I recently posted a portrait on social media, following which I received a request to take “brand photography for use on social platforms, website and Amazon” from a drinks company specialising in vodka. Unfortunately the project was put on hold however the request prompted me to ask myself, ‘Why is a portrait photographer being asked to take product photography?’ It is a common misconception is that a photographer can take a good photograph of anything. I was a generalist photographer for a decade before deciding to focus on portraiture and I’m all too well aware of my photographic strengths and weaknesses and that specialists exist for a reason. A specialist will have more experience than a jack of all trades including unforeseen situations, contacts and equipment and lighting. Here are some thoughts to help choose the right photographer for your needs.
The right photographer for the image
While this may sound obvious, it is often overlooked. Look for a photographer who has the skill set and experience for what you would like taken. Most, if not all, industries have their quirks and challenges which need to be overcome. Examples include keystone effect, where a building seems to lean backwards, in regards to architecture and buildings. Or when photographing paintings, dealing with reflections and hot spots caused by the paint or by glass- I have a horror story of photographing a Monet which still makes me cringe. If you choose a photographer without the appropriate skillset, do not be surprised if the outcome is not what you are after.
Cross over skills
It may be the case where the subject of the image is not the primary consideration; in which instance you will need a photographer with the appropriate experience. For example a property shoot emphasising the location and the surroundings may require a landscape, and not necessarily a property, photographer.
Consider the final use of an image; are you after an image for commercial or editorial purposes? Are you after a product image? Do you know the difference from a headshot from a portrait? Depending on use, photographs can have difference nuances. Consider fashion photography; you may have been stopped by an eye catching image which contained an item you are now looking to purchase. However when it comes to the purchase itself that original image is now no longer relevant and what is important is a product shot of exactly how that item looks. This is why the original image may have looked glamorous and alluring with a celebrity wearing said item while the final product image was taken against a white background with little to distract from it; a photographically accurate representation is often not artistic and vice versa.
Some photographers may be stylistic with their work containing a certain look or finish. If you commission a stylistic photographer be aware of their style; there’s little point hiring a specialist black and white photographer if you’re after colour images.
Of course you may decide that most important factor when you choose a photographer is their personality, your relationship with them and if you can work together. A positive relationship can be productive and is particularly important in regards to headshots and portraits and feeling at ease in front of the camera.
Whether you are looking for a photographer to take a portrait of you or images for your brand or company it is worth taking your time to find and choose the right photographer. If you choose poorly or rush into a decision there is every chance you do not like the product which risks extra budget on a reshoot. Weigh up the considerations, decide what is important for you and take it from there; give yourself the best chance to succeed.