign that they are just starting out, and those people are probably their children and relatives.

3. Are their pictures clear and crisp? Cuteness doesn't count if the picture is out of focus. Consider the following (click on this picture and the next one to really see the difference):

Super cute, right? But look at the eyes. They are a bit blurry and out of focus. If you see pictures like this, the photographer still needs more work. (By the way, I am not busting on any other photographers here. All the pictures posted are my own. You will be able to see that in the past, you definitely should not have hired me!)

Compare that last picture to this one:

See how crisp and clear the eyes are? This is what you're looking for.

4. Do their pictures have color casts?
This is something that not everybody notices, but a seasoned professional should not have pictures like this on their site:

Do you see how blue she looks? Environmental pictures (pictures taken outside) often have this problem because of how the light reflects off the grass and trees. It "cools" everything down. Notice the difference in the next picture, even though the girl is surrounded by green:

See how warm and natural her skin looks? No blue cast here! Other common casts to watch out for are red and yellow casts.

5. Does the photographer have exposure problems?
In other words, is the picture too dark or too light? Are there parts where no detail can be seen because the picture is exposed improperly? In the following example, I exposed improperly and you can see that the hair blends into the neck on the girl on the left. It's way too light and I can't make out anything there.

Contrast that with the following picture where the side of the baby's face is very light, but you can still tell it's skin.

There are more things to look for that I will discuss in a later post. I hope now as you surf the web, you'll be able to tell good photography from, well, not-so-good photography. Your money and time are worth the effort to seek out those who are truly professionals--not just those who will do your pictures on the cheap with their nifty new camera.

1 comment:

Minnette said...

Awesome post thanks for sharing!