Five Tips for Working with a Professional Photographer

Tony Ridder with camera
Copyright Tony Ridder. Used with permission.

Last week’s post on stock photography yielded several helpful hints in the comments section. One reader – Mark K. Curtis – suggested that internal comms folks take advantage of photo shoots scheduled by other departments and request that the photographer take some shots of employees at work.

I thought that was an excellent suggestion, so I reached out to a friend, former Nextel co-worker and seasoned professional photographer Tony Ridder to gather some quick tips for making the most of a “found” opportunity for a photo shoot.

Tip #1: Give me the “big picture”

Even the best photographer in the world will fall short of your expectations if you fail to clearly articulate what you are looking to accomplish with the image or group of images. To make sure that you have clearly communicated your specific needs, Tony recommends that you develop a creative brief that outlines your objectives, your desired tone or emotion, the target audience and the intended use. The good news is that after you’ve worked with a photographer for a while, he/she will be attuned to your organization and you won’t need to provide lots of background detail.

Tip #2: Show me what you mean

You probably have an idea of the type of image you want. That’s a good thing. You probably even have some samples that you want to draw from as inspiration. Excellent. While written descriptions are good, photographers are visual people and are used to picking up clues from images. But do not attempt to duplicate an image, cautions Tony. Images are protected works and are subject to copyright laws.

Tip #3: Give me a preview

If you are tagging onto an existing photo shoot, your time is going to be limited. Make the most of your time onsite by providing the photographer with as much advance information about the venue as you can, as far ahead as you can. If it isn’t possible to do a walk-through a few days prior to the shoot (and it probably won’t be), Tony recommends taking some quick photos (use that smartphone camera!) or video clips of the venue to give the photographer a feel for the lighting and physical space. That will help him/her determine the need for additional lighting, backdrops, etc.

Tip #4: Assign a helper to me

Remember that the photographer is an outsider at your company and does not know where to acquire props or how to contact the volunteer “models” if there is a change in the venue or schedule. To minimize downtime, Tony suggests that someone on your staff serve as the photographer’s handler. That person can also double as the quality control agent, whose job it is to ensure that the props, setting and employees used in the photos reflect the organization’s brand, culture and demographics. Remember, the reason you are shooting your own images, and not simply purchasing stock photography is to avoid images like these.

Tip #5: Make the most of my time

There will always be some amount of “down time” in any photo shoot: resetting the props, adjusting the lighting and coaching your employee models. To prevent your photographer from wasting time, make sure that you have everything assembled in advance, that employees arrive early and have signed photo releases, and everyone knows what they should be doing. The photographer is doing you a favor by adding your session to the one he/she has already contacted for, so return the favor by being respectful of his/her time.

Bonus Tip

When the session is over and you are ready to select images, Tony has one final tip: Remember that the proofs you see are not done yet! There are any number of additional editing techniques that can be applied to an image to perfect it and tell the story you intended. So be sure to let the photographer know what you like about the image, and let him/her make the necessary adjustments to turn it into the image you envisioned.


About Susan Rink

Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC ( and a partner in Triple Play Consulting.
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