Looking to hire a professional photographer? Some things you should know.

Whether you need a professional photographer to embark on the simplest of shoots, or whether you need a professional photographer to shoot your next multi-million-dollar advertising or marketing campaign, there’s typically 3 stages most professional photographers will go through to help you get the kind of photos you’ll need (and love).

Of course, depending on the scale of your shoot, the amount of time spent on each, specific stage will vary. But the amount of work, sometimes will not.

That’s why, it’s often very difficult for most professional photographers to answer the question, “what’s your rate” without knowing a lot more about your actual shoot.

The reason?

There’s no two shoots that are ever the same — as you’ll soon see in understanding most, typical stages you’ll embark on when hiring a professional photographer.

Starting with?


What is pre-production?

Pre-production includes any work done before the shoot day begins.

In a recent article on a popular photo blog, the author talked about pre-production like this:

In the film and music business, pre-production is the work before the work. It is the listing and working out of the details ahead of time and the time in which you craft and refine your ideas so that once you begin the final creative process you can truly shine. No movie director, art director, or music producer would dream of starting a project without intense preparation. 

This includes but isn’t limited to your photographer:

  • Knowing the shoot location inside and out, and if need be, scheduling a test shoot to help ensure that the lighting will be perfect the day of your shoot.

  • Understanding your vision and how it’ll be achieved, so there’s no surprises come shoot day.

  • Going over a shot list so everyone knows what to expect before the shoot begins.

  • Determining all the equipment needed to reach your key objectives.

  • Doing, revising, and discussing the actual proposal to help understand certain shoot expectations, so everyone knows exactly what’s being paid for (and what is not).

  • Seeing if an assistant, makeup, wardrobe, set stylist, or any number of people are needed to get the job done.

And more!


Day of shoot.

As you can can see, besides taking the actual photos, the day of the shoot is only the 2nd of 3 main stages that will each vary in time and costs depending on how simple or how involved each will be. On top of that, the day of the shoot is probably one of the biggest mistakes clients make in terms of the the only thing most think of, when it comes to hiring a professional photographer.

With that said, what can you expect on the actual day of the shoot?

Mostly, the photographer will wake up early, go over shoot expectation and pack their car like they’re going on a 6-month vacation around the world that includes, but isn’t limited to some of the heaviest and most expensive gear of any industry, like:

  • Cameras (which can cost anywhere from $2-$10k or more).

  • Lenses (which can run anywhere from $500-$2,500 or more).

  • Memory Drives ($5 or more).

  • Chords ($10 or more).

  • Mobile workstation (which includes laptop, monitor, tethering tools/programs valued at $2,500+).

  • Lights ($300-$2,500 or more).

  • Lighting modifiers ($100-$1,000 or more).

  • Reflectors (cheap).

  • Scrims ($25 or more).

Easily totaling $5k or more in equipment (and that’s not counting the insurance, repairs and having to replace/upgrade any older equipment.

My point?

It extremely expensive to run and operate an ever-changing profession like this.

And on top of that, not to mention the physicality of packing up their car with this equipment, then having to unload and setup all that equipment for the actual shoot.

And then?

We’re not even talking about trying to make sure everyone that’s on the shoot is going to be there, on time, doing the kinds of things you need done.

Not to mention, actually remaining calm, cool and collected when taking your photos (the main thing you’re paying for).

And then?

Once they’re done taking photos that day, re-packing their car with all of their equipment, and then unloading it again into their studio or home (hoping nothing is missing or broken from the shoot).

Booking a photographer in his or her own studio?

That’s something entirely different. And can quickly add additional, unexpected costs to a photographer’s career. And, of course, that still doesn’t mean it’s not as in-depth as everything I just mentioned.

Plus, often-times, it doesn’t negate this last step below.


This is usually the fun part (depending on who you' ask, of course). ;)

But this is where the photographer looks at his or her own work and goes through each and every photo taken from your shoot to help make sure every picture that was taken, is exactly what was expected.

From light edits to highly in-depth edits photographers, in post-production will most likely edit:

  • The hair, skin, eyes, color.

  • The contrast.

  • Hues.

  • Lighting.

  • Blemishes.

  • Shadows.

  • Saturation.

  • Whites/Blacks.

  • Temperature.

  • Tint.

  • Chromatic Aberration.

  • The geometry.

Just to name a few.

Of course, everything above will depend on your time and budget, but as you can see, there’s a lot of work put into so many things you often don’t see… besides the finished product. And, as I like to say, many times you’re paying to have it all done properly, or are paying to have it done poorly.

My hope, is that you pay a little more to have it done right the first time. Then done wrong, multiple times, for work you can’t use.


About the author:

Leveraging over 10 years of experience working with some of the most highly-recognized ad firms and brands, I started Jared Kessler Creative (JKC) to deliver thoughtfully-crafted words, ideas, and pictures to grow your brand and bottom line. Offering a unique array of creative services to better connect your company to your customers in new, results-driven ways.

Curious how? 

Ready the latest photography case study, browse a wide array of photography services, or simply schedule your next shoot with Jared Kessler Creative today!

Jared Kessler