Working with a photographer for shoots is definitely a luxury that I realize not everyone has. Hell, I don’t even have the budget to do it for every single project. And I’m totally fine with that. I actually enjoy taking my own photos when I have the time…and the natural light is great…and I don’t need to actually be in the photos…and…I could go on and on. BUT when I have the budget or I really want to be able to focus on the styling, I hire a photographer.
But not just any photographer, the right photographer. And that’s the topic I want to talk about for today’s Behind the Scenes post: what you need to know before hiring a photographer.
I usually use the same photographer (Sarah Eddy) because I feel really comfortable around her. Which is SUPER important. But there are plenty of other things to think about when hiring a photographer, like timing, style, budget, etc. So, I put together a little checklist for those that are interested in working with photographers for shoots.
Whether you’re working on DIY projects, showcasing your product line in a beautiful way, getting into fashion posts, etc – these tips are pretty universal. So I hope you’ll find a nugget in here that will be useful to you.
Here are the nine things you should think about before you hire a photographer. Warning: It’s about to get wordy up in here, so you may want to grab some coffee. Or a Coke Zero.
1. Establish a comfort level.
If you’ve never worked with a particular photographer before, see if you can meet up in person, ahead of time, to discuss your project. This will give you both a chance to see if you click and whether or not you are ready to move forward.
2. Determine the right photo style for your brand.
Every photographer has a different style. Be sure to find one that fits with yours. Example: If you have a modern, minimal line of home goods you probably wouldn’t hire a photographer that is known for their ethereal, romantic photo style.
3. Think about working style.
If possible, start with a smaller shoot so you can get a feel for different working styles. Once again, every photographer is different, which means each one has a slightly different (or vastly different) working style. You may not mesh well with every working style. Example: You give the photographer a detailed shot list and he or she prefers to work organically without a pre-set list of perimeters. Uh oh. That doesn’t sound like a good match. So, just be aware of that, as something to think about.
4. Know your deadline and timeframe.
It’s not always easy to plan things well in advance, but often times photographers need one to two weeks to get your photos back to you (sometimes longer). So be sure to be upfront about your timeline and book well in advance whenever possible. *This is where working with a photographer on a regular basis really comes in handy. If you have a tight deadline for a particular project (which happens, lets face it) and have established a relationship with a photographer already, he or she is more likely to be flexible and help out on short notice, if available.
5. Know your budget.
As much as we all wish that we could do things for free because we simply love doing it, that’s not how it works. We all need to be compensated for our time and photographers are no different. If for some reason you cannot offer financial compensation, be sure that whatever you are offering is of value to the photographer. For example, in exchange for one hour of photography, I will model for photos for your portfolio for the same amount of time, etc. I would say that that is a pretty common trade for photographers that are just starting out and building their portfolio.
For the sake of being open and honest, I will tell you…I always pay photographers. Sometimes it’s a flat fee and sometimes it’s by the hour, but I always pay people for their time. It helps keep everything professional and lets everyone know you take it seriously. I will say though that the amount you pay a photographer may vary drastically, based on the project, number of hours, copyright, and the photographer you are working with. So, even though it can be an uncomfortable subject, be upfront about what you can and cannot afford and try to arrange something that everyone is satisfied with.
6. Work out the terms.
Make sure to discuss a minimum number of photos that you’ll be receiving after the shoot is over and when. Also, if you are posting these online, you’ll want to discuss how photo credit will be given, if any. This would also be when you would discuss who has rights to the photos, if applicable (which may come into play if you’re working on a sponsored post for a brand and they request usage rights or copyrights for photos, etc – always read those contracts for sponsored posts, which is another subject entirely).
7. Establish set roles.
It’s important for everyone to know what their role is on a shoot, big or small. Some photographers do a lot of the styling for a shoot, while others stick strictly to the photography. Some photographers like to direct models, while others again rely on a stylist or art director for that kind of thing. So it just depends.
My preference is for the photographer to be there solely to take photos, while I style and art direct. That said though, I recognize that I am not an island (or a super star) and am totally open to input and suggestions. So, basically what I’m saying is know the role you want to play and make it known. And if there are any issue with roles on set, be assertive (not an a-hole).
8. Determine a location and time of day.
This one is obvious, but hey, you do have to know where something is going to be shot. So, it’s on the list. Will you be at the photographer’s studio, on location somewhere, or in your basement? This is important for the photographer to know because he or she may need to bring additional equipment, depending on where the photos will be taken and the time of day.
9. Ask a friend or colleague.
If you’re on the fence about hiring a particular photographer, ask around. Maybe you have a friend that has worked with so-and-so in the past or you can reach out to a colleague via email to ask how they enjoyed working with said photographer. This kind of insight can be invaluable…and save you a lot of time and money if there have been any issues in the past with other clients.
All Photos by Sarah Eddy for Paper & Stitch. Photos shown are from the following P&S posts and projects: outtake from this style post, easy edible meringue cups, DIY coaster project, giant DIY heart photo booth prop, paper straw cake topper DIY.
Have your own tips on hiring a photographer that you’d like to share? Share ’em in the comments below. And if you have any questions about any of this, let me know! I’m happy to answer any questions.
P.S. If youre looking for more ways to create beautifully styled, share-worthy tutorials, check out my Skillshare class, The How To on How Tos: Creating Compelling Tutorials for your Blog.
17 comments | Click here to reply
Awesome advice! Lots don’t think about the rights of the photo and whether or not you can post them and forgets to ask. Thank you for sharing this helpful list!McKenzie
Great tips, I so wish I could have a personal photographer to do all of my photos and make life seem so picturesque and grande!Hope
That’s great to hear, Sylvia. Your photographs are beautiful, by the way. Just checked out your portfolio.Brittni
As a photographer who works primarily with bloggers, I appreciate this very much and it’s all so, so true!Sylvia G
Wonderful points of views! I particulary agree with most of them. The best one is your opinion that each other shuold be & want to be compencated for time, job.etcSergio
Glad to hear that you found this post helpful, Lesia.Brittni
That really is helpful. I’m shooting my own stuff so far, but that’s probably because I haven’t done DIY’s yet. I think that finding another blogger photographer and exchanging services could also be a good solution.Lesia
Aw, well at least now you know for next time. Best of luck finding a photographer for your next adventure. I’m sure you will.Brittni
Thanks so much for this post! I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to choose a photographer, and I’m so sad that I didn’t know all of this before my Senior Pictures. It would have saved me a lot of tears. 🙂Jessica
Hey Van. Ah, yes – portraits! Definitely not something that you want to tackle on your own. Trying to be the photographer and model at the same time is not the best. 🙂Brittni
Love this post. I’m reaching out to collab with some photographers for content. It’s especially helpful for self-portraits which are so daunting to do on your own. I’m going the free route but love your tips for future potential photographer hiring.Van
Glad I could help, Corina. Crossing my fingers that you are able to find a photographer that is a perfect match for you.Brittni
Great tips i’ve been wanting to hire a photographer for ages now, but honestly can’t find any on the island that suits my standards. This post now definitely makes me feel more comfortable !Corina nika
Definitely Tommie. If the client doesn’t feel fully comfortable in an art directing position, this suggestion would be especially helpful. Either way though, always best to communicate ideas for the shoot ahead of time so everyone is on the same page. Thanks for bringing that up.Brittni
Excellent tips! Enjoyed them all. I would also add that the client might ask the photographer if they have a vision for the shoot as well. Make it a collaboration because the photographer might bring something to the table that the client never thought of.Tommie Huffman
Thanks Kel! Completely agree that it takes a few shoots to get comfortable.Brittni
GREAT tips, B! All so important and I think you covered just about everything! It definitely takes a few shoots to really get used to how a photographer works, so I think your tip of starting small is great!Kelly @ Studio DIY