Whether you write a blog or simply read them, you've probably noticed most of your favorites have one thing in common: beautiful visuals. It should come as no surprise that gorgeous, professional-looking photographs feel practically requisite for today's blogger.
Today I wanted to chat a little bit about the practice of bloggers working with professional photographers, how to find one in your area, and what you can expect to pay to shoot content for your blog. We'll also go over four ways to get gorgeous, low-cost (or free!) photos for your blog.
Here's the lowdown:
How to find a blog photographer
Look at photo credits: This first tip is probably the most obvious: look for photographer credits on other blogs who are based in your area. Often, this is a great way to discover a photographer who is working with bloggers. Usually photographer credits are listed near the end of a post. Simply click on the link, contact the photographer with an inquiry as to what their rates are for blog photo shoots, and go from there.
Do your research: Another route is to research photographers in your city, by checking on places like Yelp. Sometimes simply Googling “Lifestyle Photographers My City” can yield gems, too. One of my favorite secret research methods is to search wedding directories (try looking at Style Me Pretty's vendor directory). You can check out various photographers' portfolios, then start reaching out. Many times, photographers who specialize in one area—say, weddings—are looking to expand their portfolios. I've met many, many photographers who were working primarily in one area (like family portraits or engagements), but were looking to grow their business somewhere else entirely (like fashion editorials). Even if a photographer can't take on your job, it's entirely possible they know someone who will want it. So don't be afraid to put on your networking hat and send cold emails!
Similarly, look for photographers who seem like they're up and coming and don't have big portfolios yet. These folks are often looking for new clients so they can build their portfolio (and they may charge less, to boot).
Ask around: Other bloggers are likely to have worked with or heard of other photographers, so checking with fellow blog friends is a great way to learn new photographers' names!
What you can expect to pay, and what you'll get
This will obviously vary a lot from photographer to photographer. One common practice is for photographers to create package deals for bloggers they regularly work with. This means you would be charged a fixed amount for a pre-determined number of photo sets (for example, 5 sessions or outfits for $450 with sessions no longer than 30 minutes; 2 looks for $125, etc). In some cases, a photographer might charge a flat hourly rate, and you can jam in as many outfits, looks, or products as you want into that one hour (for example, one blogger I spoke with said she pays $100 per hour, but can shoot as many outfits as she wants in that time). If you're purchasing a single session with a photographer you haven't worked with before, expect their hourly rates to be higher, for sure. Same goes if you're working with a photographer in a city you've traveled to for a special project.
So what are the price ranges, really? After speaking with other bloggers, I've seen photographer rates range from $50 for two looks, to as much as $250 an hour, to free. Yes, in some cases, a photographer might be so new to the business, that they're willing to trade you photographs for exposure (no pun intended), especially if you have a large blog or social media following. Their thinking posits that shooting for you could lead to other gigs—but in that vein, this kind of falls into the whole “bloggers working for free thing,” and you shouldn't expect this, ever. As far as hourly rates go, the average for blog photographers seems to be in the $100 to $150 range, and I find that photographers who are charging hourly tend to be more flexible in how many looks and locations you can shoot, as well as how many finished photos they'll give you (more on that in a sec).
If you're purchasing a package deal, most of the time you'll be asked to pay upfront, and then you can schedule looks with your photographer in a manner that works for the two of you. Sometimes, that could mean shooting all of your outfits/sessions in a single day; other times, bloggers choose to meet with someone once or twice a week, or far less frequently (like once per month!).
In most cases, a photographer will cap the number of photos you can receive. So, after the shoot, they might present you with proofs or low resolution versions of all the photos from your session, then you'd be entitled to select a pre-determined number. These photos will be sent to you in full resolution, and sometimes with the photographer's edits as completed in Photoshop or Lightroom. We've worked with photographers that only allowed 5 or 6 finished images per shoot, and others who allowed 20 per look—it really just depends on the person and their business!
As a final note on professional photographer costs, it's important to look at these costs as an investment in your business, but to also be realistic about what the return on investment is. For example, if you're spending $150 for photos in a single blog post, think carefully about whether you can make that money back via affiliate links or other sponsorship opportunities. On the flip side, investing in high quality photos may mean that the overall quality of your content improves—which can lead to more pins from your blog, more engaged readers, etc. The key here is to know what your overall goals are with your blog, and be sure that investing in photographs is an appropriate stepping stone to reach those goals!
How to get what you want out of photos
There's nothing worse than spending money on photos, then getting your pics back and realizing you hate all of them. Working with a photographer is exactly like being in a relationship—you gotta communicate. I recommend finding a photographer who is cool with reviewing the shots with you while you're still on location (even peeking at the back of their camera will give you a great idea of what the finished product will look like). If you see something you don't like, speak up! Remember, while there may be certain angles you dislike in photos, your photographer won't know that you feel this way. After all, they're not mind readers! It's important that you learn which types of poses, expressions, and lighting conditions you're comfortable with, and that you share this with your photographer. Like any good partnership, they'll learn more about you, your likes, and dislikes, and you'll get better results from communicating openly and honestly.
Similarly, if your photographer is editing your photos after the shoot, providing feedback on what you like is hugely important. When you first begin working together, sharing a moodboard of images you love can be a great way to visually communicate the overall tone, colors, and vibe you like in your images.
And when all else fails…
We get it—photography costs can be crazy expensive. More importantly, we firmly believe they should not be a hindrance to anyone who wants to blog. So with that in mind, here are some low cost ways to get fabulous photographs for your blog:
Shoot with another blogger. I've come across many, many bloggers who love getting together to take photos of each other. It makes perfect sense—you get to hang out with a friend, practice your photography skills, and help each other create content for your blogs with little to no cost. As more and more bloggers invest in high quality digital cameras and lenses (or the latest iPhone, for that matter!), this can be a great option if you're not ready to spend the money on a professional photographer, or don't have access to one in your area! Make a date out of it: ask your buddy to get together in the early evening, then grab a glass of wine after!
Find a friend who's been meaning to learn photography. We all have that one friend who bought a nice camera two years ago and has used it once. Or the friend who keeps talking about taking a photography class. Or the cousin who dragged you to the Ansel Adams exhibit and is obsessed with photography, but has never done anything about it. It's always worth asking the budding photographer in your life if they'd be willing to take photos of you! Three birds, one stone: you get photos, they get to practice something they love, and you get to hang out together!
Set up a tripod and go to town. Yes, for real. There are more than a few bloggers who have mastered the art of the tripod and the camera timer, and take all of their own photos! Proof positive: Jamie Beck's stunning self-portraits on Instagram tell us that anything is possible with a tripod and some practice!
Use free stock photos. We LOVE using Unsplash for all our photo needs—in fact, the vast majority of the photographs you see on our blog are from Unsplash! Their photos are free to use, and while a credit is recommended, it's optional. If you are writing about a topic that doesn't require a photograph of Y-O-U, consider using Unsplash for awesome stock photos. You can search their vast databases with any keyword you can think of (for example, for this post, we used the keywords “camera pink”). Then, simply download, edit as you like, and upload to your blog!
Now I'd love to hear from you. What are your tips for finding and working with professional photographers? Have you had a good experience? A bad one? If you're a photographer, what do you wish blog clients would know? Share your thoughts in the comments below!