Choosing a photographer for your child’s b’nai mitzvah is a daunting task. There are so many photographers nowadays at all different price points claiming to be able to capture your special day. Shooting a mitzvah is very different than a photographing a wedding. At a wedding, the photographer is interacting mostly with adults. At a mitzvah reception, your photographer must be adaptable when interacting with all ages…from two…to tween…to grandpa! There is a specific skill set needed for a mitzvah. Before hiring your photographer, here are some questions you should ask:
1. Have you photographed children? You’ll want a mitzvah photographer that can relate to children, especially ones in your child’s age group: 12-14. It takes a special photographer that can dance with the older kids, yet be a goof-ball to the toddlers. Shooting the cousins is a perfect example of the variety of age ranges. Nothing is better than a great cousins photo with laughter and energy across the age spectrum.
2. Do you shoot a pre-mitzvah portrait session? As much as I love the dance floor photographs, it’s the pre-mitzvah portrait session I love the most. You may want a photographer that can capture your child’s personality and essence during this special time. Does the photographer shoot in a studio or on location? Are the locations near you or near the photographer? How do they interact with your child during the portrait session? Can they take a few photographs that match your child’s interests or party theme? For example, our ice skating hockey girl below:
3. What’s your preferred style of photographing an event? So, this questions tries to get a look into how your photographer operates on the day-of. Are they very hands on? Or do they shoot mostly hands-off photojournalistic? You know your child best. Some children don’t mind a photographer that follows them around, while others need space. Does the photographer require a shot list or do they rely on you to orchestrate the shots needed? I’ve been at events where the photographer is louder than the M.C.! A strong voice and confident personality can move the masses into a group shot. I’ve also seen quieter artists that capture the event from afar, trying to stay out of everyone’s way. Decide what style matches your needs and your child’s personality. For the most part, I am a mix of the two. I prefer to capture the emotion and events as they happen, but am ready to set up a group shot. I love a traditional family shot but then “let them loose.” My family formal shots end with a bit of “show-me-the-love” and interaction. These end up being my favorite moments.
4. How do they capture the Torah Rehearsal? The torah rehearsal is one of the more challenging portions to capture due to the uncertainty factor. Every temple is different. Most temples are dark and require proficiency in flash use. If a photographer is using one flash mounted on the camera, they should be bouncing the light off the walls. Some photographers are masters at this and can bounce to create amazing photographs. On-camera flash directed at your child is a no-no! This is going to create harsh shadows that have that “flashy” look. Many photographers (like me) prefer off-camera flash with modifiers like umbrellas and soft boxes. This technique creates softer, flattering light. My go-to is a large modifier for the torah rehearsal (clients make fun of me and think I’m trying to receive satellite TV channels on the bimah). I don’t care! It makes the sweetest, most delicious light. It has a painterly quality that calls to me!
5. In what format will we receive our photographs? Most event photographers nowadays will provide digital files. CD’s and DVD’s are giving way to online digital downloads and galleries. How soon before we get the photographs? How will we see or share them? How many photographs do we get? Do you provide an online gallery? What size are the digital files? What’s the largest size the files can be printed to? If you are planning to make large posters or banners with your portrait photos, make sure the digital files are full resolution. Will the files be watermarked with the photographer’s logo? Can the files be easily shared on social media? Can they easily be viewed on a phone? Make sure you are clear with what products you’ll receive: files, books, prints.
6. Is your business registered and insured? Believe it or not, anyone can shoot your event. There is no test, certification, or license to be a photographer. However, if a light stand falls and injures one of your guests, is the photographer insured? You’ll want to make sure you hire a photographer that is an accredited business in your state and has liability insurance.
7. How do you store our photographs? Let’s say you lose all the photographs from your event in a digital, viral-infested-hard-drive-meltdown fiasco. Where are your photographs? Does your photographer store them in the cloud? Are there hard drive backups? Are you able to request the photographs 10 years later? Some photographers have event galleries that expire, so ask. For us, we back up all events onto two hard drives, keep the hard drives in two separate locations, and also store all galleries in the cloud indefinitely. Ask the photographer, where will our photographs live?
So before you hire your mitzvah photographer, make sure you get a little “behind-the-scenes” information that can help you decide if she or he is right for you. Good luck!