You need to hire a professional headshot photographer for upcoming marketing projects. You have taken up this daunting task yourself, or your boss has delegated the decision to you. So, where do you start to look? Like most, a quick query through Google of 'top photographers near me' or 'best portrait photographer in Toronto' is the starting point. Google returns dozens of websites and options, but how do you narrow it down to the professional photographer who is the best for you?
We have compiled a list of things you should be looking for:
What do their photos look like? Do you actually like how the images they produce look?
A quick review of the photographer's work might raise general concerns like how their portfolio looks. Inexperienced photographers often have a limited portfolio, and at first glance, you will be able to see how comfortable their subjects look. This is an excellent first indicator if this is a quality and experienced headshot photographer.
How many samples do they have?
The number of images a photographer has available is a good indicator if they are an active professional. Conversely, a photographer with a limited number of samples may indicate they are new, inexperienced, or their images do not turn out well enough to display.
In addition to the number, is the style consistent? If they are new or inexperienced, some photographers may be unable to produce consistent images with respect to lighting, colour, and how their backgrounds look. At worst, the photographer may have used stock images to populate their website. This is a big red flag for obvious reasons.
Do their portraits match what is currently in style?
Sometimes, older photographers get stuck in a rut and cannot adapt to current aesthetic trends. At the moment, moody lighting, soft focus, and muslin backdrops are a thing of the past. Having a portrait out of style or out of date will do more harm than good (see What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Photo Say About You?).
Are their images consistent in quality?
Quality is a significant factor that should help you decide which photographer is best for you. For example, do the images they display look crisp, clean and polished, or are they pixilated, dark, blurry, or does the subject look messy.
Evaluating quality allows you to determine value. A high-quality photographer will give you results that will help you look your best. Quality reflects in their technical ability or how they pose their subjects and in post-production and how your images are processed.
A highly skilled photographer will have to rely less on post-production or Photoshop to correct things like lighting, which makes a big difference in image quality, particularly when the image will be displayed in print or large format.
Do their subjects look weird or unnatural?
If the subject looks weird or unnatural, it comes down to two factors. First, can they make their subjects feel comfortable in front of the camera, and second, how heavy-handed are they in editing your images.
A good photographer will understand that most people detest having their photos taken. Personally, I chalk it up to horrid school portraits and group photos of past times when you had to stay perfectly still for an extended period with a nervous forced smile until your face started to twitch. This is the hallmark of an unskilled photographer. Top photographers have a way of working with their clients in a way that doesn't feel awkward, uncomfortable or contrived. This is something where we at BusinessPortraits.ca excel at.
The other side of the unnatural card is how a photographer processes and corrects images. We are now in an era where most people have access to photo editing software in some form or another, so comfort with editing is a lot higher. This leads us to overlook how bizarre it is when editing goes too far. Many subpar studios rely on filters and heavy-handed photoshop. For some strange reason, many Toronto-based portrait photographers make their subjects look like they have flat rubber for skin. We believe you should look like you, not your robotic android lookalike who is many years younger than you. I can only imagine the shocking encounters some have had after meeting someone in person for the first time after seeing their photo online.
Is their contact info readily available and do they respond to messages?
Like any business, are they available to answer questions and do they take their business seriously? You don't want to be in a situation where a photographer bails last minute. Unfortunately, it happens a lot more often than you think; each month, we see at least a few rush bookings for those placed in this type of scenario.
Who have they worked for?
The number and type of clients hint at the kind of work they do. For example, many big-name clients most likely indicate that they are a trusted quality service. It also shows that the work they produce is at a level that is consistent with the industry standard.
Do they fit your schedule?
Is the photographer able to work with your schedule? Do they come to you, or do you have to go to their studio? Making sure you aren't rushed will significantly impact how your portrait turns out.
Cost is also a significant consideration, but be wary of basing your decision solely on price. This is where my warning of semi-professional or hobbyist photographers goes. True professional photographers understand there is a cost associated with the work they produce. Education, equipment, time, and travel are all factors. In addition, years of experience in building skills will be reflected in the price. If you aren't willing to pay the fair market value, you should not expect to get a quality product.
Years of hobbyists or semi-professionals flooding the market and access to camera equipment have left many with an unrealistic expectation of how much a photographer should cost. Unfortunately, highly skilled people do not come at bargain-basement prices, and those who have bargain basement prices won't give you quality.
With these key points, you are ready for the next time you are sifting through Google to find the best corporate photographer near you; you have some criteria to look for and help you choose the photography service that works for you.