How to find a great photographer part 2
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How to find a great photographer - Part 2

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

This is a continuation of part one. Go here to read part 1 on my website.

So far in part 1 of this article, we have talked about how to find great photographers, what facts you should have (A shot list) and you have looked for, and have found, several photographers you may want to hire. Now we will look at some questions from you.

Keep in mind that this article is broad in scope and is not an absolute guide. There are absolutely no absolutes in art, up to and including your personal appreciation for art, whether it is commercial art or fine art.

Another fact is not everyone is a visual person and can not see the difference in one photo to the next even though one is visually terrible and the other is visually stunning. If you know you fit this description, you may wish to assign finding a photographer to someone in your organization who understands why better photographers are needed to help you tell your company's story.

After all, you are not going to ask your mechanic to find an accountant for your company. If you are not a visual person, and you are not alone, a lot of my clients are not visual, find out who is that you trust and have them find the photographer you need to hire.


After you have talked to the photographers you have selected to chat with, you have given them your shot list and they should have asked you a lot of questions.

You can ask them: Do you feel you would be right for this job? What are the reasons you feel you are person for the project? Would you be interested in this project? Do you have any concerns, or put a different way, have you identified any potential issues? How long will it take for us to see the photos you shot?

Let's say you looked at a photographer's website and they did not really have anything that was on point for your shoot but something told you this photographer was worth talking to. A question for them would be: "I did not see anything on your site that said you have shot anything like what I'm wanting, but I did like what I saw, why do you think you would be a good fit?"

There are 2 ways of looking at a photographer who has or has not shot your type of industry.

1 - If they have shot a lot of your type of product or service they will likely be comfortable in your environment, know what is important, how to shoot it, how to light it and will hit the ground running. These are all good. The potential negative is your competitor may have had the same photographer and the photos may look and feel the same. Now most photographers will have a style and that is one of the reasons you hire them so this is not necessarily a bad thing. Hiring this type of photographer is a safe bet. (As safe as any 'safe bet ' can be.)

"...will have a style..." All great photographers will have a "Style" that identifies them vs. the next great photographer who has a different style. A style can be how one "sees" the world around them. Another style can be how the subject is framed within the image. Yet another style is how the photographer "Finishes' their imagery. Any and all of these can be part of their style. It is up to you to find a photographer that has the best style that fits what you want/need.

2 - If they have never shot what you "Do" then they bring a fresh and different point of view to the shoot. Truthfully this can be a gift to you if you want something different than your competitors are doing. The negative is they may be clueless what is or is not safe. They may or may not know what is your produce vs. something that is cool to them about the machinery that makes your product vs. what you are selling. This is not a bad thing! It is just a potential concern. If they are truly a gifted image maker, you should seriously consider them.



Side note, or, blowing my own horn:

I'm a mostly a fashion & beauty, lifestyle, people photographer. However in another life I have been an electrician, a welder, fabricator, machinist, mechanic (cars (both street and race) as well as heavy industry) so I can talk intelligibly to most factory blue collar workers, mechanics, machinists, electricians. I know what TIG, MIG & Oxygen Acetylene welding is because I can, and have, used all of them. I can, and have, pulled the front cover off of a circuit breaker panel at a client's location, determined what parts I need to add a set of electrical outlets because the warehouse I was shooting in did not have enough power for all of my strobes. I gave the list to my assistant who went to Home Depot, returned and I installed a set of outlets that solved the problem.

I'm just as comfortable shooting with a stunning fashion model with great makeup, a great hair style wearing a cool garment or a factory worker covered in filth wearing an ill fitting uniform. And I can talk to both with ease and thoroughly enjoy shooting these projects - OK, enough about me.


You will want to get a feel for how much time the photographer will need to be on location shooting your project. You can ask them on average how long does it take to shoot commercial work in a warehouse, in a factory, in an office, on location etc. This is something akin to asking 'how much is a car' because the photographer has not set foot on your site. I would still ask, but be prepared for a different reality after they have scouted your site.


A sense of reality... for you

If you say you like photo "X" in the photographer's portfolio and you want this photographer to get 18 looks a day as good as that image, be prepared to hear, "Mr/Mrs/Ms Client... on average, I spend 1 - 3 hours setting up one image and will shoot for another 5 to 30 minutes depending on the need my clients have." Keep in mind this is normally for high end work where every element is measured, considered and has been lit.

Generally speaking it takes time to set up each image, style the set, light the set, find where the camera needs to be and shoot. This is if you are wanting national advertising level work that produces consistent and compelling imagery. If you do not need this "level of work", tell the photographer that too.

A LOT of new clients equate photos to taking snapshots with their cell phone and are astounded when they hear it will take 1 hour minimum to set up and execute a shot... and one hour can be quick.

Now... can the photographer physically shoot 18 looks in an 8 hour day? Yes. Will these 18 images look like all of the great shots in their portfolio? Likely no. Will they be good photos? The answer can be yes... depending on your definition of "good".

Keep in mind that for your needs you may not need for every image to be stunning, maybe a lot of images just need to be "Good". The choice is up to you, the client, and the photographer needs to know what needs to be good vs. what needs to be wonderful.

Great work takes time. Shots need to be developed. "Developed" means we set up, we place the people, objects, the light, the shadows, direct the action and then start to finesse the image. Finesse can be moving lights, adding lights, removing lights, trying a different lens or POV (Point of View). It may be a model has on the wrong wardrobe for that shot. It may mean the photographer really needs to be on a ladder etc.

The finesse part is what takes the time and it can be a significant amount of time. The finessing of the image is what helps it to be extraordinary.

I like to shoot from several different angles with different lenses to give the client more choices. Every time I change position, something, or several somethings, will almost always need to get moved or adjusted. Note: By moving and changing my point of view, I help my client develop a photo library.


How to deal with the need for a lot of shots and not have enough time or money.

Even cheap photography costs money. The higher level of photographer, the cost goes from just up to way up. We all know different clients have different budget levels they can afford. To maximize your budget, prioritize your shot list to determine how many hours or days it will take to get all the imagery you need. Take the less important photos and move them to the “Hurry up & shoot, I just need good” list vs. “we need to enough time to make this a stunning image” list.


Another issue is your better photographers are frequently booked a lot of the time. You should start looking at least 45 days out, 3-4 months is better, and ask on your first call/email if they are available for the date range you want.

If you start with 5-10 photographers, try to narrow it down quickly to 2 or 3 then really talk to them. Do this to see if you think you would like to be around this person for a day, or a week, depending on the project. Chemistry is important as is excellence in image making. Do you feel they completely understand what you want?

If you have layouts (Sketches showing the major elements in the photo) send them so you can talk about each shot? Do you sense they are excited about your project? Are they coming up with ideas and concepts that make sense or are they in left field? By the way, left field may not necessarily be a bad thing if this person is a brilliant conceptual image maker.

Depending where you are in the country and how wide of a net you cast looking for a great photographer, it is likely you will have 2 or more highly qualified photographers that you would be fine in using. If this is the case, you have what is known as a "Good" problem.

If you are wanting the "best" photographer, they may not be in your city. For most several day projects the cost of travel may be 20% of the overall cost of the shoot. However you are getting the photographer you are wanting.


The next article will be about common photographic terms and what they mean.

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Direct link for Part 1 on my site:

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