On the Other Side of the Lens | Part 2 | Choosing the RIGHT Photographer.

Check out Part 1 of this series and learn WHY we decided to have family portraits taken on vacation.


A month ago we were in Estes Park, Colorado for our family vacation. In the planning stages, I decided we should have REAL family portraits taken while we were there. Not the kind where mom uses a timer and a tripod and ends up a sweaty mess.

I needed a pro. Someone who knew the area, the good spots in the mountains (pretty sure there might be just a few) and the best times to be there. The search was about to begin...

Obviously, I have narrowed my search based on location. Estes Park, CO. Check.

This was the view of Estes Park from our rental. 

Next, I was not planning a wedding, nor was I planning to suddenly have a newborn. With that, I eliminated photographers who solely shoot weddings and/or newborns. I clearly needed a FAMILY photographer.

(Okay, okay, while that may seem obvious to me, did you realize there was a difference? Weddings, newborns, families and so on... they all require unique skill sets and training in order to shoot with success. I will not be wearing a big white gown and I adamantly refuse to curl up in a tiny swatch of pink fabric. And now... with that painful mental picture, let's move on. Quickly, please.)

As I began scouring the internet, I realized there was a slight wrench in my search: MY JOB. I absolutely intended to be upfront about being a photographer myself. My straightforwardness ultimately relied on three things...

First, that the photographers I contacted didn't scoff at my request. Believe it or not, there are people who spy on other pros in the industry to find out their inside information, their systems, their rates. You know, instead of doing honest research and development.  I truly had no ulterior  motives and the person on the other end of the line NEEDED to trust me.

Second, who ever I hired had to be confident enough in their skills to work for another professional photographer. That could be pretty nerve-wracking. I'm not even sure I could do it.

Finally, third, I wanted to hire someone whose style meshed with mine. I plan on using these pictures on my own website and blog as well as in my home. While I don't want anyone TOO close to my style, I want a good match, a good appeal.

So how does this translate to your search for a photographer? Imagine going to an art museum. You have a display in front of you with Impressionist work, Abstract art, Realism and Baroque. If you have a house already filled with Abstract artwork, clearly the Baroque piece wouldn't fit into the mix. Those pieces just wouldn't feel RIGHT to you. Choose the piece that speaks to you, that brings you joy.

Believe it or not, this was the side of a building in Fort Collins, CO. AMAZINGness!

Believe it or not, this was the side of a building in Fort Collins, CO. AMAZINGness!

In addition to STYLE, a big part of a happy portrait experience is the PERSONALITY of the photographer. This is SO important. You will show off all these gorgeous portraits, everyone will admire them, ooh-ing and aah-ing. Wouldn't it be a shame if the part they couldn't see is how awful the experience was for you? Every time you look at these pictures, you should feel joy. 200% satisfaction. So choose a photographer who makes you feel that way.

Let me tell you a story to emphasize this point.

When my darling hubby and I got married (15 short years ago!), the photographer who was hired for our wedding was what one would refer to as a "veteran" in the industry. He had years and years of experience. He was very talented. He was very set in his ways. And that's what I keep getting stuck on, even after all these years. "Stuck in his ways". Stubborn. Unbending. Imagine this: The bridal party was running late. We asked him to shoot the groups that were present -- which would have been "out of order" --  and he looked like he wanted to strangle each and every one of us. Then, later, I asked for two (TWO!) extra portraits with close friends who were helping with the wedding (and standing right in front of us)... and get this... HE SAID NO! The photographer was a cranky old man who TOLD THE BRIDE NO in response to the one and only request she had the entire day. 

Now, when I look at my wedding pictures, although I cherish them, I can't help but remember that the photographer was a jerk. It taints the pictures.

See what I mean?

(For the record, word on the street is that our wedding photographer is long retired. Happily retired? Ha, I'm not so sure... but he's retired.)

Back to our family portraits - I wanted to hire someone who would be nice (at a minimum), approachable and whose style I enjoyed. Also, since (Irony Alert) I am terribly, utterly and completely uncomfortable getting my picture taken, I want to hire someone who will put me at ease and who I can trust to shoot me in most flattering way. (with the lens cap on... ha ha.)

So who did I choose? I'll fill you in next time...