Q and A: How To Choose and Work With A Photographer
All photos in this post taken by Kyndall—aren’t they lovely?
Earlier this year, I was so lucky to have my husband’s friends (and now my friends!) Kyndall Elliott and her husband Ronnie visit us from Idaho. Kyndall is an incredible wedding photographer and I was so lucky that she volunteered to take a few photos of me around Notting Hill.
I have to say, I was initially nervous to work with a photographer. I've been in front of the camera on photoshoots with professionals before, but it's been hand modeling where the focus is on the product, not me! Kyndall however, immediately put me at ease, giving direction in what felt like a fun conversation. She also gave my husband and I so many tips on photography and editing that have improved our processes so much. How had I not known about batch editing before?
Because I learned so much while Kyndall was around, I asked if she might do a Q&A for the blog, answering a few questions about working with a photographer (plus a few photography and editing tips too!). Her answers are, like Kyndall herself, amazingly helpful:
How can someone go about finding a good photographer in their area and getting in touch?
There's a few ways to do this, I will list my favorites in order!
1. Ask a friend. Chances are, you have someone in your life that's had a great experience with a photographer, it's an easy way to get a good recommendation that you'll like.
2. Google. Sometimes for people who are in their office all day and don't get to socialize much (ahem, me here) google can be your best friend. “Your area” + photographer will usually come up with a lot of results! Look through work and bios, and message someone who you think you'll click with.
3. Social media. Mostly instagram at this point, this can be a great way to find people who are just starting out, and may not have their SEO game up to snuff. It's also a great way to see an extended portfolio, and personality!
4. Referral sites. I'm a wedding photographer so these might be a little skewed in that direction, but there are sites like Fearless Photographers, Junebug Weddings, Model Mayhem (although this can be hit or miss), and others, that list photographers that have good portfolios and are experienced.
When choosing a photographer, whether for engagement photos, a wedding or blog photos, what should someone keep in mind?
I tell this to anyone and everyone all of the time. You need to find a photographer that you get along with, someone you click with, someone who makes you feel comfortable. Sometimes you're able to look at an image, and there's just something off about it, even if you can't pinpoint it. 98% of the time it's because the person (you!) feels uncomfortable in front of the camera. I can't stress enough how easy it is to pick up on this in photos.
Getting your picture taken is actually a pretty vulnerable experience when you think about it. It's hard to let go of your own self image, and be comfortable with a stranger. So that stranger needs to be someone you like, and someone you feel relaxed around in your very first meeting. If something just doesn't click for the both of you, it's okay to move on and look for someone you connect with better.
What's the best way to communicate what you'd like out of a photography session - whether it's the location, poses, or final edited style beforehand?
Although I'm about 90% weddings, I do some commercial work from time to time, as well as family portraiture. I ask both clients the same thing, what are you looking for? Is there something you want to feel when you look at these images? People's answers to this give me huge insights into the final product they're looking for.
Ideally if you're doing a collaboration (fashion + photographer), you should a) find a photographer you connect with! b) tell the photographer your vision c) trust them in making that vision come to life. If you try to micromanage your photographer, you're doing yourself and the photographer a disservice. They can't be creative (which is why you chose them to work with, right?) if you dictate every single shot, and at the end of the day you'll both be disappointed with the images.
What is your process when getting to know the couple (or person) you're photographing?
So with my couples I shoot for weddings and engagements, I send them a questionnaire with some fun and serious questions to get to know them better. Like I said, having your picture taken is actually a pretty vulnerable experience. If I can get them to be vulnerable with me before we even start shooting, it's a head start into the session.
For non wedding stuff, a lot of it is just talking. I like to get know about people's lives. Believe it or not, people are actually pretty damn interesting. A lot of my sessions are conversations with some minor posing and some direction. I do anything I can to make people feel comfortable, I ask questions, I am interested in their passions and hobbies. People come to life when someone is listening!
What's the best way for someone to communicate with their photographer during a session?
I feel like a good photographer is great at reading body language. Most photographers strive after one thing, authenticity. They want their images to reflect the scene they're seeing, and the people that are in front of them. If your photographer can't pick up on you feeling uncomfortable, then chances are you're not a good fit. But, if you're already there, there are some things to say like, ‘Hey, I don't know if this is my best side!’ ‘Is there something else we can try?’ or, Ask them to look at the back of the camera. Some photographers resist this, but I am happy to show the back of my camera to people (because I ask my couples to do crazy things, and it reinforces the things I ask of them once they see how beautiful they look!).
If you don't like what's on the back of the camera, try to communicate what you don't like about it. Is it your hair? Do you look awkward? Is there a detail in your outfit you want to make sure lays flat? It's better to talk about this at the session than regret it later!
Shop The Look:
What are some tips you've learned for posing—and helping people to feel comfortable—in front of the camera?
There are some amazing individuals out there who teach posing, but a favorite of mine for women is Sue Bryce. If you have a chance to read any of her blog posts, or watch any videos of her teaching, grab onto them like a lifeline. If you work with a photographer who knows their stuff, you won't have to worry about posing yourself. But, some things to keep in mind just in case:
Shoulders back. I have horrible posture and I know a lot of other people do too. Look in the mirror at yourself, this applies to men and women! And just stand normally. Then take a deep breath in and hold it, and look at yourself again. Do you see what a crazy difference that makes? You look more confident, it shows off the good parts of your body, and it's such a small change to make that can make a huge difference.
Watch where your feet and legs are. It doesn't matter if you're taking a full body shot, a head shot, or just a shot above the waist. The legs influence the whole body. If your bottom half is standing stiff in front of the camera, it will come through on your top half. Spread your legs, pop a hip, bring a knee in. It's easy to get caught up in the seriousness of taking pictures, especially if you're working with a professional. But I firmly believe it should be a fun experience, even if you're just taking selfies.
Experiment! What do you have to lose? It's an easy way to get better at posing yourself and showing off the most flattering parts of your body, all while having fun. Don't treat it like life or death!
For people taking their own photos, what are your best tips for editing—any software or tutorials you'd recommend to a beginner?
I've gone over some posing tips and resources already so I'll jump into tutorials. My favorite place for really anything, is CreativeLive. They have beginner tutorials for photographers, hobbyists, artists, and small businesses. If you watch the session live, it's free! But you're more than welcome to purchase it to watch it whenever you want as well. (Hint: Sue Bryce has some great stuff on here!).
As far as editing software I use Lightroom for 90% of everything, and Photoshop for some cloning work or unique sessions (like doing an 80's style portrait with cats!). CreativeLive has some great videos for both Lightroom and Photoshop, but the way I learned was mostly running into problems, then either googling or YouTubing the solution!
Thank you so much to Kyndall for taking the time to send over these answers—I hope you found them as helpful as I have!
You can find Kyndall over at her site, ShutterKey Photography and also on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. Have a look at her stunning photos and send her a note if you’d like to hire her for you special day (psst, she can travel!).
I’m so happy to say that we’ve booked her to take photos of us and our family for our fifth anniversary in January—I can’t wait to work with Kyndall again!
Until next time,