Wait! Before You Hire a Brand Photographer: 4 Things to Consider
So you’re considering hiring a brand photographer for your product-based or service-based business. Brand photography is an absolute necessity for any business, and is an umbrella term that can cover specific types of photos like: e-commerce product photography, styled product photography, aesthetic photography, headshots or team photos, and even still life photography that can explain what you do better than you can (really).
We asked creative commercial photographer Lauren Jones about her line of work and what things a business owner should consider before hiring a brand photographer. Here’s what she had to say:
Things to Consider #1: Find someone that suits your style.
“People might not hire me for a shoot that involves a light and airy beach feel with a model in a flowy dress. There are so many photographers in Savannah that are amazing at that. That is a niche. Finding someone that specializes in the type of work you’re interested in is key because they are going to be more passionate and more knowledgeable about that industry.” —Lauren Jones
You may not have a clear idea as to the type of photos you want, but you should have an understanding of your brand’s aesthetic. Do you lean towards more hyper-stylized, heavy contrast photos? Or, is your brand more of a light, natural daylight vibe? Do you want a lot of people and movement and action or do you want to evoke a feeling through abstract objects and imagery?
Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to have more clarity in the type of style that’s best for you:
Finding Your Photo Style: Ask These Questions
If I quickly scroll through my Instagram feed (or my portfolio), what are some stylistic commonalities between the type of content my business produces?
Examples: Minimal and neutral aesthetic, High contrast colors, Casual lifestyle moments
2. What aesthetic does my target customer tend to lean towards?
Example: If your target customer engages with Shop.Bando often, they may be attracted to trendy, 70s graphics with candid VSCO Girl vibes.
3. How are businesses similar to us communicating?
Example: If your main competitor has a very clearly defined aesthetic, how would you describe the opposite of that vibe? Or, if a company you aspire to be has a certain style, how can you incorporate that into your own content?
Things to Consider #2: Decide what role the photographer is playing.
Know that if you’re hiring a photographer that markets themselves a “brand photographer”, it’s likely they also dip into other aspects of a creative shoot, such as the Creative Director, Shoot Coordinator, and Talent Coordinator. Depending on the size and scope of your shoot, you may decide that you want to pay your photographer to handle more of the upfront planning. Otherwise, a professional photographer will expect to show up on set with their equipment and take direction from someone else. This is one of the first things Lauren clarifies during an initial client meeting:
”The first thing I always ask a client is, ‘Who is in the driver seat? Are you in the driver’s seat for this shoot or am I? Are you hiring me for my creative direction and photography or are you hiring me just for my photography?’ Because I do both. Some people have a set vision, see me for my style, and hire me. Some clients will say, ‘Hey, we have a slot for a fashion spread in the September issue - go crazy.’”—Lauren Jones
Things to Consider #3: To License or Buyout?
When you hire a brand photographer, part of their fee will include their time. This flat cost will cover any planning or coordinating they’ll do, as well as the time it takes in post production to edit your photos. Aside from that cost, your proposal will include a number that reflects how and for how long you can own your photos. While every photographer will have their own specifics, there are generally two ways in which you can purchase photos from a professional photographer:
Option 1: Image Licensing
Licensing an image means you only want to have usage rights for a limited amount of time. This is an ideal situation for time-sensitive photos, like if you’re:
> Capturing a launch party.
> Promoting the opening of a business.
> Showing products with temporary stock.
> Single-use applications, like a magazine ad.
Stock photo sites use this same licensing method - you only have permission to use your photos within certain capacities or within a certain amount of time. The only downside to stock photos is that any company can be putting out the same exact content as you. In today’s marketplace, brand’s can’t afford to not be putting out unique content. Lauren recommend supplementing your professional brand photos with stock photos to maintain a competitive level of quantity (without sacrificing quality).
Option 2: Full Buyout
A full buyout means that you own your photos for all eternity and have unlimited rights to use them as you please. This is an ideal scenario for brands who play the long game with content; that is, brands who understand that content can be reused and recycled to produce more opportunities to promote your business. This will typically be a bigger cost upfront, however will save you in the long-run.
Things to Consider #4: Embrace the Expert
Think of your brand photographer as if they’re a creative content consultant. The world of brand photography is the world they’re constantly immersed in, which means they’ll be able to educate you on what’s trending, how to stand out, and out-of-the-box ideas you may not have considered.
“The biggest thing is to be open to the photographer’s suggestions. We live in this world so we see all the trends going in and out and if we say, ‘Hey, that’s been done too many times. That’s not going to push you guys where you need to go.’ We have seen things overdone and while not trying to make your brand feel so crazy and outlandish, you are investing that money, so you want to create something unique.
It’s hard to see yourself, too. It’s great to bring in a fresh perspective who will say, ‘Actually, this is who you guys are.’ Because when you are so in it, it’s hard to see how you really stand out or what makes you unique. Using a brand photographer who has a new creative perspective is really refreshing.” —Lauren Jones
You find see more of Lauren’s work on her website, or follow her on Instagram.
Learn more about brand photography and ways in which your business can creatively market itself online through unique content: Let’s Talk: Brand Photography with Lauren Jones, Creative Commercial Photographer