How to be a great photographer

You want to book a portrait photographer for your family but you’re struggling to choose from the huge choice of family photographers in your area. Sound familiar?

So what makes a good family photographer and what should you consider when choosing one? Here are a few things to look for.

1. Pick a photographer whose style you love!

Only you know what type of photography you’d like to see displayed in your home. Do some research online, look at different photographers’ portfolios and try to pinpoint what sort of style appeals to you. Photographers’ styles are unique to them and come in all shapes and sizes. How does their photography make you feel? Photography is as much to do with the people in front of the lens as the person behind it.

  • How to be a great photographer

Photo credit: Paula Deegan Photography

2. Choose a photographer who specialises in ‘family photography’

This may sound obvious but if you’re hiring a photographer to take family portraits, it’s best to choose someone who does exactly that. Some people believe that a photographer can photograph anything. This may be true to some extent but when you’re paying for a professional job, you need to know they are competent in the specific area they’re being hired for.

It’s also important to choose a professional who’s an expert in the specific type of family photographer you’re after. An outdoor / location family portrait will have a slightly different skillset to a studio family photographer and vice versa. Check out their portfolio for examples of relevant work.

  • How to be a great photographer

Photo credit: Paula Deegan Photography

3. Choose someone who’s a good fit for your family

When a photographer makes you and your family feel relaxed, you’ll enjoy the shoot and this will be shine through in your photos. Happy expressions are the result of a good time so it’s important you have a good experience. If you have young children, choose someone who’s experienced with photographing children and who’ll make it fun for them! If you have elderly relatives in your shoot, make sure your photographer is considerate to how mobile they are when choosing a location.

  • How to be a great photographer

Photo credit: Paula Deegan Photography

4. Be clear about your end goal

What you’re going to do with your images is perhaps the most important aspect to consider when you’re planning for a photo session, but it’s all too often the aspect that’s overlooked… all that time and money invested deserve a better return than photos gathering dust on a hard drive somewhere.

You’ll never get the same feeling looking at your photos on a screen as you will seeing them on your wall or flipping through the pages of an album.

If you’re not sure, ask your photographer what they recommend. Your photographer should be able to offer ideas and help you to visualise how products will look in your home, so making a decision doesn’t become stressful.

  • How to be a great photographer
  • How to be a great photographer

5. Consider price but don’t let that be the over-riding factor

Of course price is a big factor, we all have budgets to work to. However, don’t pick a photographer based solely on price. Remember the reason you’re booking a family photographer in the first place is to capture the true essence of your family and to allow you to savour those precious moments for years to come.

Consider these elements too:

  • How much experience do they have? (Check how long they’ve been in business and whether they have a professional qualification)
  • Do they communicate well? Do they tell you what to expect and help you prepare for your session?
  • Do they provide a contract? Are they flexible if someone gets sick?
  • Do they use professional equipment such as Canon, Nikon or Sony?
  • Do they offer a good range of products to suit different budgets?
  • Do they edit the photos? Obviously the raw ingredients have to be captured in the photo to begin with, but skilled editing can add a real ‘wow’ factor!

Photo credit: Paula Deegan Photography

6. Go with your gut feeling

Get in touch with the photographer and ask lots of questions! Where do they shoot? How far in advance should you book? Are they flexible? How far will they travel? Are they experienced with children? When are their busy times of year?

Once you’ve done your research go with your gut feeling! Good luck with finding the perfect photographer for your family.

  • How to be a great photographer

Photo credit: Paula Deegan Photography

Looking for a family photographer who offers all of the above and more?

Paula Deegan creates beautiful, emotive portraits for warm-hearted families in Surrey & South West London. Her focus is on making the whole photography experience as fun and stress-free as possible and create art that brings joy to your home every day!

Let’s face it, there are a lot of photography options out there. How do you identify and decide which photographer is the right one for you?

How people think about and approach photography varies from person to person, but keep this in mind as you search for one and as you read this post – photography is an investment! When all is said and done, these images are going to be what you look at through the years and ultimately, what you leave behind – make sure they are good ones, and selfies don’t count!

First, figure out why you are looking for a photographer. That’s right, why do you need a photographer? Are you looking to have pictures taken just to have everyone in the pictures? Or is it a particular milestone in your life (engagement, wedding, maternity, newborn, special birthday, annual family portrait, etc.)?

Second, what will you do with these images once they are delivered to you? Will you keep them safely on a USB or in “the cloud”, or will you print and display them around your home? Will they be used for an announcement? Printed or digital? Will they be shared on social media? Will they be given as gifts?

Third, where would you like to have your pictures taken? In a studio, outdoors, at home, on a farm, beach, etc.?

Fourth, what is your budget? Yes, budget! Identifying your reasons as per above and what you will do with the images after they are captured, will help you determine how much you are willing or able to spend on a photographer. If you do a search on how much you should pay for professional photography the answers will vary, but a common theme is that “you get what you pay for”. Make sure that you take into account printing costs as well photography cost. It kind of defeats the purpose of having professional pictures taken and then getting them printed at your local drugstore or online discount printer. The quality of the print will be much better from the photographer with the correct colors, correct saturation and detail levels. A good pro will have a relationship with a printer they trust and one that will provide a quality product.

Next, once you have identified the above, ask your family and friends, the ones whose opinion you trust, the ones that know you and the ones whose pictures you have seen and loved! Ask them about their experience, the photographer – were they easy to work with, did they have good customer service, will they use them again in the future, are they happy with the final product?

Once you have identified a few potential photographers, take a look at their website and social media posts. Are they a “good” photographer? Remember that what you see posted on their social media is their best work – is their best good enough for you? Do they have creative vision? Do you like their style, composition, use of lighting, backdrops, angels, editing, etc. Is it just a nice picture or is a great picture? Does the image illicit any emotion (make you smile, tear up, wonder what the subject was thinking) … Are they able to catch real moments or is every image “over posed”? If you had an image like that of your and your family – would you proudly display it in your home?

Many people overlook this next part, mostly because they don’t know what to look for, and I don’t expect everyone to be a photography expert, but here are some key things to look for while trying to determine if the photographer produces technically good pictures. Are there weird shadows on faces, trees or buildings growing out of peoples’ heads? Is the image properly exposed or is too light, too dark, in or out of focus? Do all of the images look the same (same angle, filter, location, just different faces)? Do the images have depth or are they flat? Do the poses look forced or natural? Do the images look finished (edited) or do they look like something your cousin Eddy would take with his camera?

Lastly, make sure that you speak with the photographer before booking them! Ask them all the questions you may have about the session, their process, turnaround time. Do you like them? Do they meet your needs, goals and budget?

While you are speaking with the photographer, make sure that you understand what is included in the package (digitals, prints, both or none)? Many clients think that they should get all of the images on a disk the next day. Let’s step back for a minute – do you really want 150 (or more) images, many of the same pose, some with eyes closed or not so flattering expressions? Will you be displaying all 150 of them or just the ones that you love? Also, if you get 150 images the next day, chances are that little to no editing was done. A good professional photographer will take the time to cull (the process of reviewing and selecting the best images), edit and present you with the finest images from the session. More doesn’t mean better, especially in photography. Quality images take time to produce, and you deserve quality, not quantity.

So remember – you get exactly what you pay for and if the prices sound too good to be true, then they often are. Pictures are SO important; they are worth the investment. Think carefully and choose very wisely before you spend your time, your money or, most importantly, your memories and moments with someone that is not going to give you what you want.

I know that it sounds like a lot, but just as you would do the research on a new car you want to buy that will last you for the next few years, you should do the research on the person that will be capturing those special moments that will be displayed in your home for many years to come.

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving, what you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things long after you have forgotten everything.” – Aaron Siskind

I think this is a question that everyone who starts any new endeavor asks themselves at some point: Am I going to be good at it?

Even with the consciousness of the effort that is involved in becoming successful at something, it’s still a dilemma faced by most beginners. Of course, there isn’t a straight answer for it, and you can’t know for sure until a number of years and thousands of photos have passed.

There are, however, a few early signs that indicate a high probability of success in photography. Here they are.

One (or More) of Your Photos Goes Viral

When you take an amazing photograph, you may or may not think that it’s truly amazing. The ultimate confirmation comes when it goes viral, when someone (or thousands of someones!) sees it online and thinks it’s worth sharing. It’s a great feeling, and it’s a sign that you might just have the talent to make it. However, don’t settle for that and get lazy. Keep working at your craft, learning skills and practicing the ones you already have. Do that, and the viral-worthy photos will keep coming!

You’re Quick to Understand Post-Processing

Having a good understanding of post-processing early on will take you a long way. Many beginners ignore it or postpone learning it, simply because it can seem a bit daunting to understand all the various controls and tools that are at your disposal in programs like Photoshop and Lightroom. Other people learn it quickly, then use it to excess. If you find the balance between the two in your early days of photography, you are placing yourself on the right path to becoming a professional photographer.

Successful Photographers Compliment You

Even if you feel you’ve done a good job and your work gets seen by professional photographers, it doesn’t always attract praises from seasoned pros. But when a photo that you’ve created catches a pro’s eye, you know you’ve done a good job. It’s great to get kudos from friends and family, and a viral photo here or there is nice too, but the ultimate compliment is when a true professional finds your work to be a cut above the rest!

You Go to the Right Workshops

There are so many photography workshops nowadays that it takes quite an effort to pick out the ones that are worth going to. The tricky part is that the education you get in the early part of your photography career is crucial to your future in the business. If you go to a workshop where you learn all the wrong stuff (and there are a ton of workshops preaching the wrong things!), it will take quite a long time to become aware that you’re not doing things right. If you want to learn how to be a photographer, be a critical consumer of all things photography, and only spend your time and money on the proven winners.

You Start Collecting Trophies

Photography contests are an important part of the development of a photographer. At first, they will most likely be small ones, like monthly contests in photography magazines or online contests for amateurs. But you have to start somewhere, and if you’re truly talented and keep submitting, you’ll start winning important contests. Much like getting praise from a pro, performing well in a contest that’s judged by a panel of professionals is among the highest praise you can get. If you start collecting trophies and ribbons, you know you’re doing something right!

You Stop Photographing Everything in Sight

Being selective with what you shoot is crucial in developing your creativity and sense of aesthetics. You should photograph as much and as often as you can, but at the same time, be picky! Find what attracts you most and stick with it. Don’t go around photographing every flower, every meal, every building, and so on. Finding your niche will also help you find your voice. Find your voice, and you’ll be well on your way to being a great photographer.

You’ve Moved Past Auto Mode

The sooner you shake off auto mode, the sooner you will learn how to be a photographer. It’s just like riding a bike – you need the training wheels at first, but eventually your skills surpass those training wheels. It can be scary to venture into manual mode, but great photographers know how to make adjustments to their camera themselves!

You Spend Time Learning Lighting

A good sign that you might turn into a great photographer is an interest in light, both natural and artificial. Studying how light works will help you understand what works best for each subject, and it will also give you better comprehension of how your gear handles light. Also, having the ability to create your own light, exactly the way you want it, will set you miles apart from a lot of other newcomers.

Learn how to master the use of natural lighting in your photos in this in-depth tutorial by Bob Holmes from the Advancing Your Photography YouTube Channel:

You’re Not Afraid to Experiment

There are a lot of rules and guidelines in photography, most of which have real value for photographers of all skills levels. As you start out, rules of thumb like the Rule of Thirds are critical in helping you learn better ways to compose photos. But if you’re going to be a successful photographer, you’ve got to learn when to set the rules aside and march to the beat of your own drum. Experiment with different types of photography, different subject matter, ways of lighting the scene, and composing your images. The more you play around, the more likely you are to find the elements that really speak to you, which, in turn, will help you create more compelling images that captivate viewers.

In the end, becoming a great photographer doesn’t involve any deep secrets. Rather, it’s just about taking the time to learn the fundamentals, practice your craft, and discover what your voice is as a photographer. Once you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to counting yourself among the greats!

Who is the best photographer in Cornwall? It comes up in conversation from time to time with my clients. In fact, there are times when they ask me to recommend other photographers for a job if I’m not be able to do it. Perhaps I’m already booked. I always have a list of photographers who I admire and who I know would do a good job.

But before I list out my favourite “togs” in Cornwall, I want to remind you how important it is to choose the best photographer for you. How do you know you’ve got the right one?

Well, many photographers like to specialise in certain areas. My specialisms are storytelling for brands and for promotional purposes, and portraits. Others might specialise more in interior, portraits, weddings. You name it. My first recommendation is to choose someone who works in the area you need.

The second thing to consider is if their style is something that matches your preferences.

And, finally, the third is that you always need to make sure that you get on well with your photographer. Personality can make a big difference to whether or not you enjoy a shoot.

How to be a great photographer

The best photographer in Cornwall:

There are some fantastic photographers in Cornwall and the best? Well, here are the three top photographers I always recommend.

Pip Hayler Photography

Pip is based in Penryn and is a superb photographer. She specialises in commercial photography and, in particular, interior, food and product photography. She does great work and she really focuses on the detail of her images. You can see her website here:

Suzanne Johnson

While Suzanne focuses on family portraits and weddings, I know she puts that skill of capturing connections to great use with her commercial work. She is great for events and branding. She is friendly and does lovely work. You can find her style here:

Simon Burt Photography

Simon is amongst the best interior photographers in Cornwall. He also does food, and takes great lifestyle images of people for brands. Simon has been in photography for a long time and is highly experienced. Always someone I’d recommend. You can see his style here:

Got any questions for me?

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