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        How to find a photographer

        What most people don’t know: The experience of the photoshoot will make or break your photos. 

        I’ve had my own lackluster experiences and images to prove it 

        Both of my less-than-thrilling sessions were with quality photographers! I vetted them myself. But where the experience fell flat was their interaction with my family. 

        • They were SLOW at their work. They were thoughtful and deliberate but dragged on and on.
        • They were not commanding or engaging.
        • They could not handle the antics of my four young boys.
        • They couldn’t keep the boys’ attention which led to distracted boys that didn’t cooperate no matter the bribes I offered! 

        But how do you know your session will be amazing or not? It’s hard to tell before you meet and that’s where this guide is clutch. 

        8 ways to find  the perfect family photographer for your family  

        1. Analyze the photographer’s shoot style 

        You need to determine if the shooters work is mostly lifestyle shots or  portraits 

        A lifestyle session is much like documentaries.  The pictures should be candid, natural, and show natural human connection. These types of shoots can  be done in a home or on location. 

        A portrait session is more of a  traditional approach. You’ll notice the people are in poses and are still.  Often the people in the photos will be looking directly at the camera. Portraits are usually done in a studio or on location

        Neither is better than the other; it all depends on what you want. 

        2. Determine if the photographer has a speciality  

        I had a wedding photographer offer to do my extended family session with 10 kids under the age of 12. And there’s a reason I passed: 

        A bridal party is not the same as 10 kids under 12!

        For families, you want to find someone that has the skills to work with small kids, especially many of them at once. This quality is one of the most important ones  when finding the right photographer for YOUR family. 

        Here are some of the most common photographer areas of expertise:

        • Families – Small and large groups of varied ages
        • Newborn – Posed or lifestyle, in home or in hospital (These are usually done within the first 48 hours of baby’s birth) 
        • Milestones – These are usually packages of photoshoots that focus on a baby’s first year milestones that occur  every three to six  months. These are usually done in the studio.
        • Personal branding – lifestyle headshots small business owners use for social media, website, and marketing
        • Wedding – a much different animal from working with kids! 
        • Couples – Similar to families but no kids are involved; May be spicier in nature. 

        3. Decide if you like the shooter’s photographic style  

        A photographer’s style is  all subjective and based on your tastes. Do you want yellow, dark, moody, or light, bright and airy? 

        You can’t ask a dark and moody photographer to deliver a light and bright gallery. So make sure you like their style before you book them. 

        4. Get to know their personality 

        This is the biggest factor in determining your experience. Is this person engaging? Do you get good vibes when you communicate? Are they helpful? Fun? Funny?! 

        Would you go out for cocktails with him or her?! 

        You laugh, but I’m serious! This person is going to be responsible for bringing  out the best sides of you and your family in order to capture the most authentic connections. 

        5. Consider your crew 

        The first time I had a photo session go flat, I hadn’t really considered my crew. 

        My crew is wild. I have four  boys, and they are all close in age. Did I mention they’re wild, rambunctious and don’t stop moving? 

        They need someone that is commanding, engaging and fun! 

        A slow moving photographer isn’t going to work for us. Determine what you kids need to feel comfortable and what sort of people they best respond to. 

        6. Do your research 

        As simple as it sounds, I recommend starting with Google.

        From there, ask your friends for a reference.  Make sure their images are the same style you’re looking for. If you’re new to the area, get in some mom groups on Facebook and ask around. 

        Find out what other people are saying by reading reviews  on Facebook and Google. .

        Once you find someone, check out the photographer’s website. Look for consistent quality, personality and style. Ask yourself if the  families look like they’re having fun and are they compatible with your family’s size and age range. 

        If you really want to get a good feel for the person, don’t be afraid to stalk them. Check out their social media and see their personality. 

        7. Make communication a priority 

        When you’ve got a handful of potential photographers email them each. Include  the target date, location, number of people, and ages of kids.  Evaluate how they respond. 

        • How responsive were they?
        • How helpful? 
        • Did any personality come through? 
        • How did they make you feel? 

        Don’t be afraid to call  them on the phone and ask the same questions. . 

        8. Set your budget

        I saved this pointer for last on purpose. Yes, budget is important. You need to stick to it. But it’s not going to determine how easy your photographer is to work with or  how well they meet your needs. 

        When all things are equal, use your budget to make the final decision. 

        What if your ideal photographer is out of your budget? 

        Ask if they do mini sessions! Tell them you’d love to work with them but need to stick to your budget. Ask if they have a wait list for mini sessions and ask to be notified! 

        The photographer you choose will make or break your experience. 

        Finding a quality photographer is hard, and it doesn’t help that we all work differently! A top notch photographer is going to go out of their way to answer your questions before you even ask them. 

        Hi! I’m Alison!

        I find joy in chaos. The louder, the better!

        I’m a chaos-commanding family photographer thriving in the loud & messy.

        I love freezing time, photographing families in their own element at home, or on the beach!

        I’m  the ring leader of four boy circus, half-homeschooling USMC family, currently in Virginia Beach, VA!

        Follow the antics on IG @alisonbellphotog!