How to Find the Right Photographer for Your Senior Portraits

In an era of iPhone technology, we take pictures more than any generation has ever seen. Life is not happening if you can’t prove it on Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter, and Facebook. Furthermore, as we’re taking and sharing pictures of our own lives, we’re also seeing photos of everyone else. Which means we’re constantly witnessing a wide array of quality and style in the way moments are being captured. If we’re paying attention at all, then we probably all know what we like, and what we definitely don’t. 

There has never been a better time to be picky about your senior portraits photographer.

Think about it. Right now, through internet and social media, we are all connected to endless resources to pinpoint exactly what we want for—anything. We only use Google when we can’t find a product or service on a recommendation or straight off the social platforms we already use daily. Why should it be any different for photography?

Here are a few ways to use social media to find the right photographer for you.
 

The mood of @claireharveyphoto on Instagram is very different than that of @kylienoellephotography.

The mood of @claireharveyphoto on Instagram is very different than that of @kylienoellephotography.

@kylienoellephotography is more set back from her subjects as a rule, and has a color palette that favors pastels.

@kylienoellephotography is more set back from her subjects as a rule, and has a color palette that favors pastels.

First hotspot: Instagram.

Instagram is a visual platform. Every photographer with a solid business is on there. It’s a primo place to scout out and bookmark potential photographers in your area. You can search people, hashtags, and even emojis there! Pop that little camera icon in the search bar, with your location, and see what comes up. Also, a really easy way to get leads is to post a clever picture and corresponding caption to get leads right from your followers. Try a selfie—“Almost time for senior photos, and if I take one myself, I’ll look like this! Help?”

The real trick here, though, is to already know what you like. Chances are excellent that if you spend any time on Instagram, you follow photographers whose style you admire. They may not be in your area—you may have stumbled upon them randomly—but if you can ID what you like about their style, you can use that to narrow the options looking at photographers in your town or state. Bonus tip? If you hit “follow” every time you find a photographer you like, Instagram will make suggestions of more Instagram users with similar profiles. More leads!
 

@mischabolton has a playful, colorful, very child-like perspective to her style.

@mischabolton has a playful, colorful, very child-like perspective to her style.

Remember, the goal on Instagram is to identify styles you like!

Remember, the goal on Instagram is to identify styles you like!

@alileighphoto creates distance between herself and her subjects through nostalgic color and soft light.

@alileighphoto creates distance between herself and her subjects through nostalgic color and soft light.

@kelsiebeck creates intimacy with her subjects by getting up close with details and making her audience feel as well as see.

@kelsiebeck creates intimacy with her subjects by getting up close with details and making her audience feel as well as see.

Be sure to double-tap images that are particularly striking to you. Then, when you’re trying to figure out if there’s any theme to what you like, you can hit that little gear icon in your profile and scroll down to “Posts You’ve Liked.” This can help you find a “look” you’re going for, as well as provide parameters for your photographer when you book a session!
 

Second hotspot: Pinterest

I know—Pinterest really got hard to use after businesses got to pay for Pin placement. I used to be on there every day and now I hop on maybe once a month.

But when it comes to finding photo ideas, Pinterest is #1. It’s difficult to find the photographer you want there, since most of the businesses paying for pins are actually bloggers; however, you can find images that you like, collect them, and use them to create keywords for searches. 

First step: Create a “Senior Photo Ideas” board. Next, search something like, “senior photo ideas.” You might notice right away that all the images are girls but you’re a guy, or they’re all autumn foliage shots but you live in Hawaii. So you can start adding descriptors to your search: “Beach senior photos,” “Guy senior photos,” “Dance senior photos.” Narrow down what you really like.

Bear in mind that many of the images that pop up will be beautiful, but may not work in your yearbook. Most schools want a nice, up-close, three-quarter body shot or headshot, and while you might love a photo of yourself holding a vivid fall leaf in front of one eye, your yearbook committee may reject it.

Once you have a good collection, analyze the images for a theme, and also read the captions. You may discover that certain words keep coming up for you—like “golden hour” or “magic hour”; “waterfall,” “organic,” “cozy.” You can use the words you come up with to run searches in Google for appropriate photographers in your area.

Third hotspot: Facebook

Here’s a tip: Save Facebook searching for last. If you’re like any other American, you’re not going out of your way to remove cookies from your computer, which means the ads you see on Facebook are strategically placed based on your recent searches elsewhere. If you’ve run several searches on “Senior Portrait Photographers” over on Google or Instagram, you’re going to start to see leads to that effect show up on your Facebook feed.

You can put out feelers on Facebook the same way you would on Instagram—just ask straight-up for leads. Still, you’ll have to take the leads you get with a grain of salt if you don’t clearly define what you’re looking for, because most people, in an effort to be helpful, will just suggest the last person they used, and that person might not have the skill set or style you want.

In order to get the best results, have three words ready to describe the vibe you want for your photos. Fresh, laughter, delight, serious, nostalgic, retro, organic, bright, colorful, timeless, moving, dream-like, authentic, candid, hopeful, mysterious, and stoic could all be used to describe images. Determine what words you want your photos to capture or evoke, and then you’ll be able to eliminate wrong leads quickly, as well as gain better leads in the first place.

Use the search bar on Facebook to search for photographers in your state. “New Hampshire Photographer” or “Maine Photographer” might work for me. Pages that fit your description will appear at the top of the results. Click “Show More” to see the full list, and narrow your leads based on the words you chose for yourself.

Bonus tip? If you find a photographer you like, you might be able to find more photographers you like by searching “pages liked by people who like XYZ Photography.” Seriously! Facebook lets you do that. However, know that search results will not include only photographers; they will include all shared interests among followers of the photographer you like.

Next Steps

After you know the kind of photos you like and you’re feeling really excited, narrow down the photographers in your area based on whether you think can accomplish the sort of feel you want, and figure out your budget. Some photographers don’t typically offer senior portraits and may charge a high hourly rate for the special request. If you’ve planned ahead, you might be able to save for a pricier photographer; or who knows? Maybe your top choice is already well within your price range.

Get to know the top 2-3 contenders through their websites. Whose “About” page and portfolio gives you a really good feeling? Reach out through that photographer’s “Contact” page. Introduce yourself, give the details of the sort of project you’re hiring for (senior photos), and your yearbook submission deadline. 

If the photographer gets back to you within 24 hours, that’s a great sign! This person takes his or her work seriously and is ready to treat you with professional timeliness. If he or she has availability, then the photographer should be ready to supply you with potential dates, as well as prices, and should also ask great questions—like, how far are you willing to travel? Do you already have a location in mind? Will you be using the photos for anything other than the yearbook, like graduation party invites? If done well, this first correspondence will make you feel like you’re part of a two-way conversation and not just part of a business transaction. If it leaves you feeling at all shaky, start taking steps to book a different photographer.

Finally, commit! Nail down a date with your photographer. Know whether you’re paying up front for the session or upon delivery of the edited images. Ask for a rain date, and a way to confirm the switch if you have to postpone. Ask when to expect your images to be complete. And, as you’re gearing up for getting your photos taken, be sure to read the tips supplied in these two posts: What to Wear for Senior Photos and How to Choose the Best Senior Portraits Location.

Bottom line here? Don’t assume that every professional photographer will make your senior portrait dreams come true. Every photographer has a different style, and you want someone whose style matches you and your personality! Unlike social photos, senior photos usually end up printed and distributed and kept, so you want to be sure you book the right person. 

What are you waiting for? Go forth and find your photographer!

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