You'll need to start by answering three questions yourself.
First, what is YOUR budget? This seems obvious, but take into account that you will need to pay for the session AND prints (or other things, like delivery, travel fees, etc.)
Second, What TYPE of photographer do you need to hire? Like doctors, photographers can be specialists or general practitioners and you'll want to look at them that way. This really does matter as it will determine the experience and equipment that you photographer will have and if they will be able to do the job for you. Part of this question is also, WHERE do you want your photos taken? If you want to shoot in a studio, your photographer will need to have, or have access to, a studio. If you want to shoot on location, your photographer will need to have the proper lighting (and be willing to travel there!)
Finally, what do you want as a final product? Do you want a framed print? Digital files? An album of memories? A catalog? This will help shape your requirements for your photographer further.
Making a choice
Finding a photographer is a relatively easy thing these days as the
Internet will give you hundreds of results. Don't be afraid
to look outside of your local area as some photographers will travel
to you or it may save you money driving to them.
When looking at any photographer's website, look for the photographer's real NAME, PHONE number AND EMAIL address. They should have a coverage area identified. Look at their portfolio to see if their style is to your taste. If they have their prices listed, are you comfortable with the prices? Do they offer the studio or location shoot that you want?
You should be able to set up a pre-meeting with a photographer to
see his/her work and see if you're comfortable with them. This
is also a good time to tentatively reserve your shoot date too,
but don't feel that you have to.
Here's a little checklist to go through when meeting with the photographer:
- Do you like this person?
- Do you like his/her work?
- Do they have a studio to shoot in OR will they come to your location?
- How does he/she feel the photography should be done. Does this agree with you?
- Can you provide instructions on what you want captured?
- What is their photography experience?
- How long have they been doing photography?
- How long have they been doing the type of photography you need?
- How much does he/she think you will spend to get what you want?
- After the shoot, How and when will you receive your proofs?
- Is any retouching is included? If not, how much does it cost?
- What is the turn around time after ordering prints?
Remember that you've invested your time as well as the photographer's in meeting with him/her, so if you feel good about the photographer, then make a deposit (if required) and relax knowing you have made a smart and well informed decision. (If you want to think about it, that's okay too!)
"Tips on choosing a photographer" provided by John Lucassian of Lucassian Photography