Questions to Ask a lifestyle personal branding photographer
This is a very overwhelming task because there are so many photographers, you probably know at least five photographers and then if you ask a friend they’ve probably got a handful that they know as well. Let’s go through the process of finding the right photographer for you. Maybe it is me, if you are in my area, the Washington Seattle-Tacoma and surrounding areas and you’ve found all of these pieces to fit us. However, what if you're not in my area or my portfolio isn’t exactly what you’re envisioning, but you need someone to guide you on finding and choosing the perfect personal branding photographer to fit you.
Let’s start with the basics of understanding why to choose a niched down personal branding photographer vs a photographer who took your family/wedding/newborn photos or maybe just does headshot/studio work. Eliminate the jack of all trades photographer, while yes they can still get you good images, but those images might not be exactly what you need for your brand and I’ll explain why. A lot of it comes down to the knowledge of understanding how to help you get the right images you need for your business that are usable for marketing. Your sessions should be tailored to your specific look and needs, not what the photographer wants to do or usually does. Branding sessions are a partnership, it is my job as your photographer to help you through this overwhelming process and help you fully be prepared so you can nail your session.
First step is to get all the personal recommendations you can from other friend business owners you trust and like. Hop into a local Facebook group asking for personal recommendations. Do a google search for “Lifestyle Personal Branding photographers near me”. Compile all those recommendations and start weeding them out.
1.Do you like their portfolio? Generally as photographers we have our “style”, while it can vary a little we tend to stick closely to that look. If you favor the light and bright look, looking at a portfolio that is all dark and moody isn’t going to work very well and you will most likely be disappointed with your final images.
I would classify myself as true to life colors. I can also do slight bright and also slightly darker/contrast, that is my range for my image look.
2.Are they niched into branding photography? Or do they do everything else and some branding? This is going to come down to the process a branding photographer is going to help you through. Not all photographers go through the full branding discovery process.
As a niched down branding photographer, I completely focus on getting to know the small business entrepreneurs. My process first starts with a “Discovery Call”. I want to get to know you as the business owner and know if we are going to be a right fit to work together. In this call I’ll ask all about your business, values (personal and professional), visions for a session and start generating ideas with you of what we could do for your session.
3.Are they studio or on location? This can be up to you on what you want. The photographer should work with you to help you decide if you're unsure. Picking the perfect locations really helps show the mood and atmosphere of images. If you like the light and bright images, being in a location with dark woods won’t help you achieve this look and the photographer should guide you through these choices.
I don’t own a studio space and while we can rent a space for your session, I want your images to fully represent you and for me studios need to be carefully selected and staged to accurately reflect you. I prefer on location, meaning I come to your places that have meaning to you. Location ideas depending on your business could be in your home office, kitchen, Livingroom, favorite park, city street, beach, lake, cafe… The places we photograph need to make sense for your business and your stories!
4.Getting on a call with them as said above this really helps to get to know them as well. Make sure you like them, very key! Do you feel they are asking questions about your business and want to get to know and understand you fully? If you’re unsure of things about your business are they willing to help and guide you? Some clients know exactly what they want and need for their sessions and others need more guidance to fully understand their look. This is where getting on a call is so helpful for me as the photographer, I can hear their passion and words they are saying and as an outside ear that may not know their business previously I can give some insight to what they need for the mood they want portrayed in their images.
After my “Discovery Call” and if they have decided to book me I send out a very detailed questionnaire to be filled out. Some questions will have already been talked about in the call, but this helps me as the photographer keep it all straight and refer back to it.
5.Don’t be afraid to ask about their process! How do they organize their sessions? What do you have to do to prepare for the session?
After our call I’ve got a questionnaire, I ask for a Pinterest mood board made with pins that inspire them. I also ask them to send me any accounts (Instagram or websites) that also give them inspiration to what they aspire to have their images look like. After I’ve got all of this information I make a Trello board, which is a way for me to organize their session so they can also see what we are planning. In that Trello board I also create a “shot list”. I’ll organize the location ideas, what poses I’ve got in mind, add suggestions to props to bring and outfits to wear. I do recommended outfits and even tell my clients to have extras and I can help pick outfits the day of the shoot that will best suit that location and look.
6.And price. For some this is a very scary one to deal with. Photographers have a very wide range of prices and remember your branding photography images are an investment in your business. When your images have been personalized to your brand to accurately represent your brand they will help to increase your own revenue. If their prices seem a little scary ask if they do payment plans and what their payment process entails. Usually all payments need to be finished before the session date or before images are delivered.
7.How do their session packages work? How many locations are we able to go to? How long generally is the session? What package would you recommend now that we’ve chatted? How many images come with that package? Can I purchase more? How much are extra images?
I have a 3 tiered package system based on number of locations and images, with the option to purchase more. I also have a multisession package of 2 or 4 sessions to take within a year.
8.How does the image gallery work? Do you get to choose your final images or does the photographer? How long is that gallery left open for download?
I personally let my clients pick their own images. I don’t always know which is their favorite smile or what exactly would be the optimal image used for a certain content post. This also gives you a chance to pick more images for purchase if you desire.
9.Ask about their availability and turn over time. If you need images done by x day, make sure this is something that they can accommodate on their schedule. Each photographer has a general length of time it takes them to get you back your images, some can get your images back within 2 weeks of your session date, others it can take a month or more. Asking this beforehand will help with frustration on both ends.
I am around a week turn around time for final images.
10.What are their permissions for using the final images? Are you able to add text or crop to the images? However, I think most allow this. The big one, depending again on you, is if they allow filters and edits to their final images? Some won’t allow this and will be a breach of contract, which is why it is important to like their portfolio to begin with.
This is something that I do give permission for, I understand that some businesses do like to add filters to their images to get a consistent look for the images they may take on their phone in between sessions.
11.Editing/post processing. What types of edits do they do? Are you going to want body changes? Know what your photographer will edit or won’t edit, some will do an extra fee for heavier edits if you request it.
I personally pose in camera so when I know body insecurities I work hard to pose your body in flattering positions. I’m not a heavy handed editor, blemishes are something I will edit, but sorry I won’t edit out wrinkles or make the arms slimmer in photoshop, I’ll pose your body on location to lessen that.
12.Hair and makeup options. Some photographers will have packages that include hair and make up. This is something that you need to decide if you want to have professionally done or not. Looking your best completely helps you feel your best when you're taking your photos. *This can probably also be found on their website on their Investment page
I don't have the option yet.
13.Do they have travel fees? Most of us have a range for our package and outside of that range we may add fees. Some photospheres are even up to travel to different states, just ask.
I currently stay within Washington state, but I would be up for going to Oregon for a travel fee.
14.Lastly, ask yourself: does the photographer get you? Do you connect with them and like them? Are you excited to work with them? Do you trust them? Did you get to know them during your call, from their website and social media posts? Remember it is all about KNOW, LIKE and TRUST. If one of these aren’t there then walk away and find someone else. It is ok to tell a photographer that you’ve found another photographer that is the perfect fit, thank them for their time and move on.
Some other blog posts that you can read that will give you more specific details about certain topics are:
-What Are Stories read blog post here.
-How to Pick the Right Props read blog post here.
-Tips to Picking the Locations read blog post here.
-A case study showing the Trello board and how professional images level up your branding read blog post here.
-A case study of why you should show your personality read blog post here.
-Another case study of When to get your branding images updated read blog post here.