A GUIDE TO COMMERCIAL PHOTOGRAPHERS

When you’re looking to highlight a particular brand or product with images, you’re probably going to search for commercial photography.

If you’re looking to make an impact on your audience, quality content can do that. However, brilliant commercial imagery can as well, and likely make even more of an impact. Images can create emotions and allow your customers to truly “see” what kinds of products you offer.

But how do you go about choosing the best commercial photographer for your photo shoot?

If you are setting up a photo shoot for advertising and marketing, consider that your objective will be to sell a product primarily through the use of photographs. Your prospective customers will make judgements about your company and products within seconds of seeing the images associated with your company.

If your photo shoot is going to have quite a bit of variety, such as product shots, corporate head shots and maybe even fashion advertising, you need to be sure you are choosing a photographer who is able to switch genres. Not every photographer is willing or able to make those adjustments during an assignment. For example, if you hire a photographer who only specializes in head shots, they may not be willing to switch it up to include fashion photography. They may not even be proficient in fashion photography. That’s why it’s important to understand not only the focus of the photo shoot, but also the expertise and flexibility of the person you are hiring.

By following some simple steps, you will learn the questions you should be asking your potential photographer to ensure you are getting the most qualified person for your particular project.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Searching for a Photographer

There are many photographers out there, and it can be overwhelming trying to determine which one to choose. To help narrow down the field, here are some questions you can ask yourself when searching for a photographer:

  • What is your budget? If you haven’t already asked this question of your boss, you need to do so right away. Not only would it be horrible to discover that your perfect choice for a photographer was over your budget, but it might significantly delay your project if you need to start your search all over again.

Costs will vary according to the amount of time the shoot will take, the extensive nature of the editing following the shoot and the use of the photographs following the shoot (i.e. print, website, etc.).

  • How long do you have until the project needs to be completed? If you don’t have a long timeframe before the project must be completed, you may need to sacrifice your choice for the perfect photographer for one who is available in the time you need them. If this is the case, you might want to check back with your boss to see if it is possible to extend the time frame for completion to allow you to pick the photographer you believe may best be able to provide a quality product.
  • What rights do you need? If you are asking the photographer to take photographs of a model in front of a public building, it is important for you to know whether or not you are violating the copyright of the architect of that building. You might want to research the Fair Use Doctrine as well as getting information about the building and its architect.
  • What effect are you trying to achieve? If your boss has hired you to complete a shoot of the products your company markets, you might want to consider the impact the photographs will have on the viewer. If you are trying to achieve branding and really want your product to stand out, you might want to make sure you are looking for a photographer who specializes in product photography and has the ability to photograph a product in such a way as to evoke a certain response in the viewer.
  • Is your boss interested in having you book a photographer for this one-time assignment, or do they intend on using the photographer for future assignments? That might impact how you select your photographer. For example, if on this particular shoot, you are seeking to display your product with models and want to achieve a highly artistic image, you may want to pick a particular photographer. However, if you are looking to establish a relationship with a photographer who can serve your company’s various future needs, you may want to pick someone who is well-rounded in a variety of specialties.
  • Why are you paying an experienced commercial photographer? Basically you are paying for the creativity of the photographer, the expenses they have when creating the photographs such as the processing and editing work, and a fee for reproduction rights for photographs that you want to use. This particular fee will vary depending on what you want to use the images for. Use for personal or educational purposes will be less than use for advertising or commercial work.

You are also paying a photographer for the extensive post-production work they are doing on the images. The downloading, editing and possibly burning the images to a disk can be extremely time-consuming.

Additionally, you are paying a commercial photographer for their education and expertise. Many commercial photographers are highly trained and experienced, and their final product shows this.

The use of a commercial photographer will also prove to your customers that you are confident in your business. The assertion that you have a quality product and want to show it will lure your customers in and make them want to purchase your product.

Furthermore, many customers will spend more time looking at advertisements if they have photographs or images. Therefore, you will want to use the highest quality images to promote your product.

Don’t forget you are paying for experience, too. In other aspects of your life, whether you are hiring a chef to cater an event or a physician for a second opinion, you want the most experienced person to give you the best results. Would you consider any less for a commercial photographer?

How to Start Looking for a Photographer

Okay, so now you have answered some important questions you need to ask yourself before going out and hiring a photographer. So you need to undertake the task of actually finding that perfect photographer.

  • If you are a relatively small business, try to use a local photographer. Sometimes small town photographers will be able to accommodate the variety you may need.
  • Check with other businesses to see who they would recommend. Ask questions as to whether or not their photographers were able to meet the deadlines and stay within budget.
  • Look at the photographers online. See if their websites appeal to you. Check out their work and biographical information on their websites.

Meeting With Photographers

You may have possibly narrowed down your choice of photographers so you have half a dozen or less that you want to interview. Now it’s time to set up a schedule to meet them in person —  what should you look for, and what kinds of questions should you ask them?

  • Ask to see their print portfolio books. Print photographs often invoke a different feeling than the photographs on the website. And the photographs should speak for themselves. The photographer shouldn’t need to explain the background for each photograph.
  • Does the photographer’s work really stand out to you? Does it impact you in such a way that you have the gut feeling this is really the photographer that you want to hire for your project?
  • Make sure the photographer understands lighting. Another advantage of looking at their portfolio books would be that you would then be able to see what type of lighting they used for their work and whether that would accommodate the type of shoot you are looking for. It will also be important to find out how long before you will see copies of the finished product in your email.
  • Is the photographer truly interested in you and want to achieve with this photo shoot? If they are only interested in showing you what they have done in the past and really don’t seem to be able to focus on your project, you might want to consider another photographer.
  • Does the photographer have quality equipment? While you may not recognize quality photographic equipment, you should be able to tell whether or not the photographer has multiple lights and backdrops at their disposal.
  • What photo-editing software do they have? Talk to the photographer about how they handle the editing process. If their only access to digital editing software is the latest version of Photoshop, you might want to consider another photographer. A quality commercial photographer will have access to very sophisticated editing software and printing equipment.
  • How responsive has the photographer been? If they have failed to respond to your requests in a timely fashion, you may not want to employ them as that could be an indication that they may not be responsive throughout the process of the photo shoot. A good business acumen is often a sign of the quality of the finished product.
  • How adaptable are they? Talk to the photographer to see if you can get a good feel for how adaptable they are to fixing a situation if the photo shoot isn’t working. You would probably want to hire a photographer that is not only able to go with the flow but who is someone willing and able to make adjustments if the shoot isn’t going exactly as planned.
  • What type of guarantee do they have? Find out what type of guarantee the photographer will offer. If they are willing to offer a money-back guarantee if they cannot ensure a quality product within the time allotted, they are likely going to be a photographer who will meet your specifications and is confident that they can deliver on them.
  • Is the photographer willing to collaborate with you and your colleagues? If you are not the art director for your company and you have an art director, you will want the art director to meet the photographer. How willing is the photographer to use the input from the art director?

Consider that you will have multiple persons on the set such as models, an art director, a marketing director, and a photographer. How willing will your photographer be to take direction from the other persons involved? You will also need to let the photographer know who will ultimately be in charge at the photo shoot.

  • Does your potential photographer have a great imagination? It will be easy when talking with them to discover if they have a vision or view for your photo shoot. A good imagination will enable the photographer to think ahead to how the finished product will look based upon the image you have provided to them, which includes the ideas you want your product to evoke.

What Can a Client Do to Make the Commercial Photography Process Easier for the Photographer?

So you have finally decided which photographer to book. Though this is a person that you have hired to work for you, you want to make their job as easy as possible for a number of reasons. If you end up being satisfied with their work, you may want to use them for future projects. Additionally, the more smoothly the shoot runs, the more likely the photographer will want to work with you and your company again.

Additional Advice

You have finally picked the photographer who you are going to use for the shoot. What else should you consider to make the photo shoot run more smoothly and achieve the desired results?

  • If you are using models in your photo shoot, get copies of their releases from the photographer. This will avoid any additional work at a later time so you won’t need to look for the photographer or models.
  • Don’t pick a photographer just because they photographed that wedding you went to, and the bride and groom really loved their photos. Commercial photography is immensely different from wedding photography. The art of wedding photography invokes a different style than commercial photography where the photographer is involved more in the planning and organizing of the photo shoot. Furthermore, the lighting and equipment are different.
  • Consider what the setting will be for your photography project. There is a significant difference in the photography of interiors and that of landscapes or portraits. If you project focuses more on interior photography, you will need to have a photographer who has a very good sense of design. You might want to check out a photographer who has spent time working in film or television. Generally, they will have a good sense of lighting and have excellent knowledge of setting up a scene.
  • When you are looking at doing a photo shoot which may be far away from you, you might want to hire a photographer who is living in the area of the photo shoot. That way you won’t need to spend money on the costs of transportation and meals for the photographer.
  • Is your photographer willing to collaborate with you? Are they willing to listen to your opinions about what you want the final product to look like or what lighting you want to use at a particular location?
  • Read over your contract with the photographer very carefully to make sure everything you want from the photographer is covered. If you are unsure about the stipulations of the contract, ask an attorney to review it.
  • Part of the contract should specify that the photographs belong exclusively to your company. The last thing you want to have happen is for the photographer to put the photographs on a stock site.
  • You can negotiate with the photographer to include more photographs or videos for the price, but don’t ask them to lower their prices. A quality photographer would never agree to a price reduction.
  • Be sure to be honest with the photographer about your budget. Most photographers will be willing to work with you and try to fit your needs within the framework of the budget which you have provided to them. Don’t be afraid to look at a number of different photographers to compare and contrast the bids.
  • Don’t make the mistake of deciding you would rather choose inexpensive stock photos you can find on the internet at low or no costs. While the use of stock photography within marketing definitely has its place, when you are thinking about photography that will make your brand unique, don’t fall into the trap of using stock photography. Wouldn’t it be horrible if both you and a competitor used the same stock photography to highlight your brand?
  • Don’t get stuck in the belief that because you or your coworker are experts at Photoshop, you can take any photograph taken on a smart phone and make it into a masterpiece. Commercial photographers have vast experience creating photos and images that will resonate with viewers for a long time. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you can overcome all the inadequacies of the initial photograph by using Photoshop — you can’t.

Remember that choosing a quality photographer won’t happen overnight. Allow yourself time to pick the best photographer for your needs. That will help the process go more smoothly with the favorable outcome being that you end up with quality photographs which will in turn hopefully provide a benefit to your business.

In summation, it becomes easy to understand how you will want to choose an experienced photographer who has a vast knowledge of different types of photography which will enable them to address each and every need you may have in your photo shoot.

How refreshing and rewarding it would be if you could hire a photographer who is willing and capable of shooting lifestyle shots which highlight number of different products which require different lighting and have various reflective properties. Look no further than Mark DeLong whose vast experience and ability to adapt to a variety of different situations make him a top pick for commercial photography.