Demystifying Creatives—6 Steps for Working with Photographers

Photography is something that’s part of everyone’s lives. Old pictures of grandma, your parents wedding album, remembering a vacation, etc.  But, when it comes to business and marketing, photography shifts from fond memories to real work. To create a powerful visual brand, there are many hurdles: defining your vision, crafting a strategy, and hiring creatives to produce your materials.

As with most things, the scary part is getting started.  Often, this is because we tend to overestimate the work involved.  In an effort to illuminate what it means to work with a photographer, here are six steps that can guide you through the process, and help produce work to elevate your brand.

1. Hire a professional

There are cameras everywhere.  Images are more and more ubiquitous, and everyone has a somewhat decent camera these days.  And while your sister might have some awesome shots from a trip to Costa Rica, that doesn’t mean she’s going to be able to give you what you need. A photographer’s job is centered around producing for clients. A professional will be much more likely to produce images that showcase your brand.  A good place to start is with recommendations from other business owners who have photography that you like. Or, try browsing the portfolios on Local Food Lab - they’ve attracted a lot of great talent.

2. Get an idea of what you need

You’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe you don’t have a clue, but that’s okay.  When you ask a photographer about providing images, they should have a list of questions to key in on the vision in your head.  Some questions like: what’s the deadline, where will the images be used, how many images, what style would you like, and who is your target client or audience.  If your photographer doesn’t ask questions like these, it may be a red flag that their product can be all over the place.

3. Decide the nitty gritty

Because we’re essentially talking about creating art, it’s important to be thorough at the beginning, and make the process as concrete as possible.  This helps you head down the right path from the start, feel confident, and know exactly what you’re going to get.  From a photographer’s point of view, there are four basic parts to providing an accurate estimate: pre-production, usage, post-production, and technical fee.

Pre-production: this should cover all the time and expenses to set up your photo shoot. This can include creating concepts, finding props, securing permits, or renting equipment.

Photographers’ Fee: This is the fee for hiring the photographer. It can be a flat fee, or a rate per day of shooting. It covers business operating costs and the technical difficulty of your photos. It varies by expertise and market of the photographer (NYC’s pros might be more expensive than Des Moines’).

Usage: This is the most difficult concept in the bid.  Usage (or licensing) covers the amount of usage that you as a client get out of the image.  This also includes the length of time you plan to use the images. This can be as little as using an image for one e-newsletter to 100 people, or as much as an international ad campaign for 10 years. Try to be realistic about the different ways you might use the images.  If you’re not entirely sure, then ask your photographer for suggestions. One note: most clients overestimate the amount of use they need for images.

Post-production: This covers the time, computers, and software used to process the images into a final product.  Most cameras produce huge files to allow for a range of editing options. It takes time and knowledge even just to size the images down to be used for a website.

4. Look around and share

Photographers are usually visual people (of course).  It’s really helpful for most photographers to have a visual clue of your ideas. The goal is to move the discussion from a nebulous idea, and connect on something that already exists. Send over images that you like, or images you dislike. Anything helps. Making the images you want is a two way street with your photographer, and any direction you can provide will make the end product better.

5. Speak up

If at anytime, you’ve got a question about the process, ask questions. 80% of photographers are self-employed, which means most run their businesses in different ways. Most business owners don’t hire photographers often, so it’s important that when you do, you know what you’re going to get.

6. Find someone you like 

Even if your photo shoot is only one day, you’re bound to spend time dealing with the photographer.  Beyond that, you might need photos in the future. Using the same photographer can help ensure that your brand and visual identity stay consistent through time.

About the authors

We are Cody and Natalie Gantz of C+N Creative, a photography team in San Francisco.  We love storytelling within the food industry about people, craft, and how food gets produced.  For Local Food Lab referrals, we have packages starting at $1500.  Contact us to get started creating your unique brand identity.


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