For those of you that have been stuck in StockPhotoLand

How to choose and work with a pro photographer

For those of you that have been stuck in StockPhotoLand for most of your career, here’s a nuts and bolts lesson in how to choose and work with a pro photographer, what to expect, and how to get the results you need:

1. Build a plan.

Get a good sense of what you want and need before you try to find the right photographer for the job.

  • Talk with your agency and designers. Their insight and familiarity with your brand will help ensure success.
  • Build a list of shots needed and what they will be used for: ads, brochures, online, outdoor, etc.
  • Decide what subject matter you want – members, staff, branches or local landmarks, community events, or all of the above? Do they need to be in color or B/W?
  • What kind of mood do you want – active, happy, emotional? If there are people in the photo, do you want to see them relaxed and smiling, or just see the sides of their faces/backs of their heads as they are moving through life?
  • When do you need them? Are there deadlines or events already scheduled that need to be included in the timing?

2. Do your research.

There are different types of specialists, and not every photographer is good at what you need. A wedding photographer might be able to shoot great candids at your next community event, but may not do such a good job with local landscapes or your new branch.

  • Ask other creatives in the market who they would recommend or use for the types of images you want.
  • Do some Googling, review web sites and narrow your list down to those photographers you are interested in.
  • Expand your search area if you can’t find who you want locally.

3. Meet with your favorites face to face.

Pros welcome the chance to make a personal connection and show off their work. Bonus: you get to see lots of great photos.

  • Tell them how you heard about them, describe what you need, and set up a time when they can come in with a portfolio.
  • Take the time to look at their work and ask lots of questions about their experience. The more experience, the more flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances at the shoot. Yes, it happens.
  • Talk about your brand. What’s your overall brand? How does that usually come across visually? What’s been successful and not so successful in the past? How are you trying to improve that?
  • Be sure they understand what you want, and listen to their ideas for new insights. Does your vision match theirs?
  • Ask yourself if you would feel comfortable working with them. You don’t have to become BFFs, but photo shoots are typically long days so you need to get along. And ideally, it’s the start of a long, productive relationship.

4. Pick your top choice and have them price it out.

Know what you are getting for how much.

  • Every photographer will charge a different rate for their time. Some are hourly, others book in daily or half-day increments. Some will give a discount for multiple days. Props, travel, and other expenses are likely to be additional costs.
  • Ask what you will get. Some will have you pick a certain number of shots from the session, while others will basically turn over all images.
  • Be sure to ask about usage rights. Some pros charge for every use, others give you full rights. Both approaches are fair, so the key is to know what you are buying. If you only want one image for one ad, you should only pay for using it in one ad. If you want all rights, expect to pay more.
  • Different uses may cost more. An image used in an educational piece or newsletter will likely be less than if used in the local paper or in a national ad.
  • Keep in mind that even if you pay for all rights, the photographer retains the copyright to the original files and to use those images in their portfolio.
  • And, in case your CEO asks, digital photography is not cheaper. If anything, digital means more equipment, not less, and definitely more time for the photographer in image post-production.

5. Schedule the shoot in advance. 

Photo shoots are usually priced by the time they take, so use a calendar to plan ahead and consolidate efforts.

  • Work with the photographer to line up any needed props and models. They may have an assistant or resource they use that will save you time searching, even if it adds cost.
  • Make sure everyone that has to be in the photo will be there when the shoot takes place. Excuses cost you money.
  • If shooting outside, build a contingency plan for rainy/bad weather.

6. Run the show. 

Even though you made sure everything was ready before the big day, you also need to be at the shoot to make sure everything happens the way it should.

  • Let the photographer control the lighting and direct the people when s/he is shooting.
  • Stay available in order to see examples of what the photographer is shooting, in order to feel comfortable that you will get what you need.
  • Make sure you get a signed photo release from everyone, including co-workers.

7. Select the images you want to use.

The photographer will likely do the first edits, but you still need to do the final selection. This is where your vision comes to fruition, where you get to pick the best ones to use.

  • If you aren’t the person using the images, or aren’t comfortable making the choices, review them with your designer or agency. They will love to have input.
  • Be sure to give a copyright/photo credit on each piece where the image appears.

8. Accept the accolades when everything looks amazing.


Kent Dicken

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