What should you expect from your photographer?
Unless you're a professional model, chances are that you don't work with photographers all that often. Booking your first photographer can be a daunting process: what exactly should you expect? What kind of planning should you and your photographer do? Do you need to set aside a whole day or just an hour? How many photos should you receive? You've probably got dozens of questions!
I wish I could give you a simple, straightforward answer, but truthfully the answer is "it depends". There are a lot of variables that affect what you should expect. Most importantly, it'll depend on what type of session it is (family, wedding, engagement, portrait, etc.), and how much you pay. But regardless of those factors, there are a few things you can always expect. I'll take you through those first.
What you can always expect from your photographer
1. Your photographer should always make you feel comfortable
This sounds like a no brainer, but a lot of people don't realise how important it is to find a photographer you've got good chemistry with. Why does it matter? Because whether you like your photographer or not will show in your photos! If the person behind the camera has a tone you don't like - if you find them rude, bossy, obnoxious or intimidating - you're going to look tense and unhappy. Good photography is as much about understanding people as it is about being good with a camera.
2. Your photographer should always be happy to answer your questions
If it's the first time you've booked a photographer, you're bound to have dozens of questions. A lot of busy photographers simply want to get clients in and out, and can become weary of answering all the same questions over and over again - but to you, it will be the first time you've ever asked that question, and if your photographer doesn't understand that you're not going to be able to build a good relationship.You want to find someone who's going to take the time to get to know you and listen to your ideas. They should be happy to answer all your questions and advise you on everything from locations to outfit choices to the best time of year for your pics. And they should take the time to chat with you before the shoot, to make sure you're fully informed about what to expect.
3. Your photographer should always be clear about how many photos you'll receive and the level of editing
Believe it or not, some people are really misleading about what you'll actually receive after a shoot. For example, with portrait sessions, some photographers charge a "sitting fee" of something like £50-200. It can sound like a bargain, until you realise that they'll charge you extra if you actually want any of the photos! And they can charge anything they like; typical prices would be £15-50 per photo. Imagine being told you'd need to cough up an extra £1500! You should also check how much time your photographer typically spends editing. Some photographers will simply run their shots through a "batch process", applying the same presets to every single shot. It's much easier for them, but means that not every photo will look its best.
Personally, I'll usually deliver around 50-100 photos per hour of shooting. Most importantly, I'll fully edit every single photograph that I feel is worthy of going to the client. It take me a long time to do, but I'd hate to give a client a photo that wasn't perfect.
4. Your photographer should always have backup gear
It's every photographer's nightmare: you turn up to a shoot you've been planning for months, only to accidentally drop your camera or lens. While that's an inconvenience for something like a family or portrait shoot, where it's probably possible to reschedule, it's a complete disaster for a wedding. If your photographer only has one camera and something goes wrong with theirs half way through the day, you'll be left without photos. In circumstances like that, even a refund can't make up for the loss of those pictures - so make sure they've got a backup plan!
5. Your photographer should always let you know up-front about any out-of-pocket costs
Some photographers will charge for things like petrol, accommodation and lunch - and that's pretty normal; they need to cover their costs after all. But they should always let you know before hand. I once booked a session with a photographer and agreed to pay for her petrol costs, only to have her demand an extra £15 for parking when we met. Needless to say I was unimpressed, and it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
6. Your photographer should be clear about usage rights
Most people assume that once they've paid for their photos, they can do whatever they like with them - but that's not quite the case. Your photographer may well have it written into their contract that you can't print the photos through anyone but them, or that you can't share them with family and friends, or aren't allowed to post them online. These days it's usual for your photographer to let you print and share them with family and friends, as long as the use is non-commercial (i.e. you're not using them to promote a business or making money from them). Social media is a bit more tricky; photographers do have trouble with their photos being stolen by other people who claim it's their work, or with vendors (e.g. wedding suppliers) taking the photos to use commercially without paying for them or attributing the photographer. For that reason, some photographers ask that you only link to the photos on their own pages, or that you use watermarked versions. Personally I supply two sets of files to my clients - one high res, unwatermarked for printing, and one low-res, watermarked for social media.
An additional note on weddings
Weddings are a little bit different to portraits; you're spending the whole day with your photographer, for a start! I'll cover this topic in more detail in another note, but in the mean time here's a little note on what I think wedding couples deserve.
Your wedding day will make you feel like a superstar. You're going to be on top of the world, and everyone will be doing their best to make you happy - not that you'll need any help, because you're marrying the love of your life! Feeling that special shouldn't just be confined to one day, though. I work hard to make sure you get the red carpet treatment from the moment you decide to let me photograph you. I pride myself on building great personal relationships with the couples I shoot, and getting to know you is one of my favourite parts of the job. Whenever you want to chat about wedding ideas, share images (it's all about Pinterest, right?), bounce ideas or ask questions, I'll be here to help. And when it comes down to the big day, you can rest assured that I'll be doing my utmost to make sure you're happy, relaxed and enjoying your day. I'm always watching to see what I can do to make a situation better, whether that's giving you a few tips on how to stand, straightening a buttonhole, or giving you a tissue to wipe away happy tears. It's hard work for sure, but if at the end of the day I love to go home knowing that I've not only captured some amazing moments, but also that I've helped the couple enjoy their day a little bit more.