8 Qualities to Look for in a Professional Photographer
These days, anybody with a camera and a couple of lenses can call themselves a
photographer. But not every person claiming to be a professional photographer is a good one—or a
skilled one. Here are a few characteristics separate an amateur photographer qualities to look for in a professional photographer or
professional photography company.
Here is a compilation of traits to look for when you’re looking for a professional photographer:
1. Quality and Consistency in Work
This should be the first place you look. Check out a photographer’s portfolio and be on the
lookout for consistency in lighting, color, editing, and quality. Don’t just look at their highlights!
Really dig deep and look at their full body of work. Does their quality carry over through all of
If you’re planning a specific type of shoot, be sure to scope out a portfolio that mirrors what
you’ve got in mind (i.e. If you’re looking for corporate photography, don’t just look at a
photographer’s gorgeous wedding shots; if you’re looking for a quality head shot, don’t just
look at a photographer’s award-winning food photography).
2. Good Reviews and Positive Word of Mouth
A professional photographer is a valuable find, so positive reviews should be the next item
you look at when you’re sizing up a professional photographer. Ask your friends and family
who they’ve used for professional photography in the past and whether or not their
experience with the photographer they chose was good, bad, or so-so.
In this day and age, “word of mouth” also includes online reviews, so be sure to comb through
Facebook, Google Business, and Yelp for reviews in addition to a professional photographer’s
website. The best way to learn about a photographer before you work with them yourself is to
consult someone who’s already had the experience of working with them.
Speaking of experience, a professional photographer’s time spent photographing is an
important factor to weigh as well. How many clients have they worked with? How long did
they train, and where? Are they still training? Are they capable of shooting a wide variety of
sessions and styles or do specialize in a few? Do they work with kids, food, products, pets,
etc.? Are they familiar shooting inside, outside, or at night? What does post-production look
like? How adept are they at editing and printing your photos? Do they do all of their work in-
house or outsource it to another professional?
When you’re vetting a professional photographer, don’t just ask them how many years they’ve
been in the business. “Seven years” could mean a couple of weeks out of the year doing a
wedding here or there for seven years OR four years of intensive schooling plus three years
of five-days- a-week shooting. One of these scenarios contains significantly more experience,
but the time spent photographing can be summed up to “seven years.” Get specific!
4. Organization and Preparedness
When you hire a professional photographer, there should be no surprises. This means they
have all of their bases covered and keep you informed (or even over-informed) about
scheduling, timing, pricing, and delivery. A professional photographer’s organization and
preparedness can make or break the trust you have in them to do the job you’ve hired them to
So ask yourself, are they timely, informative, and structured? Do they outline a clear
process with details of what to expect before, during, and after your shoot? Do they know who
to call whether it’s an assistant, an onsite vendor, or a local repair shop should the
A professional photographer is accommodating and more than ready to answer your
questions. If you’re met with a lot of fumbling, vagueness, or “I don’t knows,” move along.
5. Clear Pricing
The cost of professional photos varies widely based on skill level, the type of session booked,
and the location of the shoot. A professional photographer is clear and upfront about how
much your session will cost inclusive of the shoot itself, any assistants or extra equipment
required onsite, and all post-production work.
If the photographer you’ve selected doesn’t
know how to quote you or can’t break down their pricing for you, they’re not the optimum
choice for you.
6. An Eye for Details
Whether it’s an extension cord showing or a hair MAJORLY out of place, scan the
photographer’s portfolio for “goofs” and missed details. Messy bookshelves, poorly cropped
head shots, or mismatched silverware can all be signs of a lack of attention to detail, which
you want to avoid. A professional photographer not only ensures everything that’s supposed
to be in a photo is in a photo… but also ensures that everything that shouldn’t be in a photo
7. Proof of Insurance
A professional photographer should carry general liability insurance in case someone gets
hurt or property is damaged during a shoot. Be wary of photographers that don’t have
insurance or aren’t willing to produce proof of insurance they claim to have.
8. Respect for you, your time, and all the moving parts of your session.
A professional photographer has had a lot of experience with different personalities, vendors,
and locations. Not only should a professional photographer respect you, your time, and your
vision—they should also respect the time, vision, and needs of the people around you at a
For example, if you’re shooting company headshots, your photographer should ensure that
each person receives about the same amount of time and attention. If you’re shooting a large
event, your photographer should be respectful and courteous to other vendors and providers
in the area.
If you’re shooting food, jewelry, or products, your photographer should handle
your creations with care. A professional photographer asks questions about how things are
organized and set up at your shoot and is conscientious towards others.