Photographers make the shot, you give them the ingredients.
I get inquiries about portraits all the time. I love each and every connection I make with those who ask about my service. But I have noticed a pattern of those who are my clients and those who aren't.
Client A asks, "What do you charge for a wedding?" or "How much are senior portraits gong to run me?"
Client B says, "I have seen your work, and want to know how much you charge." ; or "I love what you did for my friend, what would you charge me for the same thing?"
These differences may not sound like much to you, but they mean the world of difference to the photographer. We egocentric artistic types want to hear that you appreciate our work, but that isn't why what separates them.
It's about the mindset of the client. Client A wants pictures. Whereas, client B wants my vision, skill and technique in a portrait.
What's the difference? There really is a huge difference between photographers, and even interactions with the client. I have noticed that standing mere inches from fellow photographers while snapping landscape photos that our images turn out entirely unique to our own vision and sensibilities. This is even more true about the portrait artist.
The Lab demonstrated this variance of photographers and portraits in an impressive social experiment recently.
I have been trying to express this idea for years, and not just to my clients, but to other photographers.
I run into photographers that don't want to share their techniques because someone might steal their style, but photography, especially portrait photography, is so much more complicated than F/stops, lighting schematics or even what post processing software you use. It could all come down to the tone of the conversation you had with the client upon first meeting. There are no end to the variables involved and each photo shoot could produce an infinite number of outcomes.
That is why it's important to look at the photographer's body of work and discern if their vision is likely to line up with your own. If it does, you have found your photographer. You are their client, even if you aren't their customer yet. Prices, locations and prints can all be negotiated. Hiring a photographer is not like shopping at Wal-mart. You don't call around and find the lowest price. You look at the artists body of work and decide if they will represent you the way you want to be seen.
For instance, I have two baby photos that both express something very special to the parents. Both have heart and meaning, but one was much more expensive to produce than the other, but both carry similar meaning to the clients who purchased them. But neither chose me for my prices. They chose me for my vision and skill-set.
If you were looking for a different type of baby photography, then maybe you aren't my client. And I am OK with that. It is my job, as it is every photographer's job, to find my own clients, not all the clients.
That is just how the business works. Most clients and photographers don't understand this philosophy and will take any work that presents itself, even it it isn't they type of work they do.
Both of these were a unique experiences with my client. One, the client showed me some ideas from Pinterest, and the other was left completely up to my interpretation of how to represent their child.
Ultimately it comes down to this. If you aren't impressed by the photographers body of work, move on. Save a little more and find that artist that speaks to you, then negotiate prices. Not the other way around.
I would rather be paid a bit less and have happy customers, rather than be paid more and have customers upset because my work wasn't what they thought they were getting.