For many purposes, there is nothing wrong with stock photography. One can spend hours paging through galleries of stunning images of iStockPhoto or Shutterstock looking for an photo for a campaign or project. In many cases you’ll get close to what you have in mind, but in most cases you’ll find that you adapt your vision to support the image that you find. Instead, hire a photographer to carry out your vision.
For many situations including lifestyle imagery of your brand or products you will want to plan for custom photography. As a marketer, your goal is to improve the public awareness, acceptance and commitment to your brand. With that in mind, you should commit to creating imagery that couldn’t possibly be found to be associated with another brand. If you’re going to hire a photographer to carry out your vision for custom imagery, here’s what you need to know:
1) Strongly consider not going with the lowest bidder. Remember, while there is a ton of technical knowledge needed to make a great photograph, a great photographer is also an artist. Art, like many other things can’t always be judged on cost. However, talented photographers understand their market and will rarely be the cheapest option. Many photographers build reputations through years of publishing and selling amazing photographs. If you’re soliciting bids, consider digging a bit deeper into your budget for someone who has experience with your type of work.
2) Understand the Additional Costs. The photographer is just one component of the cost of a custom photography shoot. While some photographers will offer a complete package that includes the cost of hiring models, many will require that you cover these fees. Many photographers have sources for their models, either agencies or personal contacts. Determine these costs when choosing a photographer. Also, consider that your photography shoot may be shot on location, rather than a studio. Consider the costs of a set, props, assistants as needed. Some locations may require permits, which will also be an added cost.
4) Choosing Models. If your shoot requires live models, you should have a say in who gets chosen. You have some latitude here, but generally you want to ensure that you appeal to your target market. Perhaps that’s not the most explanatory set of rules, but really there are no rules on the models who you choose as it is likely that your campaign isn’t going to be like anything else out there. Also, if you’re planning for multiple iterations of a campaign you may want to consider a long-term relationship with models that can be associated with your brand. This may help re-shoots and future campaigns to be consistent with previous work.
5) Product Photography. If your project entails product photography, your choice of photographers may be even more narrow. Product photography is extremely dynamic and requires specialized equipment for great results. Of the many variables you’ll need to consider as you plan a product shoot are the desired look you’re hoping to achieve. If it is a catalog shoot, you’ll likely be shooting in high-key with a white background. However, for many print or web purposes a more natural setting may be desired.
6) Image Ownership. Many photographers will retain the rights to the photographs and provide you with a limited release under which you may utilize the photographs. This is a fairly standard relationship model and will help to maintain a lower overall cost. If you wish to own the photographs and their exclusive rights, you should expect that costs and fees will be significantly higher. Remember, photography is art and by standard copyright law the photographer is the owner of each image he or she makes.
Make no mistake, compared to the use of royalty-free stock imagery, custom photography carries a much higher cost and level of involvement. However, the outcome should almost always be a set of custom photographs that will help you set your marketing campaigns out from the rest.