How to find a quality interiors photographer?

So, you want to find a quality photographer to document and archive your latest build project, design project or staging project etc. 

To begin with, I think it’s safe to say that quality photography is somewhat subjective as personal taste and budget can both play a role. Ultimately, if you’re happy with an image, that’s important but depending how familiar you are with photography and what it takes to create a great image, this may be an area that gets overlooked and undervalued. 

It’s my belief that there are 4 fundamental things that make a great photograph. 1. Subject matter, 2. Composition, 3. Lighting, 4. Colour work and Retouching. All of these items are essential to a great photograph and if any one of these things are done poorly, it will greatly reduce the impact an image will have on it’s audience. Proper execution of these 4 steps comes only with time, experience and passion. There is actually a fifth item that is also important, which is finding a photographer that flawlessly executes the above 4 steps, is easy to work with, understands and delivers the message you’re trying to portray to your audience.

Whether you’re starting a new business or want to step-up the quality of marketing material you’re currently showcasing, you’ll want to start the often daunting task of finding a great photographer. There are a number of ways to go about this and many variables involved in your decision making process. If you hire a marketing company, they can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you as they will have knowledge on local photographers and present those options to you with a clear breakdown of quality and cost. If you’re going to do it alone, you can reach out to colleagues and other professionals which you respect and ask them for advice. This can be a dangerous route to take but can pay off in the end if you speak to the right people. There’s also the good ol’ google search rabbit hole option or you can go looking on Instagram locally as well. I say locally because it’s important to remember that if you find a photographer you like that lives quite a distance away, you’re going to need to increase your budget substantially for travel and  living out expenses which is sometimes worth stretching the budget for.

If you’re just starting out in your career, you’re going to have some pretty hefty start up costs and marketing might have a very limited budget in these early stages which is understandable. Too often, companies start out with budget photography with the intention of stepping up the quality as they grow their business but sometimes become comfortable during their busy schedules and can’t find the time to begin the search for a quality photographer. In my opinion, quality photography should be even more important in the early stages of building your brand. Quality photography helps to build trust with potential clients as it shows them how passionate you are about what you do and displaying that accurately with high quality photography only elevates your brand to a higher standard.

I think it’s safe to assume that in any genre of photography and in any region, there will be a percentage of photographers offering high quality and those that offer low quality and everything in between. My advice would be not to make a decision on cost alone because no two photographers are alike. If your budget is limited and you find a very good photographer that is perhaps more expensive than you’ve budgeted for, open up an honest dialogue with them about where you’re at and where you want to go with your company. Any professional will want to grow with you and there are many creative ways to start out with a limited budget. 

Find out how long this photographer has been in business. How long have they lived in your area if local? Do they specialize in this genre of photography or come spring and summer will they be unavailable as they also do weddings or work out of town? Age can play a role as maybe this person is just doing this to make some extra money while going to school. All of these questions are important to ask because if this is a short-lived or spotty career for them, it might put you back to square one sooner than you’d expect.

You first begin searching for Interiors Photographers or Architectural Photographers online and sadly that search criteria has been infiltrated by Real Estate Photographers. It’s now your job to weed through them all and begin vetting those with the best potential by way of exploring their websites and social media. It’s at this point you can likely eliminate a large amount of photographers.

If a photographer claims to specialize in many genres of photography, this is typically a red flag. Mastering one genre of photography, especially one as difficult as Interiors and Architecture requires a vast knowledge with years of experience to execute to a high level of quality. A jack-of-all-trades photographer is typically an indication they are not busy or highly skilled in any one specific genre. Another red flag is when you have a difficult time locating a photographers portfolio on their website or you are only presented with an individual or limited quantity of photos from different shoots where you’re only seeing the hero shots. A portfolio should be front and center on a photographers website and it’s important to look for full projects, not just those one-off photos where they got lucky with ideal lighting conditions and amazing subjects.

Beyond a website, social sites are another popular way of discovering and vetting a potential photographer, especially through Instagram. Be very careful when doing this as photos are postage stamp size and unless you have access to large versions of the images on their website, this can be very misleading. With social sites it’s important not to pay attention to how many followers a photographer might have as this means nothing. A highly skilled photographer may be new to Instagram or only have a couple hundred followers whom are all relevant so don’t be tricked by a photographer with 10, 20 or 30,000 followers, of which many could be fake or irrelevant. This is not an article on social media so I’ll get back on track. 

Ok let’s say you’ve narrowed your search to a few potential photographers and you want to start a conversation with each of them to make sure you’re a good fit and will work well together at a price that makes sense for both of you. The first thing to ask them after a brief initial conversation is what are their rates? If they do not offer to send you a rate sheet or even discuss with absolute confidence their rate sheet, this can mean that it’s a sliding scale of inexperience, lack of confidence and uncertainty. Any experienced Interiors Photographer will have a rate sheet that is straight forward and easy to follow and will not hesitate to send it over immediately. It should consist of a day rate and retouching fee with price per image. Typically there will be a cost sharing model offered which benefits multiple parties if more want to be involved in licensing photos of a certain project. 

This brings me to the final RED FLAG and it’s to do with copyright protection of images. This is a red hot topic in all genres of photography and one that is up to the discretion of the photographer, however the fact that Copyright Laws automatically protect the owner of a photograph whether you are an amateur or professional says a lot about image protection and how it should be handled in a professional environment. PHOTO USAGE RIGHTS.  It’s a very important discussion to have up front to avoid any awkward situations down the road. If a photographer tells you that once they deliver the images, they don’t care what you do with them or who you share them with, this should be a big RED FLAG. The fact that a photographer does not respect the copyright laws that protect their work, tells you they don’t respect or care about their work. Licensing photos is how a professional photographer makes a living and giving up copyrights is typically an amateur mistake in order to get ones foot in the door or because they don’t put the time and effort that a true professional photographer puts into their work. 

Any professional interiors photographer will spend between 30 - 90 minutes composing, lighting and capturing each shot depending on the end goal and client expectations. After the shoot, they will spend an additional 1.5-3+ hours in post production per image. A typical 8-10 hour day may consist of 8-15 images followed by an additional 20-40 hours of post production work for a total of 30-50 hours invested. You can bet these professional photographers are not going to accept free distribution of those images to third parties.

Bottom line, if you are wanting to capture and archive something you’re proud of whether it’s a custom home build, custom fabricator, architectural or interior design, interior decorating or staging project, please consider this; designs and tastes change over time but a quality image is timeless. Ask yourself how important this project is to you and how important it is to archive it accurately at the time of completion as you may not get the chance to do it again. If you catch yourself explaining to clients that a home looks much better in person than it does in your photos, or if your current photography is just missing that wow factor, it may be time to find a new photographer.