After the “I Do”: A Photographer’s Guide to Choosing a Portrait Photographer

After your wedding everything changes; maybe you move into your first home together, start a family or travel the world. Regardless of where life takes you, there will be new memories you form together. TWA is a business built on relationships, capturing and preserving your memories is at the heart of what we do. Recently, we met up with local photographer Rachel Hefner for a little insight on how to ensure your memories are captured perfectly after the wedding!

My name is Rachel V. Hefner; I am a portrait photographer. One thing I’ve learned so far is just how hard it is to find and choose a good photographer. A quick search in your area will give you dizzying number of options. So, how do you choose? What makes a photographer a good photographer? Let me give you a few tips, from a photographer’s perspective, on how to choose a good portrait photographer.

Before I give my tips on choosing a portrait photographer, let’s discuss why it’s important to seek out professional portraits in the first place. Good photography gives us the precious gift of preserving memories and experiences, which might otherwise be forgotten. Portraits remind us of how small your newborn used to be, capture your middle child’s toothless grin, and recall how your toddler fit perfectly in your arms. And, if you find a good photographer, these portraits can be proudly hung on walls, or displayed in albums, and maybe one day inherited as family heirlooms. This is the goal, but you need a good photographer to do it. And this is where it can get difficult.

So, how do you choose? It’s not an easy task. You will encounter a confusing world of photographers, filled with both hobbyists and professionals. And, it’s not always clear who is who or who you should choose. Here then are four simple tips from my perspective as a photographer:

1. A good photographer has a business license.

It’s just not true that anyone who owns a “nice” camera is automatically a professional photographer. If you want good portraits, you should be willing to pay for an experienced and professional photographer. Professional photographers that have business licenses are more expensive because they pay taxes and other fees to run a legal operation. Remember: cheap photography isn’t usually good and good photography isn’t usually cheap. If you are looking to save money, my advice is that it’s better to invest less frequently in good photography than it is to get mediocre photos with regularity. So in short, good photographers are not cheap, and good photographers usually have a business license.

2. A good photographer takes consistent photos.

Good photographers post galleys of their work, and when searching for a good photographer this is a good place to start. You want to find a photographer with a gallery with consistently high-quality photos. You don’t want a photographer who has several posts or galleries that you think miss the mark. That occasional bad session could turn out to be your family portrait. Of course photographers will tend to display their best work, so be sure to ask to see all the photos from a session to see whether they are consistent. A good photographer can consistently make good photos.

3. A good photographer knows about the printing process.

This point is key. A lot of photographers can take good photos. But if they know nothing of the printing process, then you’ll be wasting your money. Remember that the goal is not to invest in photos so that they end up on a USB and lost in some junk drawer. Good photographs should be printed! It might not seem this way, but printing photographs is actually a very complex task. It requires the knowledge and skill of cropping ratios, resolution, sharpening, dpi, paper types, calibrating monitors, printing labs, color space, extending an image for a wrapped canvas, and the list goes on! A good photographer knows how to print and display photos.

4. A good photographer does an in-person consultation.

Good photography takes into account the distinct personality and desires of your family. And a photographer can only do this if they meet with you before your session. In this meeting, they should discuss posing, style preferences, and your goals for the photo session. This ensures that your session goes smoothly and you end up getting the kind of portraits that you want.

My hope is that you will be able to use these tips to help guide you in your search for the perfect photographer. Although they are not exhaustive, they can be discussion points for you to discuss with potential photographers!

Images Courtesy of Rachel Hefner

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Timothy Whaley is a 3rd generation photojournalist. His father, along with his grandfather, a Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame inductee, passed down a love for telling stories through pictures.

Mr. Whaley has taken this passion and assembled a group of award-winning photographers who are dedicated to providing couples with excellence and care. Visit us at to learn more.