Family Portraits: Clients and Pros Share Insights

Family Portraits: Clients and Pros Share Insights

Consistency is one of the biggest differentiators between pro and amateur photographers. Why should you care about the depth of a photographer’s work? After all, you’re only buying a handful of images for prints and displays. It matters because the photographer may or may not be able to create on demand, or duplicate previous results. Before you invest in photography, you want to make sure you’re dealing with a true professional who can get the job done under a variety of circumstances. Learn more in these sections:


Find-a-PhotographerConsistency Counts: Professional Photographers Share Why
“Often, with amateur portraits, clients get their images and they aren’t necessarily happy, but they don’t know why,” says Jen Basford of 3 girls photography in Edmond, Oklahoma. “Unfortunately, the amateur photographer usually doesn’t know why, either. So many amateurs just shoot with the situation they’ve been given, hoping for a few lucky shots with cute expressions, rather than crafting a scene that’s conducive to good portraiture. Then, when something doesn’t come out right, they don’t know how to fix it. By contrast, a pro can look at an image and immediately understand why it’s not satisfactory, and then make adjustments to produce a good end product.”

That’s why it’s so important to view an entire session of images, or a collection of photographs from many different sessions, so you can get a sense of the depth of a photographer’s work. It should be heartbreakingly difficult to select your favorite images from a family or child portrait session because almost every image should move you. If there are only one or two shots that you’d consider framing, then you’re not dealing with a professional product.

“There is a big difference between a lucky snapshot and a professionally produced image, one that is captured well and perfected in post-production,” says Laura Esmond of Hannah Photography in Denver. “That technical accuracy is big differentiator between pro work and images from an amateur with a nice camera.”

“Amateurs make some great images, but they may not be able repeat good results,” adds Basford. “With many amateurs or part-time enthusiasts, it’s almost a matter of luck when they create a beautiful photograph. All the conditions are right. The lighting happens to be perfect, and they get an amazing shot almost by accident. However, if you ask them to do it again under different circumstances, they can’t. A professional photographer, on the other hand, should be able to duplicate great results because the pro always knows what she is doing and why she is doing it. So, really, you’re making a much safer investment by hiring a pro because the work will be more consistent, and you won’t be risking your money on something that you may or may not like.”

Professionals have also made a commitment not only to their art but to providing the full package for their clients. “Pros spend a lot of time improving their art and researching the products and options for their clients,” points out Esmond. “Professionals educate themselves in ways that amateurs don’t have time to do, and they are dedicated to helping their clients display the images in the best possible way. It’s an investment in the full experience that amateurs can’t possibly duplicate.”

Here’s the best part of all this: Photographers love to show off their work—from digital files to fully assembled products. Ask a photographer to view more images, and you’re likely to see a twinkle in his eye as he excitedly pulls out albums, portfolios, iPads, image discs and every other display method he can find. It’s a creative collaboration, after all, and it all starts with client and photographer seeing eye to eye about the style of the images. Professionals understand that and welcome the inspection of their imagery.

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Find-a-PhotographerWhy She Chose a Pro: Jennifer Pater
When her twin boys turned seven, Jennifer Pater knew it was finally time to get a professional family portrait. A talented photographer in her own right, Pater had always prioritized photography, but she’d done a lot of her own portraits or made do with less expensive chain operations. The problem was that she was always left out of the images she took, and the big box chains just weren’t cutting it in terms of the style or creativity. This past year, Pater decided it was time to get some professional images made of the whole family—including her.

She did a lot of research and ultimately selected Laura Esmond from Hannah Photography. “This was a big decision because we had never taken family portraits like this, and I wanted something that would stand the test of time,” says Pater. “When you make an investment in photography, you want it to last a lifetime.”

During their session, Pater knew instantly that it was a good choice.  “The experience was very important to me,” she says. “We did an outdoor shoot on a chilly, windy day, but you wouldn’t know it from the smiles on my kids’ faces. She made it a fun two hours—very relaxing, not stressed or rushed. The kids laughed and played, and they even came over to me and said they were having a good time. Their enjoyment came through in the images, which was wonderful.”

Esmond did a range of individual portraits, family portraits and different poses. Variety was key because Pater wanted to create a family story with the images. After the shoot, she discussed the image choices with Esmond and ended up purchasing a multiple-image wall collection, a 45-page album and a set of 5x7 cards.

“When you look at our wall, it tells a story,” says Pater. “You can see the time of year, the personalities, the fun, and the love that is behind it. It’s really hard to capture all that in a picture, but she did.”

Pater’s first priority was to build of collection of art that she could add to over time. To help create the ideal installment, Esmond came out to her home, talked with the family and helped them set up their wall display. That extra mile really made the difference.

“When you go through this process—professional image creation, picking the frame, the matting, having it mounted and installed properly—it goes beyond just hanging a picture on the wall,” says Pater. “This is really a piece of art that shows our family history. It’s something we will be proud of 10, 20, 30 years done the road. This isn’t something we’ll do every year, but it is something that we will add to as there are changes in the family. We’re already discussing the next pieces to go into the collection, and how it will all fit.”

To other families looking for a good professional photographer, Pater strongly recommends researching your options, looking at lots of images and asking plenty of questions. “Talk to the photographer about his or her personality and make sure it fits with your family,” she says. “If you and the photographer don’t share the same vision, it’s going to show in the images. Also, check on the credentials of your photographer. You get what you pay for when you don’t use a true professional; the colors aren’t true, they aren’t good at black and white, and there’s no variety. But if you do your homework and find someone who really clicks with you and your family, you’ll never be happier.”

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Find-a-PhotographerWhy She Chose a Pro: Brandi Sparks
Brandi and Geoff Sparks wanted to start out their daughter’s visual history the right way. A photographic enthusiast, Geoff had traveled the world taking photographs, so good portrait photography was a priority. Within two weeks of little Jovie’s birth, the Sparks set up a newborn session with Jen Basford of 3 girls photography, who Geoff knew from a business connection.

“We talked some in advance of that first session about the types of pictures that we like, and when we showed up, she had several ideas ready to go based on what we’d told her,” says Brandi. “It was great to see that she’d thought out the session based on our particular tastes. I was worried about trying to explain what we wanted without really being able to express it properly, but she was able to interpret everything perfectly and run with it.”

The Sparks had some ideas of the products they’d want to purchase, but they wanted some professional guidance about their best options. “We spent a lot of time discussing products with Jen,” says Brandi. “We weren’t exactly sure what we wanted, so it was very helpful to have a professional’s guidance.  She was able to project the pictures at the actual size they would be on our wall, so we could see how they’d look at the final size. That was very helpful.”

As their first time doing professional child portraits, the Sparks found the entire experience to be much more pleasant than they expected. “I thought we’d get into the studio, see what we could get in a few minutes of shooting, and then they’d move on to the next person,” says Brandi. “But it was never like that. Jen was always willing to wait around and work extra to get good photographs. We never felt rushed.”

To other parents looking for a baby or child photographer, Brandi recommends looking at as much of the photographer’s past work as possible. She also suggests getting referrals from previous customers and speaking with the photographer to get a sense of her personality and working style.

“It’s a collaboration,” says Brandi. “We were surprised at how well Jen took our ideas and turned them into great pictures. So being able to communicate well with your photographer is key. If you get along and can get on the same page, the results can be amazing.”

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