How to Choose/Select a Photographer

These are my tips for finding a photographer. I suggest you select a photographer with care, as the variation is great. Some are little better than amateurs, some are very good, many are somewhere in the middle.

Style and Types of Work

I suggest you start by looking at their work. If you don't like a photographer's work, look elsewhere. When you employ a photographer it is implicitly agreed that he will create results similiar in quality and style to those he has advertised.
Make a short list of photographers creating results you like.

Will you get individual results?

Some photographers have set ideas and setups, and aim to create maybe 6x results in an hour. Every client gets the same looking results. This is efficient and quick, but normally less fun, and this style of photography is less adaptable for clients individual needs.
If you want a photo shoot tailored to you as an individual, in which your results won't look exactly like everyone elses, then you'll need a longer photo shoot and a photographer that offers creative and different results for each client. This is also a lot more fun.
The latter style can be especially advantageous for more mature ladies and ladies with "issues" in which the photographer will develop ideas that best suit you.
I offer the former style for business headshots when asked, but I mainly offer the latter stye in which I create for each client individually.

Quality

Next, look at the quality of the results. There is a very wide spectrum of photographers. Some are part-time people who have bought a camera with a kit lens. The quality of their results will be limited. A small 600x900 pixel image will probably look fine, and printed 6x4" will also look fine, but their results would not be accepted by a mainstream magazine, and printed 12x8" or larger, or displayed on a large monitor, the results won't look so good.  Such photographers probably have no lighting equipment, or only rudimentary equipment and knowledge of lighting. So their results tend to look bland and flat, more like amateur snaps, even if they are artistically composed.
Photographers with no lighting equipment, or knowledge of how to use it, will sometimes advertise themselves as "natural light photographers" or "available light photographers". On the relatively rare occasions when the natural light is suitable, natural light photography can be great, and it's quicker and easier than using lighting equipment. I love to do it when the opportunity arises. But most of the time, and to be able to cope with all situations, good lighting equipment is essential.
The photographer starting out with lighting equipment will have a flash on the camera. Except in certain special circumstances, when used by someone knowing their craft, on camera flash pictures will be flat and characterless, and are known by professionals as "driving licence pictures". Look out for a catch light in the eyes right in the middle of the pupil. That usually indicates a "driving licence picture". The pictures will lack depth and those photographed will tend to look flat.
Lighting is very important in portrait photography. It can create different moods and looks. It can be very beneficial for ladies wishing to look their best, accentuating the best features, and be slimming. It is especially important for a photographer to understand how to light faces.

The best results are created by photographers with the best cameras and lenses, with lots of lighting equipment, and the knowledge of how to use it. Their results stand out as looking very professional, the sort of pictures you see in magazines. Pictures from these photographers can be printed any size you want, and displayed huge on monitors. Magazines will accept these results. This is the quality needed for model portfolios.

Here is one of my pictures, displayed 600 x 900 pixels:

This is the area marked by the red rectangle, displayed at 100%:

Images of that quality can be printed any size, can be cropped quite a lot without losing too much quality for printing, and as you can see, can be cropped a lot for displaying on a computer.
When checking quality, don't rely on small images. Anything less than 1200 x 1800 pixels is really too small. Display them at 100% zoom. Look for noise, lack of detail, and chromatic aberration (colour fringes at edges).

Great looking pictures straight out of the camera or only after editing?

Photographers with little or no lighting equipment, or lighting expertise, cannot create great looking pictures when the natural light isn't ideal. They may not even be able to create great pictures when natural light opportunities arise. The results straight out of the camera will tend to look bland and dull. To compensate, some of these photographers will enhance the pictures afterwards. These photographers tend to be limited to a certain look. If you see the same look from every photo shoot, it's a good indication that the photographer is using this approach.
The disadvantage to their customers is that the supplied un-edited pictures won't be very good. These photographers will probably insist or encourage you to pay for edited pictures. This makes editing costs almost mandatory, and limits the good pictures you'll get to those that have been edited.
By contrast, I aim to create great looking pictures straight out of the camera. This means most of the pictures you'll receive on DVD will look great, so you'll get more for your money.

Full-time or Part-time?

Some photographers have full-time jobs and do photography in the evenings and weekends. This will limit your choice on when you can have a photo shoot, and may affect the speed of getting results.
Some photographers, like me, work full-time, so you can have a shoot any day of the week, and more or less any time.
If you are looking for something "different", you may be better off with a photographer that isn't distracted by his main job. You may find a photographer who is putting all his time and creative effort into photography will deliver better results more consistently. There are some great creative people out there, so you may find the right photographer with the right idea for what you want when you want it.

Someone you like

Having found a photographer you think creates results you like, and of the quality you want, the next question is will you like them, connect with them on a shoot, feel relaxed, have fun, and therefore will you get great results on your shoot?
The only way you'll be sure you like doing a shoot with me is to meet me and do one. You can ask friends who've done a shoot with me. You can chat on Facebook. You can ring me. You can come for a chat.
The best I can do in writing is describe the way I think. My priority is your comfort and happiness on the shoot, and your satisfaction with the results. My next shoot is always the most important shoot to me. I'm only as good as my last shoot. I talk a lot. Can you tell? People tell me it relaxes them on a shoot, go figure!, so I have no incentive to talk less lol, I'll guide you with poses, always be positive, friendly, easy going (oh yes, people say I'm easy going!), and I'll show you the results in the camera often, specially at the beginning so you can see how great you look, and when I see a result that makes me go "wow!" :) I have a huge amount of confidence with people who are camera shy, having succeeded in taking great pictures of a young lady who must be the most camera shy person possible. Yes I chatted to her for 2 hours and got great pictures in the 3rd hour of the shoot :) I'm a bit obsessive about creating great results and creating new ideas and improving what I do (my wife would argue about the "a bit" lol).

Customer Service

Consider what will happen if something goes wrong, the weather is bad, you become ill during the photo shoot, or something else unpredictable happens that adversely affects your photo shoot. What will the attitude of the photographer be? Do they have a policy on this? Are they more concerned about getting your money than your satisfaction?
I suggest you ask.
I offer a guarantee. If something goes wrong, or if I'm not satisfied that you've got results of the high standard I set for myself, I will offer you another free shoot. My prime goal is for you to be very satisfied, and nothing less.
If you have anything you're not entirely happy about, just talk to me about it, and if I possibly can, I'll sort it out for you :)

Cost/Price/Value

Think about cost/price, or better still value (what you get versus what you paid). This should not be your first question :)

I suggest that if you pay less and get a lower quality result, after a while you'll forget the "saving" you made, and value the pictures less than if you'd paid a little more and got really good quality pictures that stand the test of time and compare well with pictures that your friends are getting.

Photographers each have their own charging structure. Some charge for the photo session, and then charge per print, and you only get the prints you pay for. Some attract customers with very low session prices, but then charge very highly for prints. Some charge for the photo session, and supply the results on CD but in quite low resolution, and then charge per print. Some charge for the photo session, supply high resolution images on CD, and then charge for prints. Some charge for the photo session, supply high resolution images on CD, and then charge for editing, and supply the edited images and allow you to print them yourselves.

For example, PixiFotos.co.nz (at the Warehouse in Northlands mall) currently (Dec 2012) offer a photo session for $10, and charge $45 for a 7x5" print and $75 for a 10x8" print. If you want 10 prints, that's $450 for 7x5" prints, and $750 for 10x8" prints. And I believe you only get the prints, not all the pictures on CD.

It's worth comparing that with what I currently (Dec 2013) charge for a 3 hour photo shoot ($270), and 10x full-glamour edits printed 12x8" ($350), making the total $620, and I think the photo shoot much longer, individual to you, and the results vastly better :)
My prices and options are clearly described on My Services & Prices page.

Some photographers advertise their prices on their websites. Many seem reluctant to do so, for some reason. With those photographers you will have to ask for their prices.

Deposits

I advise against paying a non-returnable deposit unless you have a fixed stated total price from the photographer.
This especially applies to wedding bookings, where the photographer may increase their prices before your wedding day.

Editing

When a photographer advertises "all images fully edited", I suggest you question what "fully edited" means. Editing one picture takes time. If he is supplying 100 "fully edited" pictures, that's many many hours of work if they truly are "fully edited". Does that make sense when you look at the cost of the photo session?
Editing pictures is an important aspect of what you should consider. Know what you are paying for. If you are supplied 6x4" prints, the editing may just involve an automatic process, with no manual editing of the skin by the photographer. If you are being supplied 12x8" prints, and if the photographer is offering editing of skin imperfections, then a significant amount of time of manual editing should be involved.
I've described how I edit pictures on my page Picture Editing. You can see the results and quality of my editing by looking at all the pictures in my portfolio.

There is a spectrum of picture editing, in order of the time it takes to do:
1. Automatic adjustments of brightness/colour etc. and resizing. This is what I supply on CD for all your photo shoot pictures. I call these pictures "un-edited".
2. Cropping of the pictures & the adjustments in #1.
3. Removal of significant imperfections, for example sizeable spots, and manual adjustment of the look of the picture. I call this my "standard editing".
4. A very detailed removal of skin imperfections, what I tend to call a "full glamour edit", and manual adjustment of the looks of the picture. This is closest to what you'd see on magazine covers.

Image Sizes

It's important to understand image sizes.
A 6x4" print needs an image at least 1200x800 pixels, and will nearly fill a 1280x1024 monitor.
A 9x6" print needs an image at least 1800x1200 pixels.
A 12x8" print needs an image at least 2400x1600 pixels.
So if a photographer supplies an image 600x400, it isn't even big enough to be printed 6x4"!

Delivery Times

Ask how long it will take for you to be able to see the results of your shoot and how long it will take to get edited pictures. It appears common for the answer to be "within 3 weeks".
Personally I'd hate to wait that long. I know most people would like to see the results quickly. I usually post the CD of your pictures next day, or if you're local I may drop it round to you, sometimes that night, or you can pick it up by arrangement. Editing of your pictures may take a few days, depending on how busy I am.

Good luck picking a photographer. Obviously I'd like it to be me, but if not, I hope you get what you're looking for and that this helped.