Hey, pal. I take it you’re either looking for a new brand photographer, you know someone who is and you’re being a decent human by helping them look around, or you’re another photog doing some market research.
In any case, welcome! I’m SO glad you’re here because it tells me you realize you can (and should) “shop” for the right photographer for your brand — something too many folks don’t realize is essential for success.
However, it’s worth noting that you should NEVER assume that because you know someone who is a photographer that they will create the best work for your brand.
Branding is not a small investment, so you need to make wise, educated decisions to create the biggest impact in the long run.
Without feeding you too much fluff about why you need to find the right photographer, I’ll just tell you how, as I’m sure you understand the importance of strong visual branding in the 21st century.
So, here we go:
As a brand photographer, I can tell you first hand that my website is my portfolio. It is full of work I’m proud to share and would like to create more of.
Pro tip: Click around their website (especially on their reviews) to see if they link their clients’ websites or social media accounts so you can see how their clients are using their photos and how it correlates with the color palette and brand messaging.
Do you get the same vibe from their photos as you do from the language the client uses? These two things NEED to complement each other for consistent, cohesive, and recognizable branding.
While we all would ideally like to keep our websites as updated as possible, social media is typically where creatives share their work most frequently. It’s easier, faster, and more heavily trafficked than websites.
Plus, you’re more likely to see their most recent projects. Again, it’s a quick and easy way to see how their work is being used by their clients. Don’t shy away from Insta-stalking! After all, you’re doing research and the photographer will take it as a huge compliment if you take an interest in their work before reaching out.
Read about their personal and professional background. Why do they love what they do, and why does it make them the best fit for you?
You need to be sure they have experience with the type of work you need. Do they have a background in marketing, public relations, or brand/graphic design?
If branding your business is something you take seriously, you need to feel confident that your photographer understands how to create photos that can be used in multiple ways across all of your marketing platforms, how these photos may be perceived by your audience, and what will truly represent your brand and bring in new leads.
In my experience, clients who are extremely satisfied with your services will RAVE about you and be very detailed in their reviews. (Check mine out here.) This will give you the best idea of what to expect from your photographer’s work ethic, personality, and level of professionalism.
This will tell you they understand the importance of branding themselves, and they will likely have good ideas about how you can use your photos and compose/crop them in ways that can be utilized across multiple platforms. Not to mention, they’ve been around a while and take their own brand and business seriously.
Typically, if they don’t have a FAQ page on their website, they’ll at least have one in a document they send when people inquire. This will not only answer several questions for you in advance — making it a more efficient process for you both — it’ll also make you aware of things you may not have already considered.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my professional life, it’s that communication is queen. Without it, things can go awry very quickly.
It’s fine (great, even) if their language is informal. Many of us enjoy knowing we’re corresponding with a real human, and informal lingo can make us feel a bit more comfortable from the get-go. But they still need to answer all your questions and set realistic expectations on the front end.
This is a big one. Typically, if a photographer is on holiday or swamped in the midst of their busiest season, they will at least have an auto-response on their emails letting you know they are away from their typical office hours and will give you a timeline of when you can expect to hear from them. OR they’ll be super legit and have an assistant for you to chat with. #thedream
If they aren’t very responsive in the beginning when you haven’t even paid them yet, it isn’t very promising that the rest of your experience with them will be any different.
Study the aesthetics of the content they share consistently. This will show you what kind of work they are most comfortable with and will likely create for you.
However, take note of some projects that are a little “out there” for them. This can be a good thing, especially considering the fact that they are taking photos to compliment YOUR brand, not theirs. It’s good to see how they can flex their photo muscles, but be sure it’s not so far out there that you won’t have a good idea of what to expect with your own brand photos.
This is very important. Let’s say you’re in a rock band and when you land on a photographer’s website, you immediately notice photos with very bright exposure and highlights, traditional posing (crossed arms, smiling straight into the camera in a way only your grandmother truly enjoys), and pastel colors from header to footer. While this may fit some, it probably doesn’t jive with your funky scream-singing photos with neon lighting you imagine all over your website and social media.
Pro tip: Save their photos to your brand mood board on Pinterest or in a dedicated saved folder on Instagram and see if it flows with the feel of all the other brand content you’re gathering for inspiration.
If you need an example of this, you can check out my mood board for my brand here.
Is it playful? Serious? Moody? Traditional? Do you immediately think, “YES! I NEED TO WORK WITH THEM!” or are you hoping you can change them a little like that ex in high school you had *very* high hopes for?
Are they cookie cutter? Laidback? Robotic? Maybe even a little bit too hype for your chill personality? Whatever they “sound” like on their website is likely how they will come off in most of their communication. So pay close attention and ask yourself, “Would I get pizza with this person?” and then, “Am I okay being associated with their brand?”
Is this someone you share common interests with? Maybe they shared photos of themselves at six different music festivals last year and you’ve been dying to hit up Coachella yourself. Or perhaps they note they like hiking 14ers every other weekend in the Rocky Mountains and you, too, like to torture your body. #instantsoulfriends
Are they someone you feel like you could learn something from? Maybe they will have good advice about all the ways you can visually communicate with your target audience? Or maybe you noticed they have really strong, authentic engagement on social media and you’d like their advice on how to do that, too?
Do they appear to have the kind of energy you respond well to? If you’re the stoic introverted type (much like my husband), you may be put off by the person who always talks at a volume you could hear across a busy intersection.
Do they use a million exclamation points to let you know just how excited they are about their work? If so, are you also that excited, or does it make you want to retreat to your dark room with calming tea and a novel? (*Speaking on behalf of my hubs.)
Any service provider should be willing to get on a phone call or Zoom chat with you to see if you’re a good fit for one another. This is where you can really pick up on the energy they’ll bring with them to your photoshoot.
It’s worth noting that the energy of your photoshoot can have a huge effect on the outcome of your gallery, and you and your photog both need to be on your A-game to create magic together. If you’re uncomfortable with them, it will only be emphasized in your brand photos. And that’s the LAST thing you want when you’re investing hundreds to thousands of dollars in your brand.
Comfort = authentic photos. Protect your energy and your brand. Choose the right photographer.
If you still have questions about what you need to know before booking a brand photographer, don’t hesitate to reach out. Even if I’m not the right fit for you, I’m honestly very happy to help you find what you’re looking for!
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Kalu Ndukwe Kalu
The things you do for yourself are gone when you are gone, but the things you do for others remain as your legacy.