Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right product/food photographer for your next project. This article is aimed at the small businesses and start ups with no art-buying experience, looking online for commercial creative services.

1) Is the quality consistent?  There are lots of websites out there where the quality of images displayed varies greatly. This, as a potential client would be concerning as it would suggest that either the photographer doesn’t have enough good work or has just got lucky with a couple of images and can’t guarantee to reproduce the same result each time. Its important that the photographer shows that he/she is able to reproduce the shots he/she presents in his/her portfolio again and again.

2) Are they specialists or generalists? You wouldn’t expect a train driver to be able fly a jumbo jet or a mechanic to design your house. Its the same with photographers. A specialist will not only have far more experience and know-how in their specific field than a generalist, but they will have all the equipment required to cover all eventualities during a shoot. This will mean that shoots will be quicker and the results significantly better. 

3) Do they have a studio? For commercial product and food photography its generally the norm to have some kind of professional working space, whether rented, hired when needed or owned. It is worth enquiring as to the working set-up of a photographer as this may indicate whether they are financially invested in their business and how established they are.

4) I can get my products shot for £5 each ? There  is a place in the market for low cost high-volume pack-shots. Our business model and way of working isn’t  compatible with this way of working though. which is why we charge by the hour/half day/full day.We like to spend time with considered and careful lighting to make your product look as desirable as possible or to make food look delicious. To cut costs and speed up the process a lot of pack shot companies use the same lighting set ups for all products, which, at best,  does an adequate job most of the time.  Another consideration is that with many of these low cost pay per image companies they may state they offer a ridiculously low price per shot, but then you will find you will have to pay extra for the hi-res files, then additional charges are made to add drop shadows as well as clipping paths, post-production etc. This may not actually work out to be as cheaply as you think.

5) Do they do their own retouching?  You know the ads you see in magazines and on billboards, the ones for cars, beer or watches etc. Have you ever wondered what it is that makes them look so darn sexy! It must be a really expensive camera or special lens? Well, yes the camera used for those can be very expensive, but in reality the photography is actually only a part of the process. In order to create the kind of images that really stand-out requires a LOT of post production work. It is always worth finding out if the photographer carry’s out their own retouching and if its included in the cost.

6) Who have they worked with before? It’s important to find out a bit more about recent clients that the photographer has worked with.  Seeing great images in someones portfolio is important, but as a client you also want to know whether that photographer is reliable, can meet deadlines, follow briefs and produce consistent work under any conditions.

7)  surely I ‘own’ the photos once Ive paid for them, don’t I?  The photographer has legal ownership of any work he produces, which falls under a group of rights known as ‘Intellectual Property Rights’. If a photographer assigns copyright to someone else they give away all control of the images including who uses them, they also forfeit all future revenues as the new assignee can resell the images to third parties. It is very unusual for a photographer to sell the copyright and is also unneccassery as a usage license  can cover nearly all eventualities 99% of the time. Clients generally ask to have full copyright because they wish to use the images for any marketing purpose they wish or worry that you will sell the images to a third party. This can all be agreed in the usage license and is a lot more cost-effective than a full buy-out (in the unlikely event the photographer agrees to sell it).