If you have spent any time on wedding Facebook groups, you've seen the horror stories! A bride who is heartbroken because the photographer she hired ghosted her after being paid, or a bride who still hasn't gotten their images back and there's been no word from the photographer. In the comments there's people asking questions that should've been asked by the bride before ever hiring a photographer in the first place, but she just didn't know what to look for! Below are traits that most professional + trustworthy photographers have. Not every photographer does their thing the same way so take these as a rough idea of what to look for. As a senior, I was ghosted by a friend who "dabbled in photography" after paying $200 I never got my senior pictures back. It really makes me so angry to see others go through this! Arm yourself with this knowledge before moving forward with trusting your milestones with someone.
#1 They should have a state registered business.
Go to the secretary of state's website of whatever state they live in and search the name they're using. If nothing shows up, they do not operate a legal business and are not held to any legal standard. If you are okay with them not having a registered, legal business, that's up to you. But this could be an indication that they don't take their services seriously which is a red flag. Not everyone who doesn't have a legal business is scamming people OBVIOUSLY! But still, something to consider with such an important thing.
#2 There should ALWAYS be a contract!!
With out a contract, they are held to no obligations! Nothing in writing as to when or how you'll get your images back, or to even get them back in the first place. No obligation to show up. No obligation to get a refund if needed due to sickness. If there's a transaction of money for a service, there needs to be a contract. A professional photographer wouldn't do business without one, because it protects themselves and YOU. This is important for TURNAROUND TIMES. Contracts are not helpful unless you read them. Average turnaround time for weddings is 6-12 weeks. Average turnaround time for lifestyle sessions is 3-6 weeks. If you read a photographer's contract and turnaround time is not mentioned, do not move forward. They might've verbally mentioned turnaround time, but it needs to be in writing. No exceptions.
#3 Fluent communication (within reason)
Not everyone can reply to emails immediately but going weeks without hearing back from your photographer is a red flag. While inquiring about your session be aware of the response times and whether they answer all of your questions. There shouldn't be any reason for them to avoid answering any concerns.
#4 Consistency in their website and social media
Their style and posted images should be similar on all of their platforms. If their Facebook photos are a lot different than the associated website, you might be dealing with a fake Facebook account. If they're active on social media and their website is in sync with what they're posting, it's a good sign that they are who they say they are!
#5 They should send invoices for payment.
You should be paying invoices through square or some other platform, made for business transactions. Simple money transferring apps are risky for both you and the photographer. With Square (or something similar), every user, looking to do business with the software, has to be authorized by confirming an EIN# (business's government issued number).
This prevents anyone attempting to scam others, away from using this professional platform.
#6 They should have a process that protects your images.
Technology isn't perfect! Experienced photographers know that. External hard drives (storage separate from the computer), dual slot cameras (copies images to two cards at once while shooting) and several SD cards that are being replaced every couple years are some great things to look for when deciding who to hire, especially if you're hiring for your wedding or other special event.
Does a blue check mark mean anything??
All that means is they pay Instagram to have it in their title. It doesn't ensure that they are any more trustworthy than the next. I, Myself will not be doing that. I've earned my reputation overtime and I will not be paying Instagram to validate it. :)
To round this up...
The list above will help you identify a professional photographer before working with them, to help prevent scams. This is not meant to nitpick your current photographer.
Even the most professional photographer is still human. If they match your desired style, are operating legally, are trying their best to be prompt and deliver images that you'll love, you have the right person!
I hope this helps you + others around you, hire the right person in the future, preventing scammers from winning. This industry is FULL of hardworking honest artists eager to serve you!