How to Choose a Family Portrait Photographer

I think about how and why people choose the professional family portrait photographers they do, because I’m constantly considering the hopes and wishes of my clients and how to match them. Some people trust the recommendations of their friends and neighbors, some look for the best prices and deals, some see advertisement booths in the mall. Deals and bargains are tempting, but with so many inexperienced and untrained photographers out there, you’ll want to be wary if something seems too good to be true. One of the most important, but often overlooked ways to choose a photographer is by doing a bit of research about their qualifications, and getting a sense of how well they seem to understand and empathize with you.

When you choose a photographer, look at examples of the portraiture on their website and give them a call to get a sense of their personality and manner. A portrait requires a partnership of working together, and you should make sure you’re on the same page. The photographer should be able to set you and your family in a positive, up-beat and relaxed mood so the images reflect this quality.

A very important thing to be aware of is that there is NO requirement for getting a business license to operate as a “Professional Photographer.” To be very clear, many people who are hobbyists and weekend photographers can get into the business with no real credentials or understanding of quality. This is a BUYER BEWARE situation because your experience will likely suffer due to people who just want to make extra money on the side. You’ll be much more satisfied by choosing a photographer who has dedicated their life’s work to keeping up with their education, assuring that they meet professional standards, and committing to their clients happiness.

One way of guaranteeing that you and your family have a thoroughly professional experience, is to look for photographers who belong to Professional Photographers of America (PPA), and Virginia Professional Photographers Association (VPPA). These are organizations that require photographers to adhere to standards of quality and ethics, and offer education for their members. Membership requires a sincere commitment to excellence, and will insure that your photographer has a fine sense of craft and integrity.

Finding a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) is also key, as there are rigorous requirements and standards for carrying this title; not just anyone can claim this honor. The Professional Photographic Certification Commission is the leading certifying body for imaging professionals in the world. For a photographer to gain certification, they undergo rigorous testing, which assures that your photographer is truly knowledgeable:

  • Pass a comprehensive written exam measuring their technical expertise.
  • Successfully submit their work to a panel of judges for review and approval.
  • Renew credentials every 5 years with continuing education and submitting work for critical evaluation.