Interior designers are installation artists — they create each masterpiece for a specific client and location, meaning only people who inhabit or visit that particular space will experience it in person. Most future fans and potential clients will get to know your work through photographs of your designs, as they see them in your portfolio on your website or other online and print media that feature your work.
Philosopher Marshall McLuhan famously said, “the medium is the message,” meaning that the way we communicate strongly shapes the way the viewer understands the content. Two photographs of the same room can look like two completely different spaces depending on differences in camera position, lighting, or a multitude of other variables. Using photos that don’t maximize the aesthetics of your work can give viewers an inaccurate impression of your work, making it hard for the right clients to find you.
It is crucial to hire a photographer who will capture both the vision and mood of your spaces while operating at the highest level of professionalism. Investing time to find the right person for the job can make a fundamental difference in the future of your business. Here are four tips to help you find your picture perfect fit:
1. Narrow down your options to a short list
Finding the right photographer can be daunting when there are seemingly limitless options. Social media can make this more confusing, as we are constantly inundated with visual content, and the line between professional and amateur is blurred. The best way to push forward is to narrow down your options to 3-4 ideal candidates at the beginning of your process.
First, identify the overall aesthetic you think best suits your design philosophy. Search through the websites of other designers and architects, traditional and online magazines, and yes, social media. You may like a wide range of snaps, but if you stay laser-focused on matching the photography to your design aesthetic, you should be able to choose 3-4 photographers that best align to your vision. There’s no need to exclude a potential candidate because he/she doesn’t specialize in interior design photography. If you are inspired by the artist’s work, explore the option further. A different perspective can help set your portfolio apart.
Next, thoroughly research each photographer, including asking contacts in your network if they know anything about them. If you are short on time, reverse these steps and start by asking trusted industry contacts for referrals, then check out the work and narrow down your list from there.
2. Set up a preliminary interview
Before conducting an on-site interview (see Tip 3), have a preliminary conversation with your potential photographers to establish the basics, such as current availability and rates. They need to be available to do the job for a price you are willing to pay —otherwise, on to the next one! Another important topic to cover is how they handle licenses. You want to make sure you will be able to use the photographs for your intended purposes, and it is a good idea to think ahead to how you may want to use them in the future.
For the photographers that meet your initial requirements, ask for at least two references from clients or former supervisors. This step is critical. Even though you may already have some background information from your contacts, you need to speak with at least two people who can answer detailed questions about the photographers’ professionalism.
3. Interview your top choice at the project site
If everything checks out this far into the process, schedule an interview with your top choice at the project site. Try to find a time when you will already be there, like before or after an installation, so you do not have to inconvenience the client.
Come prepared with your own ideas about what to shoot, what type of lighting, and what time of day would be best — then ask the same questions of the photographer. See if you like his or her ideas, if they match up with yours, and if this person brings anything special to the table.
Once you have discussed what the final package of photographs should look like, ask questions to ensure the photographer has the right equipment to capture the shots you want and the post-production skills to polish them to perfection.
4. Find a photographer who will grow with you
Sometimes, you will thoroughly vet a candidate whose work you admire, but despite how good this person looks on paper, you just don’t click with them personally. It’s important to find someone that you want to work with on your future projects so that your branding and photo style is consistent as your business grows. Hire a photographer who not only meets your professional needs, but who you can communicate with easily and amicably. The results should continuously improve the more you work together. The key to this relationship will be viewing it as a partnership that can strengthen both of your businesses by joining forces.
While hiring the right photographer might be one of the most important things you do for your business, it doesn’t have to be the hardest. Following these four tips will ensure you have a process that leads you to the best artistic fit that can deliver the results you need. Your portfolio is your most valuable tool — hire the photographer who will visually represent your designs in the most powerful way possible, while helping you represent your business the same way.