Are you considering entering your work in a design competition? Creating a marketing plan? Doing some advertising? Posting images of projects on your website? Developing direct-mail pieces and brochures? Decorating your office with examples of your work?
To get the best images for any of these purposes, it helps to hire a professional photographer. While you might snap the “before” photos of your projects, a pro will do the best job of taking pictures that you might use for a variety of purposes over the next five or so years. As Rochester, N.Y., photographer Matt Wittmeyer says, “The photographer has a vision for what will look good; the remodeler has a vision of what tells the best story. They have to work together.”
Before approaching a photographer, know what you want to accomplish. Make a list of what your project is about, what elements are important, and how you’d like to use the images the photographer creates.
It’s helpful for the photographer to see what the home or business looked like before the project started, Wittmeyer says, and to know the project’s scope and to see the floor plan.
Let the photographer know where you think a photo might ultimately be used. A cabinetry photo may not be intended for a design awards binder, but would be handy for showing prospects examples of kitchen remodels.
Find the Right Person
A referral from another remodeler is a good way to find a professional photographer. The American Society of Media Photographers or the Wonderful Machine websites are also good places to look. Both are professional organizations that pre-screen photographers before listing their information. And keep an eye on the photo credits in local publications for names, too.
If you’re on a tight budget, Fairfax, Va., photographer Greg Hadley, who does a lot of work for building pros entering design contests, suggests looking to people who do real estate photography for home selling. These photographers generally charge less than an architectural photographer, but be aware that they will also spend less time shooting. As a result, image quality may not be good enough for use in an awards program or a print advertisement, but it may be perfectly adequate for digital media.
A photographer’s rates depend on the amount of time spent shooting, any retouching or cropping, and future use of the images. He or she might charge by the day, the hour, or, most commonly, by the project.
“When I shoot for a remodeler, it’s usually for a local market,” says Raleigh, N.C., photographer Ray Strawbridge. “There might be eight by tens for a coffee-table brochure, JPEGs for an online photo gallery, maybe some smaller print [resolution] images for one-quarter or half-page ads. Sometimes the images will be used for a PR opportunity for a publication looking to illustrate a kitchen and bath article, for example.”
It’s important to recognize that the photographer’s work is intellectual property. Sometimes a photographer will allow you “one-time usage rights,” meaning you hire him to shoot for a particular event, say a website or brochure only.
Other times, a photographer will let you purchase the photographs of a project for “unlimited use.” But things could get sticky when, say, those images are used by a magazine. “If you have the opportunity to use the photos in the market ... then I should be entitled to some of those fees,” Strawbridge says. It’s important to either have a contract or to, at the least, have an up-front discussion about reuse rates.”
Tips for Taking Before & After Photos Yourself
- Take as many photos as possible from as many angles as you can.
- Since you know the project, think about where you’ll want to take “after” photos, and shoot the “before” photos from the same spots.
- “Before” photos should look like “before” photos, but you don’t want the homeowners’ personal stuff all over the counters, so clear some clutter.
- Make sure the exposure is good enough so spaces don’t look dark and cave-like.
- Use a tripod to limit hand-shake/blurriness, and don’t zoom in too much.
- Shoot as soon as possible after a project is completed.
- Make sure the area is neat—no wet, twisted towels in the bathroom, etc.
- Bring in accents—flowers or fruit or even furniture, if necessary. Partner with a local decorator or a store to lend you items and credit that decorator wherever the photo appears.
- You can hire a professional photographer just to touch up the photos—crop them, correct the lighting and color, even to straighten walls.