A good photo depends on who's behind the camera

A perfect picture is more than 'point and shoot'

TAMPA - A family photo is a great way to capture memories you'll treasure for a lifetime. But the lower resolution of point-and-shoot and cell phone cameras produces pictures of lesser quality that can't be enlarged. Even a fancy camera in the hands of an amateur won't produce much better results.

"With the advances in cameras these days everything thinks they can be a photographer," said Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks. "But when it comes to a family photograph sometimes you do want to invest in a professional photographer. It's not just the camera that matters, it's the lighting, and how they arrange the family. Being able to get that special moment, especially with small children, can be a bit of a challenge."

Jessica Johnston is a professional photographer who loves working with kids. The best piece of advice she can offer is to keep timing in mind when dealing with the little ones. "Usually families want a morning session because kids are happier in the morning. They've just been fed. They can be clean from the night before.  You don't have to worry about the day's grime on them or anything." And, she says, gone are the days of static shots indoors in front of a boring backdrop. "A lot of people come to me and say 'I saw on your blog these smiling pictures or laughing pictures. They're just playing or not necessarily looking at the camera.' And that's exactly what they want. They don't want the awkward posing 'smile say cheese' kind of things anymore, which is fine by me!"

"Once you narrow down which photographer you want to use," adds Hicks, "you want to see the work they've done and also ask if you have the rights to these high resolution images or whether they do, are they going to use your photographs in their marketing materials? And also whether they'll go on location with you is another great question."
Angie's List Perfect Picture Tips:

  • Share your vision: Talk to the photographer prior to the session about the kind of look you want and the results you want to achieve. Do you want an indoor or outdoor photo shoot? Posed photos or candid? Will the photographer come to your home so the family is more relaxed in their environment?
  • Timing is key: Schedule the session around the best times for the kids. If you have kids, schedule the session when the the little ones are happy, well-rested and relaxed. If you are including the family pet in on the photos, take your dog for a good walk before the session and bring treats.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a Photographer

  • Review their work:  Each photographer has their own style. Look at the photographer's website to give you some insight on whether the style fits your needs. If you want photos of your newborn, do they have experience with newborn photography?
  • Communication is key: You should feel comfortable telling the photographer exactly what you want the end product to be and a good photographer is about making your children feel comfortable.
  • How much is that? A photo session and pictures can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars. Some photographers do offer discounts or incentives.
  • Check references. When you've narrowed your choices to one or two photographers, ask for references. Actually call them. Previous customers are your only source for knowing how the professional actually performs on the job.
  • Put details in contract. When you're ready to book a particular photographer, make sure the contract stipulates how long he or she will be present, whether there'll be a second shooter or assistant, how many pictures you'll receive and in what form and arrangement, and will you have rights to the images?
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