How to Choose a Photographer
The best way to find a photographer you’ll be glad to work with is to look at their photos. Have they made images similar to what you want? Do you like the settings they seem to prefer? Do you like how they use light? Some photographers work with a natural look; others prefer an edgier, glamour or studio look. Both styles produce gorgeous photos – but which way do you want your photos to look? Are you wanting to capture a moment that reminds you of how your life was, or are you wanting to create an idealized image? If what you love closely matches how your photographer sees the world, you’ll enjoy a more vibrant collaboration.

Consider the tone of their website – do they sound like someone you’d like to work with? Especially if you’re wanting a photo with family members, it’s worth finding someone you think will make your people feel at ease.

Do they offer products you want? Some people just want a digital file for Facebook – others want the wall art and albums they’ll be able to pass down to great-grandchildren or to be used by future biographers (who knows what you’ll accomplish in the coming decades…). A photographer relying on volume to make a living is going to have lower prices, but also less time and attention to devote to your pictures.

You’ll want to consider distance from your home, but unless you’re wedded to a studio shoot, you might find someone you love willing to travel farther than you think. A photographer in the town where I grew up who’s been taking pictures of my family since we were children was willing to drive six hours one way to do my sister’s wedding! So when you google, it’s worth taking the time to expand your search to your region, just to see who’s out there.

What's My Photo Style?
A good way to consider your photography style without having to do any research is to think about the photos you take yourself. Sometimes you love everything about a photo, right? But other times there’s something wrong and you spend a minute trying to decide if it’s a keeper or not. Maybe someone’s not looking or has an unfortunate expression; maybe you don’t like the light, or the focus isn’t exactly right, or you’ve caught some clutter in the photo you didn’t notice when you were taking it (or couldn’t help, because life doesn’t always happen in a carefully cleaned and curated environment, more’s the pity!). What’s the thing that, if everything else goes wrong but that thing is there in a photo, you keep it anyway? For me, it’s catching a fleeting expression that defines the person for me. The photo can be out of focus, with annoying light, and a bad background, but if it catches an angle of head, a characteristic crook of toddler arm, a glimpse of awe between siblings, it’s a keeper for me. It evokes for me the emotions I feel living life with the people I love. I feel I could be in a nursing home with Alzheimers and not know anyone’s name, but still see those defining photos and feel glad. Whatever you keep no matter what in your own photos is likely to be the “I can’t live without it” core of what matters to you in photography. Find that, and you’ll likely be able to find a photographer who shares that same love and can make it for you in a picture you’re actually in.
Why Would I Want Prints?
The future is digital, right?

Well, you might not want them. It’s true that a lot of sharing takes places over the internet today, and people share photographs digitally more than they ever could prints. You post something on Facebook and all your friends and family – or at least the ones Facebook shows them to! – see your latest photos. There’s an immediacy to that kind of sharing that warms us.

But think back to your college papers. For many of us they were a point of pride, evidence of some of our best thought and efforts to that point. But how many of us could open one of those files? The software has mutated; the operating systems are vastly different. Maybe some of us were smart enough to convert all our old files to .pdf before changing over the years (not me, I’m afraid), but a lot of us, even if we’re thinking about file conversion in our busy lives, haven’t made the time to do something about it. Meanwhile, things keep changing and our old files sink deeper into digital dust. You may have kept your email with all your letters discussing your loves and work problems with your best friends – those letters define your life at points of great change and development. But can you actually find and read them?

Our photos are the same way. We think they’re safe because they’re on Facebook or Instagram in the cloud, but how easy is it to find one you posted a few years back? Will those programs still be here in a decade, and will they bother to keep their archives active? We document our lives better than ever before – but within months those photographs are essentially unfindable. And will their file types still be readable by whatever technology we use in the future? Our computer drives are filling up with moments that feel important to us, but as time passes, it becomes harder and harder to see those photos. We can’t flip through an obsolete laptop like we can an album to find that one photo we were thinking of and want to show someone.

So for a lot of our life, ephemeral sharing keeps us connected in the moment with people we love. But it can’t provide a stable record of our lives to share with others years, decades in the future. So for me, photos divide into the quick update photos I share with friends digitally, and the important, “this is the story of your life” photos I want future generations to stare at when they wonder where they came from. If you’ve ever pondered a photo of your mom in her youth and checked out the toys she played with and the style of bushes in the yard behind her; if you’ve laughed at your dad posed with his high school friends, played “what were they THINKING” with your aunts’ hairstyles, marveled at your beautiful grandmother in her dewy youth, or if you’re very lucky, looked for family resemblances in photos from the nineteenth century, you know the appeal of photographs handed down through time. For those latter photos, there’s no substitute for archival-quality printed photos and albums that won’t require a technology other than someone’s eyes to read them. And if you can afford it, there’s no substitute for having a professional photographer work with you to record important moments of your life as you live it.

How to Prepare for a Photo Session
How to Get Kids Ready for Photographs
Different ages bring different challenges. But probably the best thing you can do to prepare your child for a photo shoot is to check your own perfectionism at the door. Children can relax into a shoot, and, if you’re like me, you prefer the shots where the children are acting themselves. But they’re not likely to relax if their parents are getting tenser and tenser over the course of the shoot, worried that the kids are acting up. Acting up doesn’t necessarily wreck a photo shoot – you might get photos that you treasure for showing your child’s determined little self. But a worried, embarrassed parent hissing at their kid almost certainly will wreck it. You might get your child to hold still, but you’re unlikely to get anything like an engaged or interested expression. Don’t be embarrassed – chances are your photographer has seen everything from defiance to vomit and they’re still in the business. Relax and let the photographer do their thing. You might not get a perfectly posed everyone-in-place family shot, but if you go with it, you WILL get photos that show your family character in a good light. And you’ll have more fun doing it.
What Photography Means to Your Life Story