How to find a great photographer
Steve Thornton imagery Link to my Instagram page Spacer Link to my LinkedIn page

How to find a great photographer - Part 1

Award Winning Fashion Imagery

This is the second article in a series about commercial photography.

This article is based on the assumption that you are looking for wonderful commercial imagery. Not just snapshots or a cheap photoshoot, but a planned and well executed shots that have been thought out by a professional photographer.

If you are wanting to hire a professional photographer you should first identify what you need in the manifestation of a shot list. A "Shot List" is a written down catalog of every "Scene" you want a photo of or need a video clip of. This does not need to be specific but identified in broad strokes. (Although the more information you have the better.)

If you or a member of your team can sketch, then generate these as it will help a photographer or video director understand the scene.

If you need several different images write them down with your ideas. This can be as simple as a hand written note or a several page printed list with bullet points. Go here to read more about this process.

It is critical that you and the photographer are on the same page expectation wise as to the total number of final, retouched, color corrected photos that you, the client, want from the photographer.


If you tell the photographer you only need 8 shots and you mean you want them to shoot: 8 setups shot 3 different ways using different people in each change. The 8 shots to you the client is really 24 shots to the photographer. (8 shots or 8 scenes or 8 looks, can mean the same thing.) If you do not make this clear, it will likely lead to hurt feelings and other issues, all of which could be bad.

Part of what you get if you hire a creative photographer, is their way of looking at a project. You might see your product, which could be in reality a bland and unexciting widget, but with a great photographer through their choice of foreground and background, or location, along with help of light, color and shadow, it can be transformed into something really cool.


Where can I find great photographers?

If you don't know who to hire, and do not have any contacts you can ask, or if you are looking for a different photographer than you are doing business with now, do a search online and start looking. In looking at the the photographer's body of work (their portfolio), if you like what you see, then they are someone you should think about hiring.

Do not just enter "Photographer" in the search bar. You can limit your scope by using terms to help you find a photographer that does what you want. I can tell you that if you just put in "photographer", the choices will be overwhelming.

Commercial advertising photographer,
Industrial advertising photographer,
Food advertising photographer,
Advertising photographer,
Portrait photographer,
Car advertising photographer,
Fashion advertising Photographer,
Resort advertising photographer,
Beauty advertising photographer,
Lifestyle advertising photographer,
Product advertising photographer.

Using "advertising" will help in your search as advertising photographers generally speaking are some of the better photographers. However, you still need to look at their work to see if they are a good match for you.

I would also suggest you use Goolge's advanced search where you can enter your main terms. Then enter what you do not want to see in: "none of these words" - in this box you could enter wedding photographer and portrait photographer, unless you are looking for these photographers.

Also I would not look using your ZIP code as a limiter, see 3 paragraphs below.

Additionally there is a photographer's guild, ASMP, that has a feature to help you find a photographer, in fact it is called: Find A Photographer.

All ASMP members have gone through this vetting process: They must be sponsored by 2 current ASMP members, they must have been published (Published means they have shot for magazines, newspapers or hired by clients and had these photos published (printed) in these publications), go through an interview process by at least 2 current members and be a professional photographer. I am an ASMP member.

When conducting your search, do not just look locally. If the best photographer is 3 time zones away, so what? If you feel they are the best, then understand there is another line item in your budget to be filled out called travel. I have clients in Singapore, throughout the United States, in Europe and in the Middle East. Why do these companies fly me around the world? Because I know their business, they like and trust my vision and I deliver on time.

By now you should have some prospective photographers you want to talk with.

When you start to talk to these professionals about a project, you want to tell them what you need, (Refer to your shot list) what you want from them and any other details like: When do you want to start the project, where will the shoot take place, how long the photographer will be on site shooting etc. You will also want to talk about how & where you want to use the photos.

The next part is one of the most important parts of this vetting process: Listen to their reply. It should include what you may think is a stupid amount of questions that are about the process, the photos, the location, your product or your service, who and what your company is all about, how many "Finished images" you the client want to wind up with.

If they do not ask probing questions, ask questions that have nothing to do with the project or they say, with very little information from you, that they "are perfect for this project", you may wish to be suspect of this photographer.

And questions should be also coming from you too. If there is anything you do not understand, ask enough questions until you get an answer you can understand. You need to be comfortable with this.

Some questions you may get from the photographers:
What about my work do you like?
Is there a certain section on my website that you think is what you are looking for, or
Is there a certain photo or 2 on my site that is on point for a look you want me to do for your company?

These questions are important, they tell the photographer what "Level" of a shoot you are wanting.

"Level of shoot" you ask? Let's say you liked the photographer's portraits and you tell them you liked this portrait on their website.


This instantly tells the photographer what you are looking for image wise and the style you like. Now the photographer will start to understand what you are wanting and what they will need to bring to the shoot gear wise and assistant wise, in this case, likely minimal for both.

Or you mention that you liked a shot where there are a lot of people in an image and it is a lifestyle shot that has been well styled, well lit, well directed using great professional models.


This is a totally different "level of shoot". It has a lot of prep work, a lot of location scouting time, a lot of model casting time and will require a producer, wardrobe stylist, hair and makeup artist, assistants, location fees, set up time, tear down and load out time etc.

The same photographer can shoot both of these images but one shoot will take a relatively short amount of time with minimal equipment to something that is quite time intensive and requires a lot of prep, specialized lighting gear, pro models, a styling crew and an assisting crew. There is a BIG difference between the level of imagery for the portrait shot vs. the lifestyle shot.

But both are based on single photographs you, the client, like and want from the same photographer.

NOTE: All photographers will welcome you referencing their photographs, but will not welcome you sending them a photo from another photographer and saying "We want you to copy this photo." Every photographer I know will tell you that they will not do this. 2 reasons: 1 - It is in direct violation of U.S. Copyright law and 2 - It is just wrong. And most photographers will refuse to look at other photographers work that you send them just for "Reference" for something you like.

If you want to send me a sketch or a drawing that is fair. I would prefer it not be a direct copy, but even if it is I will not see the technical conditions of the original work: Location, time of day, special lighting they may have used, styling etc. and will be allowed to insert my vision.


The next article will be Part 2 of this topic.

Please feel free to share this article and all of my articles.

Direct link for this article on my site:

Direct link to part 2:

LinkedIn link:

Steve Thornton -



#beauty #thestevethornton #lifestyle #howto #portrait #commercialphotography #photography #adversingphotography



Contact Us!Home Page!

All images and this entire website is © Steve Thornton