How to spot a rubbish photographer

Are you looking for a professional portrait photographer but confused by all the choices? Here is some advice on how to spot a rubbish photographer and 10 signs that might help you spot them:

1. Is the photographer cheap?

The first sign to stay away is if the photographer is too cheap. There is a reason why they would change below £250 per session. Often amateurish or low quality photographers try to undercut good photographers as they know they can’t compete on quality. Having a portfolio from a cheap photographer is not going to help your image. 

2. Photographer showing only few images

Does the website show just a few images - it is likely they just selected a few of their very best images. It should make you wonder what the rest of their portfolio is like. Do they say on the website that they create the best quality photo shoots but show only a few?

3. Studio not mentioning the name of the photographer

This is really a sign to stay away as it is likely to be the case that this is a high street or makeover studio who hires just any cheap photographer for their shoots at very low rates and charge you way more. If they actually do have an in-house photographer, it is likely that this photographer is not very established otherwise they will mention his / her name. 

4. Does the photographer have a limited online presence?

Always make sure you know the name of the photographer and Google them to verify their online presence and credibility. A good photographer should have many results from reputable sources and magazines.  For example, do they only show in searches under paid advertising and Google advertisements? 

5. Bad reviews 

Check out their reviews and not just the testimonials that are on the website which cannot be verified. Do they have Google reviews? What do customers say about them?  

6. Limited Instagram following

What is their Instagram following like? A lot of studios and photographers spend a lot of money advertising on Facebook so it is not the best platform to judge their popularity. Check their Instagram - how many followers do they have? It is very easy to tell on Instagram if the followers are fake - if you scroll down through followers and see quite few with no faces then it is likely they bought them. You might also want to check the engagement - how many likes and comments do their posts have.

7. No evidence of credentials

Check out their credentials. Does the photographer mention on their website they shoot with top agencies for example but do not list which ones? Can you find any evidence of this in their portfolio? If they really do shoot with the best agents then their portfolio should contain agency credits. 

8. Portfolio quality

What is their photography portfolio like? Do you like their images? Do others like them? Are they popular on Instagram? Do their images stand out in some way - do they have a ‘wow’ factor? What is the quality of lighting used in photographs? Is it interesting or are all subjects just fully-lit? If the lighting on all photographs is the same and very bright then this is often called ‘too commercial’. The best portrait photographer will change the lighting to create different moods depending on the subject. 

9. Over the top styling

Is the styling over the top - e.g. a photograph with a model who wears diving glasses for example? Are they using accessories to make their images stand out or are simple portraits of models still beautiful? What about hair - too perfect blow-dry? Over the top makeup? If you are looking for a photographer for a talent or model portfolio shoot then too much styling is not going to help you as such styling and accessories are too distracting from you and will be frowned upon by agents and casting directors. 

10. Fake retouching

Are the images too retouched? Fake looking or simply too unreal? Do you want fake looking images in your portfolio? Many photographers use low-end glamour retouching in which they blur out the skin and completely airbrush it and often change your appearance so much that no one will believe it is you. Check the skin texture - is there any real skin texture with natural freckles or pigmentation (moles for example) or does the skin looks just too perfect? Remember the idea is that you still look like you and not a Barbie doll. 

About the Author:

Zuzana Breznanikova is a leading portrait photographer in London and owner of London Photo Portfolios - portrait studio in central London. 

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