Next flag, reviews. I read comments saying this couple should have looked at reviews to know whether the photographer they hired was legit or not. The photographer they chose had an A- on the Better Business Bureau’s website, which means they had good reviews. Why are reviews not cueing unprofessional photographers? Because my friends, no news is good news. Reviews are usually received when requested. New photographers tend to offer friends and family free photographs to get their foot in the door of the industry and build a portfolio. Then they turn around and ask those same people for reviews. When is the last time you left a bad review for a service or product you got for free? Ratings are not enough when browsing reviews. It would be foolish not to read several of the reviews to determine what people are actually getting from hiring this photographer. What was their experience? Would they recommend or use this photographer again? And even after looking at reviews with this in mind, understand how limited this source pool is. When is the last time you switched service providers in any industry and found out that the new service provider is so much better? Did you go back and leave a bad review on the previous service provider? Of course not. People have their reasons for switching and often are bad at putting those reasons in words without being a troll. So why bother? And that is the downfall of relying on reviews. Look for a wide range of portfolio images form the photographer. Is their portfolio comprised of several different people or is it the same people over and over again? If you see nothing but photos of their kids, then this is a sign they are new to the industry. Look for these kinds of flags, and gamble with your money not your photographer.
Lastly, beware of new photographers to the industry and your area. There is a reason why people praise experience so highly in any profession. Hire new photographers at your own risk. Ansel Adams said it best “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.” Ultimately when you hire a professional, you are paying for their capability, consistency, and ability to deliver after the end of the day. All of which comes from experience doing so over and over, time and time again. And going back to professionals making their living from photography not their spouse’s income from their job, beware traveling photographers that move from place to place to wherever their spouse goes for their job. That is a big red flag that this person can disappear with your photos in a heartbeat. The best way to support local businesses is to look for the old salty dogs of the industry. Those who have deep roots in your area and don’t just talk about how much they love the area, but are actually grounded there. They have family here. They went to school here. They contribute to the community here. That is how you build your local community, not by chasing the cheapest, newest options. Those are just gimmicks like genuine leather.
Some simple questions this couple could have asked to prevent this from happening to them would look like this. Do they make a living from photography? Have they been providing photography to my area for several years? Do they have a formally trained artistic eye? Have they ever used a film camera and developed their own film? Do they have a wide variety of portfolio images as well as several different clients in the images?
If you are reading this thinking “Oh they are just saying look for a photographer like them”, you are right. That is exactly what I am saying, because we would never do this to one of our clients.