Minnesota has a smorgasbord of photographers when compared to other States. The only advantage to this unusually high number of photographers is that prices are competitive. A photographer in Texas can charge up to 3X what is charged in Minnesota. But ask questions before you hire. It seems like anybody can go to Target or Best Buy (or online) and buy a digital camera, shoot a friend’s wedding, and starts calling themselves a professional photographer. But, there is much to consider when hiring a photographer:

1) Don’t be concerned about titles, degrees, or “credentials”. Just because someone can pass a test, doesn't demonstrate their skills.

2) Check their web site AND their portfolios. Professional photographers will have portfolio books (or digital images) you can look at in person to see the quality of their work.

3) Rather than hire someone based on their web site. Actually go to their studio or office, look at their portfolio, and talk about prices, services, and what is included in those prices. Ask about the deposit, when the balance is due. Ask how long they have been in business, what lab does their photo printing. Professional photographers have their prints made by a professional lab that can do color correcting such as White House Custom Color, or Linhoff. If they get prints from Walmart – look somewhere else. The bottom line is what are you getting for your money? What is included in the price? Shop around as the Twin Cities is a competitive market. The most expensive photographer isn't necessarily the best.

4) Ask if they have ever shot with film. Most professional photographers will have used film cameras, and they will have a higher level of skill then someone who only knows how to use a digital camera. Ask what equipment they use, what camera models, what types of lighting and flash will they be using. If you are paying someone $6,000 to shoot your wedding and they are using nothing but a camera mounted flash to shoot your group shots, you might want to look around some more. Professional photographers will have “off camera” lighting options.

5) Ask them if they know about the “Sunny 16 Rule”. This is a basic photography principle that has to do with light and exposure. Ask if they know the “Rule of Thirds”. This is a basic rule of photo composition.

6) Ask about insurance. Professional photographers will be fully insured for liability, and indemnification. Ask to see the policy or proof of insurance. Liability covers any damage or injury that may be caused by the photographer, or the photographer’s equipment (someone trips over a tripod and is injured). Indemnification protects you, the client, in case the photographer doesn't show up, or there is a malfunction and all your images are lost (as in a hard drive failure, or the film processor ruins the film). Make sure responsibility for liability and indemnification is covered in the contract you sign.

7) Ask about how the images will be given to you. Some photographers charge a higher upfront price and give you a finished book of the best photographs you select, and all the final images digitally, allowing you to print them yourself (if this is the case make sure you receive a written license that authorizes you to make prints or no one will print them as it is a copyright violation). Other photographers charge a lower fee, but require you to get all prints through them as they make money off the prints which they have processed at a professional lab. Yet, other photographers have invested in expensive professional printers and will make your prints in-house, charging a reasonable fee to cover their investment. Of course, the photographer may do any combination of the above.

8) Finally, read the contract. It should cover everything. If anything makes you nervous or uncomfortable, discuss it with the photographer. Don’t be afraid to say “No”, and don’t be pressured into hiring with the line, “I book quickly; you better sign with me today”. I honest professional photographer will pencil you in, and give you a day or two to decide.