Now that that is out of the way - I also recognize that I am not the right photographer for everyone in Albuquerque! In the last year or so I have seen, met, or gotten to know so many photographers in the area, and as a mom (my #1 job, right?) it is easy to see that choosing a photographer here would be a daunting task.
Since the digital revolution changed everything in the photography business, moms now have options that were never available before, or at least not to the average family. Now instead of just heading off to Sears, you can choose a photographer based on your actual style and what would work best for your family. (You do know that Sears Portrait Studios have closed, right? So you can't go there anyway.)
So - what is your style? I can't answer that, but I can tell you about different styles of photography, and you can decide for yourself.
Traditional posed portraitsIn the past these were almost always done in a studio with controlled lighting. This is where the photographer tries to have everyone look at the camera and smile. Nowadays you can also get traditional posed portraits outside on location, and you will be able to find a traditional posed photographer at most price points. Just because it's traditional doesn't mean it has to be boring - it's classic for a reason. A photographer who knows what they are doing with light and posing can make you look amazing. Also, with a simple background, the photographer can focus on faces and relationships. This kind of photography can range from a short appointment at a studio in the mall, to high-end custom portraits.
Lifestyle photographyLifestyle photography is a more recent trend that is all about documenting your family the way you really are. It's not about dressing up and looking at the camera. It's about celebrating who your family really is, and the relationship you have together every day. Lifestyle photographers like to meet you at your home, or somewhere fun around town, and they want you to play together. It's fun, it's playful, it's casual, and it is perfect for some families. A good lifestyle session should involve your family's hobbies and interests, which I love because that's the kind of thing I want to remember. It is directed by the photographer, but not necessarily posed.
PhotojournalismPhotojournalism is photography that is observed by the photographer, but not directed or posed, it's hands-off. It's popular for wedding photography, but it can work for family photography as well. It would take place at your home. In fact I know of photographers that camp out at your house for 24 hours so as not to miss anything. A more moderate approach would be a good four to six hour time block, chosen to capture the best part of your day together. If you want to capture a day in your life, this is a great way to do it.
Once you know what style you prefer, it's easier to make your way through the different photographers' websites you find on local google searches. Look through their galleries or portfolios, and see who has pictures that appeal to you the most. My advice is to make sure the photographer has lots of examples, so you can see that he or she is consistent in their results. Look them up on facebook and see what they're posting there. Read their blog if they have one. Pay attention to the colors and expressions you see in their photos.
Other things to look for
Obviously price is important. You can find a photographer for any price you want to pay. Someone who is just starting out is likely to do a whole session, and include 75 images on a CD for $150. Other photographers may charge $700 for 5 images. Some new photographers have a lot of talent and can do a great job. There is nothing wrong with being a newbie! (We all started there at one point!) But the advantage of an experienced professional is that they can do a great job in any light, even under difficult circumstances. Someone with experience has invested in more equipment, education, possibly a studio, and will cost significantly more than a part-time photographer who is just beginning. You are paying for the quality of their equipment, their skill with light, with people, and with editing tools.
Another thing to consider, especially if you have young children, is whether or not your photographer is good with kids. I have friends who used to tell me some great stories about trying to get her kids' pictures taken by photographers who obviously did not care for children. This is another reason to take a careful look through their galleries - do they have lots of pictures of children with happy, natural smiles? I think it also helps if the photographer has testimonials posted. The best, of course, is if you can get a referral from a friend who has used a photographer that worked well for their family.
Your final product is also important to consider. If you are looking for a really beautiful, high quality, wall portrait for your living room, you will need to find a photographer who sells them. So it's worth looking at the products that they sell. If you're a DIY kind of person and you want the freedom to do whatever you want with your images, you will want a photographer who will sell you copyright permission for their files. This kind of thing should be obvious from their website.
Make sure you hire someone that can communicate and answer questions for you. I never mind when a client wants to chat. I also have a pre-session consultation with my clients, either on the phone or in person, so that I can get to know them better and answer their questions. If you are emailing or calling a photographer who seems put off by your questions, that might be a red flag for you to consider.
I hope this is some help to you, as you navigate through all the photographers out there! There are lots of great ones - I'm sure you can find someone you will love.
If this was helpful to you, you can sign up for my email list, and I'll send more information about custom photography your way .