Do's and Don'ts of Working with a Professional Photographer

Professional family photography has been around for a while, but never has it been more popular and accessible as it is today. With the release of digital cameras, affordable photography equipment, and access to endless learning tutorials online, there is an abundance of options for families when it comes to hiring a professional photographer.

But there are still plenty of people who have never worked with a photographer before (or a few that have, but not at that professional business-owner level). Whether you’re having your first baby or simply never felt the desire to hire someone to take your family’s portraits, it can be a confusing thing to work with a photographer. You might be afraid of saying or doing something wrong. You might be unsure of the process. So this post is all about what you should do.. and a few things you definitely shouldn’t.

Image of a mom with her daughters, laughing. Studio family portrait by N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Do’s

Do Ask questions

If this is your first time.. you will naturally have a lot of questions for the photographer. Don’t be afraid to ask and clarify anything that you’re unsure about. And if you’ve worked with a photographer before, the next person might do things completely differently. So ask. Not only does it make you seem more engaged in the process, but it also allows us to cover things we might miss because we live and breathe in the world of photography.. while you do not.

Image of an archival print in a presentation box. Studio child portrait by N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Do Tell the photographer what you want

Even though my style of photography is fairly narrowly defined, there is still a very wide range within that. Some of the families I photograph really want that formal posed portrait, while others want nothing but candid shots. You have the best idea of what suits your family.. and it’s 100% necessary to communicate that to the photographer. So if you want to wear something specific, want to replicate a photo you have of your grandmother, or have a clear vision of what your images should look like.. TELL the photographer. It’s the only way we’re going to know how to deliver the types of images you want. It might seem completely obvious, but it’s often something I have to uncover with most clients. So take a few minutes and think about what kind of images would make you happy. And if you’re really not sure, then you can absolutely work with the photographer and create a shared vision for the portrait session.

Do Trust the professional

Trust me, I understand that a lot of Moms out there are Type A personalities. I’m very much type A myself. I want things the way I like them.. Which is why it’s so hard to let go and trust someone else to do a good job. But when working with children, it’s often best to let the person who does this for a living take charge. And if you’ve ever had trouble getting your children to sit still and smile for the camera, you’ll know why. There are techniques to engage children in the process, help them relax in front of the camera, and capture that split second of a real smile.. which are all made a lot easier without parental involvement (Yes, I know! The horror!). So treat this as your time to let someone else handle the difficult stuff. Feel free to bring a coffee and relax on the Studio couch, knowing that the photographer you hired has enough experience working with kids to get those gorgeous happy photos you’ve seen on their Instagram.

Do Read the fine print

When you’re hiring an individual or a small company to complete a specific set of tasks for you, there are policies in place that outline the process. Make sure you know all the “fine print” specifics like what the refund and rescheduling policy is with the photographer.. because every photographer will have a different way of handling these. Personally, my fine print isn’t very “fine” at all - it’s spelled out on my website so that potential clients know right away what to expect if things go wrong. Some of the things to cover when it comes to fine print are: timing for when photographs are ready, if there’s an required purchase minimum, whether digital images are provided (and if there are any restrictions), and what the refund or rescheduling policy is.

Image of a wall of prints showing baby photographs. Studio baby portraits by N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

The Don’ts

Don’t Ask for RAW files

This is one of those stories that goes around in photography circles: “I can’t believe the client is asking for RAW files!”. This is one of those things that most people don’t fully understand, and so they make the mistake of asking for RAW images. It seems like a good idea.. and mostly it happens for wedding photos, not really portraits.. but I digress. RAW files aren’t very useful unless you have the software (Lightroom or Photoshop) to process them. Processing takes time, but it’s also one of the biggest reasons why you’re hiring a photographer in the first place. You know how every photographer’s images look different? There aren’t that many cameras or techniques for taking pictures. They all come out looking the same from the camera.. it’s the editing (and furthermore, retouching) that creates the final look of the portrait. That’s why photographers deliver JPEGs (a format you can actually use to print and share), because processing RAW images and creating the final photograph is a huge part of their craft.

Don’t ask for a discount

Because photographers are often self-employed and responsible for setting their own prices, clients sometimes feel inclined to ask for a discount. This, unfortunately, might come across as disrespectful to the photographer. Simply put, if you’re unhappy with the pricing or if it seems too high, pick another photographer to work with (we all know there’s plenty of photographers out there!). Asking for a discounted price puts the photographer in a very uncomfortable situation as they will either have to say "No” or compromise their income. And neither of those options is very pleasant.

Image of a printed portrait of a happy boy with his stuffed teddy bear. Studio child portrait by N. Lalor Photography in Greenwich, Connecticut.

I will say, writing those “Don’ts” was really not my favorite thing to do. My hope is that every family can have a happy and successful experience with their photographer. And I hope that all photographers have respectful and understanding clients, too. Thinking about all the photographer horror stories I’ve heard over the years is really quite unpleasant. But I figure it’s best for you to know and not make the same mistakes. I know it’s hard and uncertain. Hiring anyone to create custom artwork for your family is very much a gamble, but hopefully you can now better approach the process, know what to ask (and not ask), and are able to make the best decision for your family.