We all know that London is chock full of photographers, but when you’re drowning in options with a mix of past hires, scouted talent, and applications how do even decide who to pick?

I know it can be difficult to find just the right talent to work with. If you’re already past the conceptualising part of production, it’s now crucial that you lock down your key hires. If you’re working with a new client or an unfamiliar genre, then you should be open to different methods and perspectives and approach your talent search with consideration for what each person’s contribution to the project. 

Yes, you could go the easy route and spend big bucks on a photographer from CLM, ArtPartner, and similar agencies but you’re likely to be spending mostly on reputation more than anything else. There are other options too, options that probably get you more than what you need with an experience that is more collaborative and inclusive and at rates that don’t necessarily mean breaking the bank.

Whether you are only just starting to conceptualise your next project or you are actively looking for new talent to bring on board a particular project, these questions may aid you confirm that you are making the right choices.

Does his or her portfolio exhibit the kind of work you are looking for?

This is quite an obvious one, but what I’m suggesting is a closer look more at their style and composition. Nick Knight once famously shot a Range Rover advert, and Martin Parr recently created a series of unflattering but gorgeous photos for Gucci’s 2018 cruise collection. Just because a commercial photographer hasn’t shot a particular subject in the past may not mean that they are automatically a poor choice for your project. Of course if all they’ve ever done is still life photography, asking them to shoot sports may not be the wisest choice. Keep an open mind, see the stories as they’re presented in their portfolio, and try to take in their visual style into account so you have a better grasp of who they are and what they do.


Who does he or she look to for influence and inspiration?

This may be a hard one to figure out without just asking them straight out, but I always find it’s an interesting topic of conversation with the creatives and producers I work with. Who knows, you might be into the same artists! It’s always good when you find someone on your wavelength, and it’s even better when they can share fresh inspiration with you.


What is the overarching theme or dominant style in his or her body of work?

Most commercial photographers have a particular aesthetic with the work they include in their book, and while everyone is at a different level when it comes to refining their style you can usually tell at a glance whether they’ve developed a certain eye and perspective. This creates consistency in their product, which helps you in determining whether or not their technique is aligned with what you’re trying to produce.

Has he or she dealt directly with clients or brands in your industry?

A strong list of past clients is a good indicator of the kind of projects they’re working on. Not all photographers make this publicly available (I sure do!) but if you ask they will usually send over a PDF of relevant work.


What is his or her process when it comes to new projects?

Do they show an interest in you and your work when you approach them, or do they simply direct you to their list of rates and inclusions? Are they helpful or combative? Do they willingly provide insight and recommendation right off the bat, or is talking to them about your project like bleeding a stone?


Does he or she have an accessible list of verifiable references?

Reviews are great, but if they are none available on public platforms, I would ask where I could find someone to reference them. I’ve seen one too many photographers simply make up testimonials on their sites.

Is he or she working with a photographic agency?

This is especially important as not only would his or her agency affect their rates, but they may also have very specific conditions with which they would allow their photographers and other creatives to take on work outside of their scope. They also might have a say on deliverables and usage. On the plus side, they often can be quite helpful with setting up production and sourcing other production roles should you work with one of their talents.


Are his or her terms and conditions readily available?

As with all things in life, make sure you read the fine print! This also helps you gauge the level of responsibility at which the photographer currently operates. Should you notice telltale signs of a novice such as making no mention of how they treat usage, a lack of information on insurance, or worst of all if they are more than happy to outright relinquish all copyright on their photos, it may be a good idea to find other viable options.


How do his or her rates compare with others?

This is by no means a good way to gauge the best choice from a roster of options, but it is a consideration you should take into account. A famous photographer with a great book of work and illustrious client list may charge through the nose for work that on the whole might engage and captivate an audience marginally more than a less recognisable name of similar style and experience. Budget is always a primary concern in content production, and while it doesn’t have to be the first and foremost determinant, it will inevitably hold sway over your final selection.

Is he or she collaborative and open-minded or precise and rigid?

It’s very difficult to determine this from someone’s website or portfolio, and you may find that you work better when dealing with people who lean towards either end of the creative spectrum. Nevertheless, a phone call is usually enough to get a quick initial read on a photographer and see if there’s good potential towards working together.


Does he or she seem to understand your project and objectives?

Content production is no joke as detailed in a 2018 study by the Social Media Examiner where they found that 80% of marketers use visual assets in their social media marketing.  Additionally, 11% more B2C marketers than B2B marketers say visual content is the most important type of content today (source). Photography and video assets are crucial to modern marketing strategies, and you’d be wise to find a photographer who understands this and applies the same thinking to their commercial photography projects.

All photos used in this guide are from photoshoots I’ve shot personally and sometimes produced, taken with a Sony A9 + 70-200 f/2.8, a Fujifilm X100S with 50mm teleconverter, and Contax G2 with a 50mm f/2.0 and Agfa Vista 400, shot in various locations including my studio.

What do you think of the guide? If you found it useful you might want to download a practical list I’ve put together of the 7 Most Common Mistakes People Make When Planning Commercial Photoshoots. Download your free copy now by clicking this link.

Did you think these questions were helpful? Are there any questions I should add to the list? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

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