Have an outline of your ideas
The outline of your project could be the crucial first step in communicating with a photographer. Most people want to know what does it cost to do a photoshoot. What seems to be very simple is really a wide open-ended question. Think about how an architect meticulously plans out their building and how each decision has a cost associated with it. How tall is it? How wide is it? Will there be marble floors or an industrial look of concrete. Being able to provide as much information as possible to a photographer will help them to meet your expectations and create a budget for your project. Once you have your outline or shot-list, create a storyboard or style board of images you collect that express a look, feeling, mood, or location. These images will help you in your search for the right photographer.
This is where Google, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Commercial Photographers' websites become your friend for pulling together images for your style board. Once you've compared a few photographers to your style boards and feel they have the necessary skill set to photograph your project you're almost ready to give them a call. Before you do, be prepared to answer the Who, What, When, Where, and How Many plus several other questions you will be asked by the professional photographer who wants to provide you with an accurate project estimate.
The Prepared Client
You've done your research, created your style boards, found a few photographers you want to get an estimate from. It will not matter whether they are a Lifestyle Photographer, a Corporate Photographer, or an Architectural Photographer they all are going to want to know a lot of the same information, so let's get to the questions. Who are we shooting for, information about you and your company? What is your product? Who is your audience? What are we photographing? Fashion, Tabletop, Corporate Portraits, Sports Action? Where are we shooting? On location, on a background in the studio. How many shots will there be? Do you need professional models, a hair and makeup artist, a wardrobe stylist, a set-built props? Where will the images be used? On a billboard, a magazine ad, websites, trade show, in-store posters?
Apples to Apples
You're feeling confident as a knowledgeable client after getting your mood boards pulled together and communicated the overall look you want for your shoot and you've answered all of the questions from the photographers that you are wanting estimates from. So now the fun begins with looking over and comparing the estimates to make sure the photographers heard you and understood your shoot needs and that they provided you with an estimate that covers all the details required to produce the project in a timely cost-effective manner. Are all the photographers providing the same or similar enough things? Why does one photographer have the models on set for 3 hours and others have them all day, only one is providing food and drinks, another has a huge lighting rental budget, then the cost of insurance and location fees aren't on everyone's estimate. This comparison list can go on and on with retouching and processing fees, final image size to the delivery time of the images. Keeping all of the photographers on the same page as to what is covered in their estimates and letting those who might have missed something reestimate the shoot to make things apples to apples helps you, the client, to remove one more element from the potential list of errors.
Time to Pull the Trigger
Now all the negotiations about the budget and usage fees are settled and you head into preproduction (which is another topic to be blogged at another time) and you're ready to hire the right guy. But how do you pick after all of that? Because every photographer you invited to estimate you liked their work, to begin with, and now all of the estimates are very similar? Well, that takes us all the way back to communication and which photographer did you feel most comfortable with, which personality did you feel you clicked with and will be able to work well with? But without all the preparation, and skipping to just personality your expectations could easily not be met. And the only trigger that was pulled was from shooting yourself in the foot by choosing the wrong photographer.