STOP! Ask these 10 questions before you book a brand photo session
You are ready to take the leap and be the face of your brand. You are ready to create a brand photo library of images that go beyond the basic headshot. You are ready to tell visual stories and share your message with your audience.
Congratulations and welcome to Brand Photography!
It’s exciting to be at this stage of your business. I applaud you for taking the step and investing in your brand. But before you put a deposit down and say cheese, take some time to find the right brand photographer. Not all photographers are created equal so it’s necessary to do some research and groundwork before hiring someone. And if you live in a smaller city or town, you may not have a specialist in your area. You may only have a pool of portrait, wedding and event photographers to consider. Take the time to review portfolios and determine if their style and aesthetic matches yours. Read reviews and ask for referrals in your networks. Set up discovery calls. Ask lots of questions and make sure to include these ten before you book a brand photo session.
1.) Do you have experience working and photographing entrepreneurs and small business owners?
A branding photo shoot is different than a portrait or wedding session. It requires strategy and a strong understanding of business and branding basics like messaging and target markets. The photographer should have experience with creating images for online, for websites and for social media. You want to hire someone who understands visual strategy and has ideas on how you can use your photos to meet your branding and marketing goals.
2.) Do you shoot in a studio or in natural light or both?
Make sure to ask upfront if the photo session will take place indoors in a studio or on location, outdoors and in natural light. Or maybe it’s a combo of both scenarios? If your vision is to be photographed with more of a lifestyle vibe, then you want to be on location. If you want a corporate type of a headshot, then you may prefer a studio setup. Be clear on the style of photos you want for your brand and discuss this with your photographer.
3.) What process will you take me through to understand my business?
Strong, storytelling images are a result of detailed discussions about your business. This may include a questionnaire, a Pinterest board, brainstorming worksheets, video consultation – every photographer has their own way of pulling out the elements of your story. Be sure to ask about the “how” and make sure there is a process. This photo shoot isn’t just a “show up and shoot” kind of a session.
4.) How much do you charge and what is included?
Price can be a big factor in your decision making. As you look at different photographers, you will find there is no set formula and pricing can fluctuate depending on where you live, how many years of experience the photographer has in business and what is included in the package. Ask about the fees. Ask about the specifics of what is included in the package. Some photographers offer all inclusive packages covering everything from the session fee to makeup and hair to the full edited digital files; while others offer their services and products more in an a la carte format. Some photographers offer unedited, proof type images while others only sell the finished, fully edited files. Some photographers have a team while others work solo. Be sure to ask and be clear on what is all included.
5.) Do you include hair and makeup?
Your brand photo shoot is the time to invest in professional hair and makeup. Being in front of the camera is not always easy, so you want to hire experts to help you look and feel your best. Ask your photographer if hair and makeup is part of their package. Do they have a creative team or can they refer you to local beauty professionals?
6.) How many outfits can I wear?
Figuring out what to wear at your photo shoot can sometimes be the most stressful part. You want options so that you can communicate different looks and stories with your style. You want to make sure you have enough variety in your images. Every photographer is different in terms of how many outfits they will capture. Make sure to ask so that you are prepared.
7.) How many locations will we shoot in? Who secures them?
Like the number of outfits, it’s important to ask the number of locations that you will shoot at during your session. Some photographers only allow one general neighborhood for the shoot while others will drive all over town going from one place to another. You may want to shoot at a boutique, a home office, a movie theatre or an urban street. Think about the stories that you want to tell with your images and then determine the right locations. Think about how you will get around from place to place. Also make sure to discuss who is responsible for getting permission to shoot at these locations. It may be the photographer who gets clearance or the client who has to do the work. Just be clear on who will take the lead on locations. There is nothing worse than arriving at your dream spot and being asked to leave.
8.) Who supplies the props?
Props are an excellent way to communicate personality and story in your photos. Brainstorm with your photographer a list of ideas that will support your brand story and relate to your ideal customer. Then ask if the photographer has a collection of props to borrow. Or are you responsible for finding all the objects for your shoot? Make sure you are know this ahead of time so you can collect everything you need.
9.) What kind of editing do you do?
Definitely ask the photographer about their editing style and parameters. Do they use Photoshop? Are they more natural or more heavy handed with their retouching? Do they remove blemishes and smooth skin tone? Will they color grey hairs? Will they slim you out? Will they change colors of clothing? Again, every photographer is different but most know exactly what they will and will not do. Ask about their process so you can make sure you are a good match.
10.) What are the deliverables?
Be clear on what you will receive after the photo shoot. Do you get digital files? Prints? How many? Are they edited or non-edited? Are they high resolution files for printing? Web sized for online? Are both formats provided? Are the images watermarked? How are the images delivered to you? You will have many needs and uses for these photos so you want to make sure you receive them in a format that is usable. For example, if you plan to use the images for a large poster, you will need a high resolution, high quality image for printing. If you plan on using the image for social media, you want to make sure you have a web sized file that is optimized for online and fast uploading. This is one of the most important questions to ask so take note of the answers.
There are so many questions to consider when booking a photoshoot and selecting your photographer. These ten are really only a small sampling. But please don’t get stressed and overwhelmed. The more information you have, the more informed you will be in your decision. You are hiring not only a person with a fancy camera but a confidant, a cheerleader, a business coach, a creative director and storyteller. See this as an opportunity to get to know your photographer and build a relationship of trust. You’re on your way to creating images that establish a powerful brand and captivating online presence. Remember: Your best photos and your clearest message will be a result of a well-planned shoot!
If you are interested in learning more about the brand photography process, check out my new book, The Brand Photography Playbook. This visual resource is a comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs, answering all their questions about brand photography and walking you through how to plan a successful photo shoot. It also includes storytelling photography that will both inspire and illustrate the power of visual storytelling.
Mallika Malhotra is a brand photographer and strategist at MikiFoto + Co. She helps women entrepreneurs build businesses and share their message with confidence through storytelling, strategy, photography, branding and social media. Her mission is to empower women to finally become the face of their brand.
She recently published a book called, The Brand Photography Playbook: The Insider’s Guide to Planning Your Photo Shoot and Building a Stand-Out Brand. It’s a comprehensive guide for entrepreneurs, answering all their questions about brand photography and walking you through how to plan a successful photo shoot. It also includes storytelling photography that will both inspire and illustrate the power of visual storytelling.
Mallika also teaches live, in person workshops on branding, vision boarding and photo styling. She is known for being a connector and creating supportive communities of passionate and purpose driven women.
When she is not taking photos or building brands, she is at home with her three sons and husband, drinking coffee or red wine and dreaming about their next global adventure.