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How to Find Your Dream Photographer

Finding the perfect photographer seems so hard if you don't know what to look for. As a wedding coordinator as well as in my own modeling experiences over the past ten years, I have learned that choosing the right photographer for your needs is crucial, otherwise you'll end up with photos you paid a lot of money for that you only *kind of* like. There can be many challenges to finding the right photographer, with the main issues usually surrounding cost, availability, response time, location, and editing style.

In light of these issues, how can you know which photographer is going to capture your needs in a way that genuinely represents you?

I asked my dear friend and photographer Marissa Wu for her expert input on what is important in the photographer-client relationship. The four main areas we identified are personality, style, what's included in the session, and vision.

1. Personality

The personality of your photographer plays a large factor in whether or not you will feel comfortable during the session. In other words, if you don't click, the discomfort or awkwardness may come through in the photos. Now I know posing in front of a camera isn't everyone's favorite past time, and that's okay because it doesn't have to be. A good photographer is going to have an inviting personality that makes you feel good about yourself and like you can "let your guard down." From a photographer's perspective, they are often looking for similar traits in their clients, too. Marissa states, when looking for an ideal client-photographer relationship, "Do we connect? Do they look like someone I could be friends with? Would they care about my story? That’s why one of the first pages I go to is always the about section. I want to know who and what they love, and why they do what they do."

2. Style

Marissa also notes the importance of style, both in editing style and the overall setting and vibe of the shoot. It is true that "when you’re looking at a photographer’s portfolio, what you’re seeing is what you can reasonably expect from them if you book a session."

For example, Marissa considers herself a bright and colorful photographer. Based on her experiences living in Paris, she loves to bring out the natural beauty of both the individual and the surrounding landscape, with a focus on flowers, trees, and small details. However, other photographers go for an editing look that is "vibrant, and others golden." From an expert's opinion, "if you book with someone who does bright and colorful, you cannot reasonable expect a saturated, moody look for your photos."

3. What's Included in the Session

Another thing to note when looking for your ideal photographer is to understand what’s included in your session. "Typically, it will include consultation on location and wardrobe, the time and talent day-of, processing and editing time, and a downloadable gallery." She brings out an excellent point, namely that with any artist, "you aren’t just paying for the photos. You are paying for the time and money they have invested to educate themselves, the time they spent scouting locations, the maintenance and update their equipment so that they can deliver great photos, the hosting of your gallery, the editing of the photos, and more." Clearly, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes, which is why educating yourself on the experience and background of the individual photographer is crucial. As for price? Depending on the photographer's experience, a session can range between $50-$1900. Sometimes, it's even much higher for wedding photography, so make sure "shop around" as there may be ways to save money while still capturing the look you are dreaming of.

An important note about costs/pricing:

From the mouth of a professional in the field, "If you don’t see something in your photographer’s pricing guide, ask him/her about it! They may be happy to work with you on it. But, please don’t ask for a discount unless the photographer has explicitly offered one, or if the photographer happens to be a friend, expect them to do it for free/discount."

4. Vision & the Story you are trying to tell

Nowadays, personal branding is everything. Whether your shoot is for your brand, website, wedding, or any other reason, you should still want your goal to be a genuine depiction of who you are as a person, group, or organization.

In other words, a shoot as large as a wedding or as small as a family photoshoot should reflect a particular vision or story that you want to tell through your photos.

Marissa notes, "You are, in part, hiring a photographer because you like the way that their vision will fit with yours. You want someone who can take your vision and run with it, and can even help you clarify and flush it out when it seems muddy."

As final words from my dear friend who is also an incredible photographer, "A great photographer won’t just make you feel amazing, they’ll walk with you through every step of the process, from inquiry to delivery. And in my case, I hope we’ll end up as friends, too."

Without further a-do, here are some gorgeous photos Marissa and I captured together at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco on our most recent photoshoot.

Marissa was an absolute joy to work with, not just because she is my friend but because of the level of expertise and assurance she has in her abilities to capture beauty. The following is a recommendation I gave her on her website. For any of you who are looking for an incredible photographer who captures your vision & story through photo, give her a try!

To see more of Marissa Wu's work, visit her website

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