How to select a Commercial Photographer


So, the boss just said, “Call around and get some photography prices.”

Have you ever shopped for a commercial photographer before?

No? Rarely? No problem!

Ten minutes from now you’ll be a photographer-shopping superstar.

Because every assignment is different in commercial photography, we don’t have easy-to-quote “packages”. Our pricing is based on our time and materials needed for each project. So, to give you a price, we need some important information from you, up-front.


STEP ONE: Information Gathering

Before you start calling around or searching websites…

Copy and print the list below. Perhaps you can work with your boss to fill-in the answers with you. Remember, your goal is to get the most bang for your boss’s buck from the right professional. By consulting with the boss, you’ll look responsible and professional. Good work! When you have the answers, you’re ready to start. Our clients have always found this list helpful for their immediate requirements, plus it gives them ideas for their future visual-marketing needs.

Industrial FacilitiesIndustrial ProductsDETAILS
Your Industry Type (O&G, Electronics, Medical, Etc.)
Shoot Location(s) (addresses)
Deadline for final Image delivery.
Shoot Date – “Open” or Specific Date(s)
Number of products or services to be photographed (est.)
Approximate dimensions of the largest product
Will multiple product groupings be needed?#
Will white seamless backdrop be needed?
Shots indoors, outdoors or both?
If outdoors, specify rain date preferred
Exteriors of structure with signage? If yes…
Which direction does the building front face?N.    S.    E.   W.
How many shots of processes? (CNC, med. etc.)
How many wide-views of overall interiors? (est.)
Shots of offices, conference room., lobby, etc?
Forklift or scaffold available for high angle views?
Shots of trucks, service vehicles or other?
Heat-treat, welding, cladding, hydro-test, etc.?
Inventory? Warehouse? Indoors, out or mix?
Will plant workers have all needed OSHA gear?
Executive portraits on shoot date, too?#
Work groups or “whole team” portraits?#
How many individual portraits?
Engineering? CAD / 3D screens?
Video production – concept thru completion?
Aerial (drone) needed?
Time-lapse video needed?
Final images needed via DVD/Web/Drive or mix?
Anything else we need to know?
Professional Services, Architecture,Offices, Executive Portraits
Number of people for just headshots?
Number of people for ¾ or full length?
Backdrop or in offices/conf. rm./outdoors?
Will all needing portraits be there on same day?
Wide-shots of interiors?
People working, work groups, meetings?
Medical / Scientific equipment-in-use?
Building façade and signage shots? Bldg. faces?N. S. E. W.
Deadline for completion?
Hoped-for shoot date(s)? Rain date?
Video? Interview-style, documentary or general?Discuss
Other requirements unique to your business?
Final images via DVD/Web/Drive or mix?

STEP TWO: Discovering a photographer’s niche: Are they Corporate-Industrial? Consumer-Retail? Or primarily Candid photographers?

When looking at websites, pay attention to their Home Page images – those images pretty much define their capabilities – their niche.

Corporate/Portraits?  Industrial photography? Commercial photography?

Do you see samples of what you or your boss probably want – similar work for industries similar to yours? Do they show products and facilities like yours? Do they demonstrate business-to-business visual marketing creativity?

Consumer/Retail niche?

See happy shoppers or food, fashion, jewelry, etc.? Their niche may be retail or lifestyle.

Candid niche?

Mostly outdoor images? Outdoor head shots? Couples or wedding images outdoors?  When you see mostly outdoor work, they may not have the lighting equipment for corporate-industrial projects*. Will they take your assignment? Sure! But, can you afford disappointment?

“What questions should I ask the photographers?”

Be conversational but be specific. For example…

If you’re a manufacturing firm…

“We have five new products we need photographed. We’d also like photos of two new CNC machines and two executive portraits. We’d like to get this done in the next two weeks. How much will this cost?”

Or, if a professional services firm…

“We’ve just moved into new, larger offices. We’d like to have a whole library of images – people working, casual meetings, greeting customers in the lobby – in an upscale, casual corporate style. What other information do you need?”

Or, if you just want executive or staff portraits…

“We need individual portraits of six new-hires. Also, our President, COO and CFO want to be photographed individually, then together as a Senior Management group. What might this cost? And, is facial retouching included or extra?”  (At the Corporate Photography Group, basic facial enhancement is always included.)

Or, if a Hospital, clinic or private medical practice…

“We’re busy weekdays. So, we’ll need to shoot on a weekend. We have very specialized equipment and facilities to photograph, too – particularly the (Cath-Lab, radiology – whatever). Plus, we’d like to feature our top-rated partner-doctors working with patients. No need for models, our staffers can be the “patients”. Is this enough information? Will a weekend shoot cost more?”

See? In each case, you didn’t just ask, “How much?” Now, you’re a professional armed with facts. The photographers may (should) ask for more details. And, with your list, you’re ready and almost done!

Lastly, you absolutely MUST ask each photo-pro these few extremely IMPORTANT questions:

“Will you obtain Model Releases from ALL our employees?”

Every employee who appears anywhere in a shot (even if their faces are turned away from the camera) must sign a Model Release. It authorizes your firm to use their image without further compensation to them, forever. It’s the photographer’s responsibility to supply the releases, get signatures and to give you a copy of each.

“What are your copyright and image-use terms?”

Under U.S. Copyright Law, copyrights and ownership of all images are the property of the author (photographer). What you want is to be able to have your selected images and use them for any of your specific firm’s self-marketing needs forever. Right? That’s how The Corporate Photography Group’s policy works. But is it the same policy everywhere? No! In the fine-print of their Terms, many photographers allow “Limited Usage”. That can mean every time you use any image they created, you must obtain their permission and you’ll have to pay additional “Usage Fees”‘. Those fees can vary based on the media (print, web, etc.) plus the size in which the image will appear and the media’s circulation (local, national, international) and more. So, if you don’t have their “unlimited self- promotional use” for your firm in writing, you may face additional re-use invoices later. Surprise!  Always ask!

Our policy has always been: Use is yours, wherever, whenever for any self-promo use, forever.

“Are you skilled at Photoshop? Lightroom? Pre-Press apps?”

They should be experts at all– not merely capable of enhancing faces, but capable of retouching manufacturing equipment, products, whole factory or office interiors, adding logos, text or captions to images – even producing sales sheets, exhibit graphics and more. Sooner or later your firm will need all of these things. Better to have a one-stop resource that’s familiar with your firm’s needs rather than having to start shopping-around all over again.

The Corporate Photography Group has it all, even video, turnkey!.

Okay! You’ve given them all the information they need. Some projects, like executive portraits, are easy to quote instantly on the phone. Others, like complex product and factory assignments perhaps requiring out-of-area travel or expendable materials, etc., might take a little time to estimate. In that case, you should allow them to get back to you ASAP.

But remember this: Once you’ve found the perfect resource for your style, marketing needs and budget, they should always provide a written Areement that spells-out the assignment facts you agreed on!

Want even greater pricing accuracy? Our photographer can visit your Houston-area location, preview the site, discuss your needs and opportunities, then provide an estimate on-the-spot.

Of course, you could just call us…

Happy hunting!

*keep in mind, corporate-industrial photographers have gear that can handle ANY task, indoors or out. But candid-only shooters rarely have the lighting gear necessary for large products or manufacturing processes indoors.

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