6 (Less Obvious) Questions to Ask Your Potential Family Photographer

When you decide it’s time for an update of your family portraits, the first thing you will likely do is jump online and search for local ‘family portrait artists’.

 You are likely to find a few to choose from and upon visiting their websites you’ll quickly narrow down to your favourites based on the look and feel of their websites, how much you relate to the look and feel of their business and how much you love their portfolio of work. Without realizing it, you’ll be asking yourself the basic questions about each photographer – is she professional? Likeable? Trustworthy? Do I love her style and the images she creates?

 Your next questions will delve deeper. Does her portfolio of images consistently show beautiful and technically sound images across a range of situations? Is she experienced working with children the ages of my children? What does she offer? Is she experienced as a photographer, or is she priced at a low level indicating that she’s a beginner, an amateur or a hobbyist? Is she available and able to work with my family?

 These are excellent and important questions, and they probably lead you to a shortlist of talented photographers.

 So THEN how do you choose?

 Portrait photography is an important investment to document your family history and create family heirlooms and you want to ensure you have an amazing experience with a great outcome. So please take the time to go beyond email and get on the phone with your candidates and ask them these deeper questions. Any qualified portrait artist will be happy to take the time to talk to you and the best photographers will answer ‘Yes’ to each of these questions. 


1) Are you accredited? Are you recognized and award-winning?


In Canada, family photographers become accredited through the PPOC – the Professional Photographers of Canada. Accreditation indicates that your photographer has a proven ability to create technically sound and engaging images of their subjects consistently through a variety of situations and conditions. They are a trusted, experienced professional in their chosen crafts.

Photographers who are not accredited might be able to create great images under great conditions, but a family photo session is fast-paced and can bring a variety of challenges to a photographer (lighting conditions, weather, toddler tantrums etc.!). A less experienced photographer may not be able to create great images in the face of the inevitable challenges.

Look for photographers who have won awards and recognition too – then you know you will be getting the best images possible.

2) Will we meet you ahead of time? Will we plan the images together?


Family portraiture beyond simple posed studio shots actually becomes quite an intimate experience. You will be letting your chosen photographer into a day in your life (or an hour or two anyway…) and she’ll be capturing personal moments and connections between you and your loved ones. She’ll witness all the love and all the tantrums. It’s important that this person, whose job is to seamlessly capture your family story, is not showing up and meeting you for the first time in a parking lot or on the street. Not only for the fact that you will be more comfortable knowing HER before you show up, but also so that SHE knows you and knows what you will love to have as your final images.


3) Can you provide styling support to help make our session perfect?


There’s nothing worse than getting to see the photos from your session for the first time and immediately seeing that your family outfits don’t quite match, or your hairstyle was off, your skirt too short or you didn’t quite get your makeup right. While you certainly don’t have to enlist the services of a professional if you are comfortable in this department, it’s nice to know that your photographer can arrange for a Hair and Makeup Artist to come right to your home before your session, and that she is there for you to consult on your wardrobe choices – or even better, can point you to the tailored services of a wardrobe and style professional.

If your photographer can provide and arrange for these services, that’s one less thing on your already busy mom-plate!


4) Will you help us through the image selection and art design process?


If your photographer sends you an online gallery with hundreds of images to choose from, there is a very good chance you’ll love the first look-through, but then quickly become overwhelmed and put off the task of choosing the images you want to print and keep. Going through your images will become a drag and a deadline hanging over your head. You may have trouble distinguishing the best among many similar images, or you might wonder if a certain something can be retouched, or if particular images would look good grouped together, or converted to black & white.

A great photographer will take the time to get together with you and present you with an already-curated collection of images, then actually sit beside you and guide you through the selection process. Using design knowledge and skills, she will help you select the right images for the wall, the best images that create the perfect story for you album, and the best gifts for grandparents, friends and family.


5) Do you offer (and have experience creating and producing) a full range of photographic products?


Your images will be best enjoyed in-hand or on the wall – if they get stuck nowhere but in digital format on your phone, hard drive or USB key, they’ll eventually be forgotten or disappear. A photographer who will bring you professional, archival quality wall mounts, albums and prints is one who truly cares about the impact these heirloom family images will have on your life long-term.

Furthermore, you want a photographer who has the knowledge of how to turn a digital image into a printed product – with accurate colour representation and technical reproduction. She’ll need to know the technical details of the custom products you are investing in, but also be able to advise on the best choices of materials, colours and designs for your home.

Knowing how to layout albums to artfully tell your family story, and knowing how to plan, curate and hang a portrait wall in your home are key.  (Hey, want to learn more about Planning and Curating Your Family Portrait Wall? Grab my free guide here.)


6) Will we see you again after the session?


Your ideal photographer will see you through not only the session prep and shoot day, but also through the image selection and art-design process all the way through to delivering your artwork and hanging the art on your walls. She’ll understand how busy you are and ensure that your images are complete and in place for you to enjoy as soon as possible. She’ll make sure you are taken care of every step of the way and she’ll be there to tweak anything that needs amendment or upgrade. You can trust her and she’ll be your friend.


I sincerely hope that your photographer is your ‘yes-girl’ when it comes to these less obvious ‘screening’ questions. As I said before, family portraiture is an investment, and one you want to get right within an experience that will best serve you and your busy life – having a photographer that goes the extra mile for you is a form of self-care, right?

Want to practice your question-asking on me? Book a call to chat about YOUR family portrait experience on my website here – Spoiler Alert: I’ll say yes to all of the above questions!