SA Photographers

Best 10 Tips when choosing a photographer

top tips when choosing a photographer

Choosing a photographer can be a daunting task. You have to find your way and sift through the good and the bad to find a professional photographer who not only suites your photographic style but also your budget.

Choose your quick section of our 10 Tips for choosing a professional photographer below.

Here are a few helpful tips written by a photographer with over 20 years’ experience which will help when choosing your professional photographer in the photographic industry.

Do your photographic research

Speak to your friends and family about the photographers they have used for past events. Your family and close friends will be honest with you regarding the quality of work, work ethics, the waiting period they experienced for rendered images. DO NOT ask on social media, you will most likely be disappointed, ask those closest to you FIRST.

If you don’t come right with friends and family go around to your photography printing shops, camera stores or photography rental agencies. They work with professional photographers all day long. You will soon hear the same names being used over and over and will easily figure out who is good in their field.

Hire a professional photographer

As we all know there is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between a person who owns a camera and just “takes pictures” and a true professional photographer.

Once you have asked your family and close friends, search websites and other platforms where you can compare photography styles and photography. See if the photographs provide the correct lighting, or if they have the photography style you require.

Check their photography credentials and photography background 

Check experience and for authenticity of work. Google is amazing and you can search authenticity of an image on google. Believe it or not we have found some people who have used other actual photographers works and used them as their own.  

We all have to start somewhere most true professionals started with film cameras and before the advent of the internet. Personally, I am a third-generation photographer, I have been “exposed” (yes that pun was intended) to photography and the photography industry for the past 20 years and counting, but I have only had my website for the past 10 years. Having a website is not the alpha and omega. Having one wont magically turn you from a camera owner to a photographer. It does help with regards to the photographer being able to market themselves in the long run.

There are many other ways to market yourself without having a website. Photographers who don’t have websites can use SA Photographers, which has a huge client base to market their photography portfolio, share their gallery and be contacted directly by potential clients for free.

If they have written any articles or blogs read them to get a feel for what makes the photographer tick. Reading about people writing about themselves can expose a lot about them.

Read their photography reviews and talk to their past client base 

As the old saying goes “Jack of all trades master of none” and so it is in the photography industry. If you require a wedding photographer search for someone who specialises in wedding photography. If you require a studio photographer search for photographers who specialise in studio photography. Search their websites, contact their references. Note surnames when doing so. It’s useless asking the mother of the photographer who is used as a reference if she thinks her son / daughter is good, they will obviously say they are even if their work is below par and very low quality.

Find a photographic style that suites YOUR requirements 

Once you have found a specific style you like, visit the photographers’ website or Facebook page. Look at their images methodically under a magnifying glass so to speak.

Have the images been over-edited? Are the whites white and the blacks black? Is the image clear or does it look grainy? If the photographer used natural light does the image look natural? If they used studio lighting do the colours “pop”.

When looking methodically at any image, there is an old saying that states “a photograph is a journey for the eyes” take note what draws your attention first.

What is the photographer trying to emphasise using light? How do you feel when viewing the image?

True photographers know how to paint and tell a story using light. They also understand where the viewers eyes will travel when viewing their work, and they will have an underlying message and will always try to tell the viewer something.

Make notes of what you see, where you looked and the overall feeling you get from the photographers’ work.

Once you have made notes go back to your notes as see if what you wrote down matches your vision of what you had in mind initially. If not, move on to another photographer with another photographic style.

Remember there are as many ways to photograph something as there are photographers. The key here is to find a photographer whose style suites your vision.

Interview the photographer and see if you are comfortable being around them

Once you have narrowed the field down a bit ask to meet the photographer face to face and see what your comfort level is and what your gut feeling tells you.


Unfortunately, in this industry there ARE “people” (I use the term people here very loosely), who take advantage of others. If you are a model looking for a model photographer, take a family member close friend with to your first meeting with said photographer. ALWAYS take a family member / close friend with when doing studio shoots or model shoots.

In my 20 years’ experience as a tattoo photographer, gothic photographer and nude photographer I have ALWAYS welcomed the models’ friends and family members of the models to my photography studio. An extra pair of hands to help hold a reflector, or to pass me an extension lead or hold a tripod has always been helpful in my books. They also usually learn a lot about photography when they are a bit more involved in shoots. The models are also much more at ease if there is someone close-by that they trust.


Unfortunately, in this industry there ARE “people” (I use the term people here very loosely), who take advantage of others. If you are a model looking for a model photographer, take a family member close friend with to your first meeting with said photographer. ALWAYS take a family member / close friend with when doing studio shoots or model shoots.

Never trust a someone who says that their model shoots are “closed-shoots” and that “no family members / friends are allowed”. Never ever trust someone who just seems to want to get you alone as soon as possible during a model shoot ever!!

If by law the model is still classified as a minor, then they must by law be accompanied by their parent(s) or guardian during all meetings and all model photographic shoots.

Questions to ask photographers

Ask about their photo editing process

Ask about their turn around time (how long will you wait for your final rendered images? When I used to do Band photography, I would photograph till 2am, go home, crop and do some editing to roughly 300 images. Once completed I would add my watermark. My client would always have their images by 8am that same morning, which would be posted on all their social media platforms. As my photography mentor used to tell me constantly “Edit in the camera, shoot as though you were using film”. In other words the less you have to edit an image after it has been photographed the quicker a client will have their images.

Focus on their photography style / genre

Remember they are sitting in front of you because you like their type of photography, so ask questions regarding their images. Photographers are authors, instead of words we use light, if the photographer was trying to portray something in their images, they WILL tell you.

Do they get excited?

Take note and go with your gut feeling here. True photographers are artists and you can easily tell when someone is truly passionate about their work and what they do.

Location based photography

Ask the photographer if you should search for a location or will they search for a location. Remember professionals will be sitting in front of you with a portfolio as you have already contacted them requesting a meeting. Professionals will be able to immediately tell you the ideas they have regarding possible locations where they have photographed in the past.

Studio based photography

When it comes to studio-based photography ask if it would be a closed event, or would be ok if a family member / boyfriend / girlfriend accompany you?

Do they have model release forms?

Remember by law, images taken by a photographer of a subject, belong to that subject, unless a release form is signed allowing the photographer to use the images for their own marketing purposes.

Make sure you and the photographer are both happy should you allow them to add your images to their website or make use of them on other social media platforms for marketing purposes.

If you do not want your images to be used then mention this to the photographer. Whatever the agreement is, be sure you get it in writing before or on the day of the photographic shoot. READ the agreement and make sure it is signed by you and the photographer. Both parties must keep a copy of this agreement)

Ask them a ball park figure regarding the price

Professional photographers will be able to tell you quite quickly what their rates are and a breakdown of costs be that per hour / a set fee, as remember they are professionals who are running a business.

Get quotes

Once you have met with a few prospective photographers, ask them for quotes. Put them side by side along with the note you made previously and make a decision here with your head and NOT your heart. Compare apples to apples. See what you are offered. Don’t just go for the lowest price, remember the old saying “you pay peanuts and you get monkeys”

Are there any hidden costs or fees?

Always always always read the fine print (need it say more)

Once you have narrowed it down, go with what your BRAIN tells you.

In conclusion

Choosing a photographer is not as hard as it seems. One needs to know when to listen to your brain and when to listen to your heart. Remember that a true professional photographer will be just as nervous and excited to work with you as a new client as you will be to work with them.

Once you have accepted the quote, you can relax! You and your professional photographer have just started on a journey now and like everything else in life things take time to grow and prosper.

ENJOY your photographic shoot

Author Warren Akerman – Past owner of FSTOP Studios and presently Co-Director of SA Photographers (Pty) Ltd