PR agencies try to keep writing in-house as much as possible, but
few, if any, have photographers on staff. Instead, they take advantage
of the huge pool of freelance talent for everything from corporate head
shots and product pictures to event coverage.
But finding the right photographer involves more than just picking one
who takes nice pictures. It requires giving equal consideration to
factors such as reliability, rates, the location of the shoot and the
photographer's ability to make the client feel comfortable.
"Finding the right photographer is like finding the right hairdresser,"
says Tasmin Bayless, CEO of Los Angeles-based IDEE Public Relations.
Bayless says that once you find someone you can work with, you should
use them whenever possible.
"It ends up being worth it to stick with the right person," she
"If you use them over and over, you ultimately give your clients a
Others, however, prefer to match the photographer to the event. When
Weber Shandwick's Miami office needed pictures of a promotional event at
a luxury-car dealership, client service director Tadd Schwartz says he
chose a photographer because of the quality of his work on a glossy,
south Florida magazine and his casual personal style.
"This was a very young, hip, 35-and-under crowd, and the photographer
came in jeans and a black T-shirt, so he fit right in. I wouldn't use
him for a formal event, but for this he was perfect."
Schwartz adds that the photographer's connections to editors at various
media outlets helped get the pictures placed as part of a news
"People that know the photo editors and have dealt with them are a lot
are more likely to get their stuff picked up," says Chicago-based
freelance photographer Lee Balgemann.
If wide distribution is one of your main concerns, Medialink WirePix can
place photos in newsrooms around the world. It also offers the services
of its large stable of photographers.
GCI Group SVP Nancy Tamosaitis says a photographer's most valuable
quality is his or her ability to make clients feel comfortable. "It's
important to make sure that the client likes having the photographer
there and is confident that the picture will look good," she says.
New York-based photographer Denise Winters made her mark taking head
shots of actors, but she says her business has expanded into the
corporate world as agencies learn the importance of executive pictures
accompanying releases and annual reports.
"A lot of companies want more than the standard company head shot,"
Winters says. "They want executives to look more like people."
It's important to let clients know that good photography costs more. The
average day rate for a freelance photographer starts at around dollars
500 and can cost thousands of dollars for a higher-profile name.
"There's no one-size-fits-all pricing strategy," says Aline Parrish, EVP
at Springbok Technologies. "You've got to look at what you're
Parrish says she has a pool of about 100 photographers. One of her
favorites is Dallas-based Bill Crump, who takes head shots, as well as
product and annual report pictures, but is best known for his
photographs of jets in flight for companies such as American
Having one favorite doesn't stop Parrish from being on the lookout for
new talent. "If I see an annual report with pictures that I like, I call
the agency responsible and ask who they used," she says.
Sometimes you need photographers at out-of-town events or in multiple
locations. "It's rare to have a budget that allows for thousands of
dollars in travel costs," explains Michael Donnell of Chicago-based
"But if you shop around, you can get good photography locally."
Donnell suggests searching the Internet to find local PR and advertising
people to call for recommendations.
Jill Lublin, head of Promising Promotions, based in northern California,
suggests that you also tap your network of professional acquaintances
when looking for out-of-town help. She says contacts at chambers of
commerce have proven especially helpful to her.
Balgemann suggests calling local newspapers or AP bureaus, as well as
local chapters of the American Society of Media Photographers, for
It is also important to keep up with the latest technologies, such as
digital cameras, and other issues that could impact your cost, such as
"It used to be that a photographer looked to make his money off selling
prints," says Donnell. "But with the rise of digital photography,
there's no longer a big print business. So a lot of photographers are
adding fees for unlimited use, which allow you to use photos for a Web
site, brochure or newsletter."
Unlimited-use fees vary widely. "Some people charge 100% of the day
rate, others a lower percentage," explains Balgemann. "Still others opt
for a per-use fee," he adds. "But most photographers worth their salt
won't do an all-rights buyout. I give my clients one year's unlimited
use, and if they want to use it a second year, then I charge."
Michelle Grossman, senior media relations executive at Ketchum in
Chicago, says once you've chosen a freelance photographer, show faith in
their abilities by not giving too much direction.
"We normally brief the photographer about the event and the key people,"
says Grossman, whose clients include the fast food chain Wendy's. "Then
we count on them to capture what went on at the event. Sometimes the
shot you're planning is a dud, but because they're professionals, they
can get a great shot of something different."
1 Do keep up with the latest technology and business practices
2 Do remember you get what you pay for. Shop for the best price, but
remember a bad corporate head shot is never a bargain
3 Do try to match the photographer to the shoot - some work best in
formal settings, while others excel at casual events
1 Don't judge a photographer just by his or her portfolio. Reliability
and the ability to make your client comfortable are just as
2 Don't over-direct. Let photographers have some flexibility to find and
take the best shots
3 Don't hesitate to call PR firms or ad agencies for recommendations.