My goal in this article is not to deter you or scare you from hiring a photographer, but to inform you on how to choose the RIGHT photographer and keep yourself safe!
1. Trust your Gut
Listen to your inner voice. Are you skeptical? Ask yourself why. Maybe you haven't gotten enough information from your photographer to feel comfortable. Remember to ask questions!
2. Do your Research
If you don't know the area, or any photographers nearby personally, and are looking to have a session, do a little research. Find a photographer who fits your needs! If you are looking for a family photographer, don't choose someone who specializes in boudoir. If you want a photographer who captures true personalities and candid moments, don't choose a portrait photographer. Check their websites and Instagram pages to see if their styles match up with what you are looking for. Google is a great place to read reviews as opposed to websites as people can write fake reviews on their own websites, but Google will tell you the first name and date a user posted a review. If you are local and know someone who has had a session with this photographer in the past, ask them how it went!
3. GWC : Guy-With-Camera
This one is extremely important! Of course, it can be any person, man or woman, but basically, a GWC is a person who uses their camera and photo skills to get close to women, children, and even men. They are NOT professionals even if they identify themselves as one. Their goal is to get physically close or store your photos for malicious reasons after your session is complete. They will not take lighting, composition, or your comfortability into consideration. This is why it is so important to ask questions, do your research, and even read reviews from past clients.
4. Set Boundaries
Never let a photographer push you into doing something you are not comfortable with. This can be as simple as walking down a muddy path or more serious like removing clothing. If you are not comfortable, don't be afraid to speak up! If you are afraid, you haven't chosen the right photographer. I personally always make sure to ask my clients instead of telling. For example, I would say "Do you want to try taking some photos over here? I know the path looks slippery so we can also go over here as well." I like to give options because sometimes it's easier for a person to choose the option better for them than to say no. BUT PLEASE DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO!
5. Don't let anyone touch you without your permission
This is more an extension of setting boundaries. During sessions, things happen. Straps fall loose, hair blows out of place (especially here in Montana), or you might have a smudge of makeup. Regardless a photographer should always approach this as they would a coworker, being respectful of everyone's space and asking permission or letting the person fix the issue themselves without having to physically come into contact with them.
6. Bring Someone Along
If you are doing a solo session where you will be the only person having their picture taken, it is always encouraged to bring someone along with you. That can be a friend, significant other, or family member. Anyone you trust really. This can help ease your nerves and break the ice a bit. Also, tell your photographer beforehand if you are bringing someone along. If they say no or react defensively, do not choose this photographer. A good photographer will always want their client to feel safe and comfortable. If you cannot bring someone along, then at least tell someone where you are going, who you are meeting with, at what time, and that you will check in with them after your session to assure them you are safe.
7. Bring some type of protection
In today's world, you can really never be too safe. Pack something along with you to defend yourself if you need to. A knife, pepper spray, or even a g*n packed away securely.