Hi! I'm Heather Gallagher and I'm an Austin, Texas based documentary and lifestyle family photographer. I have over 15 years of professional experience and have had the honor of capturing over 500 families across the US and abroad. In addition to being a full-time photographer, I'm a mother, wife and CODA (Child Of Deaf Adult).
These days there are endless options for families looking for a photographer and while it's wonderful to have so many choices it can be a daunting task to even know where to begin! Here are some tips on where to start, what to look for, and how to make the most of this relationship.
Personal recommendations are a great place to start. Who knows your personality and style more than your friends? Ask your friends whose aesthetic and lifestyle you have the most in common with if they've ever worked with a photographer they loved.
New in town and don't have local people yet? No worries, that's what the internet is for. Google and Yelp! are great starting points to narrow your search and when you're armed with the right lingo, even better. Here are some industry terms and definitions for various styles:
- Lifestyle: this is a broad term but generally means the sessions are a mix of candid and posed moments meant to highlight your family's personalities through location and clothing choices. These sessions are typically bright and cheery.
- Documentary: True documentary photography captures you and your family as you are with no staging or posing (ie: altering the space or clothing to make images look more "perfect"). This style of photography can cover a wide range of events such as a simple day at home with loved ones to the birth of your child. The ideal client for these types of sessions should be comfortable with raw moments being captured, little to no retouching to skin and hair and having no direction from the photographer.
- Fine Art Portraiture: Typically done in a studio but not always. These types of sessions are almost always posed and have creative lighting involved to tell a visual story.
When you create your short list of photographers who initially caught your eye, do more research. Websites, blogs, Instagram feeds and Facebook pages are all forms of public portfolios and they are your best bet for determining if you are a good stylistic fit.
Like with anything on the internet, be discerning. Reviews and ratings are a great way to narrow your search and see who has a good reputation but don't book right away based on others experiences, make a phone call or send an email first. Outline what your goals are for your session, your timeline and budget. Does the photographer respond promptly? Are they clear about whether you’re a good fit based on your initial message and if so, do they provide a way to move forward (this should always involve a contract to protect both parties)? If so, great! It sounds like you're in good hands. If the language is unclear or they are all together incommunicado, move on.
Last but not least: price. There are several things that could determine why a photographer’s rates are what they are but for some perspective, what most clients don't realize is that for every hour of shooting there's typically 3+ hours of post-production that happens behind the scenes.
Photography is unlike any other service in that it yields a product that you will have forever and serves as a time capsule in your family's life. With the right photographer, you will come to appreciate these images more and more over time and it's really hard to put a price on that.
Hopefully with these tips, you'll be on your way to finding the right fit for you and your family!