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working with a photographer

Everything you need to know about working with a photographer

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Besides your wedding or the odd family-milestone photoshoot, you probably haven’t worked with a professional photographer before, in a professional capacity. And it’s no secret that photographers don’t come cheap (or at least the talented ones don’t). So if you’re investing in professional headshots, you may want to know how to make the most of it.

Having had multiple headshot shoots, here’s my personal take on how to work well with your photographer…

Before we begin…

First things first – know what you’re looking for. There’s often confusion between headshots and portraits. While the former usually only involves your face and shoulders, portraits may include the body as well.

If you need imagery for your website, as well as a headshot for use in places such as your corporate bio or LinkedIn, you may want to consider a headshot and portrait shoot.

Before picking your photographer…

Choose wisely (head shot photography isn’t as simple as it first seems)

Your headshot acts as a visual introduction – consider this the very first impression someone will have of you and your services or products. It’s not merely about looking friendly – your headshot could (and should) tell a story – slotting neatly into your personal branding.

So you see – a headshot is so much more than a simple photo – it demands the steady hand and story-telling creativity of an expert.

Speaking of which…

Consider choosing a photographer in your niche

It may be worthwhile considering seeking out a niche photographer – such as one who specialises in snapping creatives (think colour, energy and fun); lawyers (black and white – interesting, but restrained); or consultants (artsy yet still polished) – all three of which clearly require very different approaches (you can hedge your bets that a fun, prop-assisted graphic designer headshot wouldn’t be so great for convincing those seeking a family lawyer to make contact).

working with a photographer
Showing me at work with a client

A word of warning – if you don’t pick a niche photographer – be sure that they do at least specialise in headshots (shooting a delicious-looking dish of duck a l’orange is quite different to capturing the perfect pro headshot).

Explore their portfolio and read their testimonials (both on their websites and on third-party sites, such as Google and Facebook).

All about the money?

As hinted at, headshots don’t come cheap. The most recent research says that most charge between £104 – £150 per hour (with an average of £100).

The length of a headshot photoshoot can vary – as according to the brief and the photographer – and you’ll also need to add in post-production costs (even if no ‘tweaking’ is required, post-production always involves optimising light levels, contrast and more).

When you get in touch with a photographer, you should expect to be asked what your budget is. Don’t expect them to be able to provide a price without an in-depth brief as to what exactly it is that you’re looking for.

Questions, questions….

Other questions that a headshot photographer may ask you might include:

  • Where will the headshots be used?
  • How many images are required?
  • What’s the timeframe of your project?
  • Will you need a hair and make-up artist or a stylist?
  • Do the photos need to be shot at a specific location or do we need to shoot in a studio? Will be travel involved and if so, will this be compensated? Is time of day relevant?
  • What media will this be used in, for example – print ads, packaging, billboards, web, social, your CV?
  • What’s the period of usage of the images (how long will you be using them)? – I’ll move onto why this matters at the end.
  • Do you have someone in place to handle post-production & retouching or will you want me to handle this?

Leading up to the day

Share some examples of headshots you LOVE (and a few you LOATHE)

Do your research and explore the vast world of headshot styles. Get a feel for the direction you’d like to take and save a few (perhaps four or so) that you feel would suit your business (as well as a couple that definitely wouldn’t). This can give your photographer a steer on where to take your shoot. But at the same time, you should also give them a little wiggle room for their artistic input – after all, you chose them because they know their craft.

Tell them ALL about your business (and your oh-so-important customers)

Given what your headshot could convey, your photographer needs to understand your business and those who form your target market. Then, and only then, will they be able to guide you through the process. The keywords here are collaboration and communication.

working with a photographer
Planning my marketing (yes, that’s my kitchen!)

The day of the shoot

Hair and makeup?

Professional photography equipment features far more pixels than your average smartphone – while the lighting that comes along with it can easily wash out your daily makeup. For these reasons, professional hair and make-up services could very well be worth considering.

Just, let, go

On the day of the shoot, leave the direction to the photographer (there’s nothing quite like an overbearing client to kill a creative’s inspiration). So long as you’ve provided a concrete brief, great examples and a good understanding of your audience, you should be set to step back and let them work their magic.

Not so photogenic? Say cheese (or not)

There are some simple tactics that can help transform those who aren’t naturally photogenic (most of which any headshot photographer will already know) – such as tilting your head forward, and using your best profile (front, left side, right side).

But what if these tips and tricks aren’t enough? If you can’t relax that unnaturally tight smile (a la Victoria Beckham) you’re going to need a photographer who can create a headshot that looks slick and attention-grabbing, while breaking a few of the rules.

In most instances, photographers can help you to relax – but, as any honest photographer will tell you – sometimes a little more ingenuity is needed. Central to which could be the setting in which your shoot takes place – such as in a studio, your place of work or outside in a location that’s suited to your business. Dynamic urban backgrounds with lighting effects are one popular choice for not-so-smiley headshots that still create interest and warmth.

And finally – A (boring) few words on the legalities…


Very few people understand copyright laws when it comes to the work of a photographer. Let’s make it simple – photographers are paid for their time and expert input. But then there’s ‘usage’, which defines how the image or images are going to be used and for how long. This can entail a licensing fee to cover said period. So in short, you need to confirm (and have it in a contract) exactly what you’re paying for. If you wish to own the copyright, you’ll have to pay something called a ‘buy out’.


Before I leave you – there’s one more important thing to check – your photographer’s insurance. Should they damage something on-site (a smashed iMac – an expensive ornament) or, woe-betide, someone at your business is injured, your photographer’s insurance is going to be essential. As standard, they should be carrying public liability insurance – most have a minimum of a £2 million policy.

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