It’s time for new family portraits, for an engagement session, a wedding or a new headshot. With the ubiquity of high quality cameras, many of us know a shutter bug and a lot of us know a good professional photographer. When the time comes for you to pick someone to hire, whether you choose your friend or family member, or whether you find another professional somewhere else, doesn’t necessarily have an obvious answer. For the purpose of this pros and cons list, I have assumed that the person you know is A) either a friend or family member, someone you know quite well, and B) they are a professional with a competitive level of experience.
Lets get started.
They will be better at identifying important moments and interactions
People who know you in your personal life are more likely to know what and who really matters to you. They’ll understand the dynamic of your various relationships better than anyone you hire from the internet or an advertisement. This matters the most during portrait sessions and weddings, but it also matters for headshots and business things too. If your photographer has a greater intuition for your needs and wants, they’re more likely to understand you with less explaining.
They will be better at knowing how to elicit genuine smiles
Someone who knows you also probably knows how to press your buttons—in good ways and annoying ways. If it’s your photographer’s responsibility to create images of people, this is an incredibly valuable skill. They can see more clearly when a smile or situation is forced, and they’ll be better equipped to steer a situation toward the best images. The photographer who knows you well is also likely to know when something is going to make you uncomfortable. They’ll save some time not trying for photos that any-old-photographer might get fixated on.
You will feel immediately more comfortable with them
Make no mistake, almost no one is super comfortable in front of a camera. When you a hire a professional you don’t know yet, that experience in front of the camera will also come with the experience of getting to know your photographer, and your photographer getting to know you. For a lot of people this makes the experience somewhat scary. When you are working with a photographer you already know, you get rid of this whole part of the equation.
They might not use their best professionalism
Your friend or family member who is a photographer is going to still be your friend or family member, first and foremost. Even if there’s a contract, even if there’s plenty of money changing hands, the dynamic of the relationship is almost certainly not going to change drastically from whatever it is right now. So if they don’t always respond to emails in a reasonable amount of time, or take a little while to get your text message back, don’t expect that to change too much. If your professional needs brush up against their expectations of the relationship, it will likely put strain on that relationship.
They might come with baggage
Relationships are always a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences and how those experiences affect people is different for everyone. If there was real awkwardness or tension in the past, those things could come to surface in the professional relationship. You need to feel comfortable with your photographer, and ideally, your photographer needs to feel comfortable with you. Baggage, even seemingly minor, can sometimes become a real source of stress later.
They might not offer as much variety in the final result.
If your photographer already feels like they know you very well, they might not go through the hunt for the best photos. They might ignore great ideas in favor of focusing on something they expect you’ll like, based on how they’ve come to know you. They might unintentionally skip the creative exploration and simply create photos, as if it were a problem to be solved. If you want the best from your professional photographer, you want them in a creatively exploratory mindset—something they might be less likely to do if they’re already very well acquainted with you.