Picking the right photographer to shoot your photos must be insanely hard, given the amount of awesome work I see online every day. These are my 5 tips for brands wondering if they’re hiring the right photographer.
Finding the right photographer in a sea of talent
This is a blog I’ve meant to write for a long time. In recent years, the amount of photographers that have tried turning their hobby into a profession is just enormous. What’s more, with the uprise of social media and content marketing, more brands and individuals than ever require photos. I can’t imagine what it must be like for them to have to choose from the sea of talented photographers. Personally, I have identified my niche as capturing the characters and hard work of athletes for brands. This makes finding clients that are right for me a fair bit easier. It also makes easier for brands to judge if I’m right for them. But what if we assume a random brand is looking for the right photographer to shoot their photo assignment? These are the five signs I feel best indicate the match will work.
1 – The right photographer for you asks questions instead of talk about himself
When I go into a meeting or phone call with a client to discuss a potential project, I’m not looking to sell myself. All that matters at this point is getting clear what the project will require and discover if we’re right for each other. Only after I’ve grasped what the client is looking for, will I explain how I would approach the project. By asking questions, the right photographer for your project shows an interest in your brand and project. He acknowledges the need for some additional information sharing, instead of just applying a cookie cutter solution. What’s more, I feel that when photographers try to pimp their own work too much, they’re really just unconfident. They’re trying to make up for a lack of skills or relevant work.
2 – He has taken the time to research your business and can connect with it
Ideally, the right photographer will have already done his homework. Is part of your first meeting spent discussing details about your company that could’ve been easily discovered with a simple search on Google? This is a clear tell that my colleague hasn’t invested any time in you before the meeting. I always try to get a feel for the brand I’ll be working with, and oftentimes also the person I’m meeting with. You don’t want a simple button pusher who will be applying a cookie cutter approach to try and meet your needs. You want someone with a genuine interest in your industry, your brand and your people. Clear tells are using industry jargon and having worked with similar brands before.
3 – Will indicate what he can’t do or isn’t realistic within your brief
Personally I feel this is an incredibly important sign, and one I actually have to get better at myself. As a professional photographer, my first instinct is always to please my client and try to meet his needs. Changing briefs, longer shot lists, additional locations, throw in a green screen, different lighting scenarios? No biggie, I’ll try and make it work! However, clients being clients and not photographers, they’ll sometimes expect outcomes that aren’t realistic given time, budget or location restraints. Photographers shouldn’t be scared to speak up when clients have unrealistic expectations. This helps to prevent disappointment and perhaps picking the wrong photographer for the job.
The earlier the client and their prospect photographer talk about this, the better. Naturally, client and photographer should then collaborate to try and come up with a solution that satisfies the client’s needs and is realistic. To summarise, the right photographer will clearly let you know when you’re asking him to do something he can’t do, or doesn’t feel can be achieved. For instance, I’ll always be fair and square if a client asks me to shoot product photography or something that isn’t remotely related to sports. I’ll happily refer them to some of my talented colleagues. This point transitions quite neatly into the next one:
4 – The right photographer for you has a relevant and coherent portfolio in terms of style and theme
One of my biggest pet peeves are photographers who try and do too much. You wouldn’t believe the amount of online portfolios I’ve seen that display several album categories for a single photographer. Portraits, weddings, cars, newborn, nude, landscape, pets – they’ll shoot it all. To me this is one of the clearest signs of lack of focus and specialisation. This photographer should lose out every single time a client requires photos in one of these specific categories and can also work with a photographer who only shoots that specific niche. The old saying jack of all trades, master of none couldn’t be more accurate. A photographer who offers everything will never excel at a specific thing.
What’s more though, clients should look for photographers with a coherent portfolio in terms of style and theme. This ensures them that particular photographer can deliver every single time. What you see is what you get. Naturally there are exceptions, like when a photographer has a truly unique style that can easily be applied to different industries. However, a portfolio that shows similarly styled images all taken in the same industry is an easy sign this individual knows what he’s doing. This photographer can deliver quality results every single time.
One of my colleagues I admire for his coherent style is Joey L. He is quite possibly my biggest inspiration ever. The color grading and lighting style Joey uses are insanely high-end and I can recognise his work easily. His focus on personal environmental portraits from different cultures around the world makes his website super coherent. It’s a true indication that he’s world class. My own portfolio can hardly compare to that of Joey, but I feel it also has a specific focus and at least a sense of cohesiveness.
5 – Will be quick to respond to your emails or phone calls
This one’s a bit easier. You want to make sure the photographer you’re picking will actually work with you and is invested in your project. An easy tell of this is quick response times to your emails or phone calls. Of course life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes. Please don’t be too quick to judge if the photographer you’re considering doesn’t respond within 24 hours a single time. However, if your emails go unanswered for a whole week, this could be seen as a sign your photographer isn’t invested. Personally, I try to always respond within two days at most, but usually on the same day. A habit I’ve tried to cultivate is even if I need some time to gather my thoughts on an email, I send out a quick response. This could read something like thank you, I’ll get back to you as soon as I can after I’ve given this some thought.
Hopefully these five sign you’re picking the right photographer will be helpful to clients who find it hard to judge and pick. If there’s something I’ve missed or if you have any thoughts to share on this, I’d be super thankful if you let me know in a comment or through an email.
The images in this blog are a random selection of my work that I feel represent my style and the themes I shoot.