How To Maximise Your Photography Budget

The first thing you need to do if you want to understand how to maximise your photography budget is to work out what it is you want to photograph and why you want to photograph it. That may sound obvious, but being clear about this informs your choices. It helps you to assess the available photographers and enables you to choose the most suitable one for your project.

Every photographer is different and most professionals have highly developed skills in a specialist area. For example, a Wedding Photographer will have excellent organisational skills, great people skills and great location lighting skills. A Product Photographer will have highly developed studio skills - lighting, processing etc as they have to deal with a totally different set of problems to a wedding photographer.

A Photography student is expected to be all round competent, but may not have access to the equipment they need to do a good product shoot or the experience they need to deal with a high pressure fashion shoot. Your friend with a camera may be all you need to do an informal portrait, but if you want more than that you really should be considering a professional.

The key to stretching a photography budget is clarity. The aim is to get the most you possible can out of the photographer and the images they create on the day.

Ask yourself the question - Where will the images be used?

  • Web site?
  • Brochure?
  • Flyer?
  • E-Mail?
  • Mural?

The answer tells you what media will be needed (Paper for brochures, Masonry for murals, Web pages for internet) and what resolution will be required - Web images can tolerate a lower resolution than print, a mural will be many times the size of the original photograph so very high resolution images or specialist software are needed.

Think about product photography for a second - the target media is often brochures, web sites and magazines. It is usual for graphic designers to want to zoom in on the detail of an object somewhere in the layout. Within the limits of printing technology a medium format camera will support this better than a DSLR. In your initial discussion, confirm with the photographer that you will need high resolution close ups as well as shots of the object in context. A good photographer will anticipate this, but don't leave it to chance. Be as explicit as possible in the brief.

What about mood? What are the qualities you want the image to project? Different angles and lighting setups can generate completely different reactions to the photograph so think about this and give yourself some options. If you can shoot multiple setups in one session then you're getting better value for money as you will have sets of images you can use at different times in various media. Consider how much reuse can you get out of a single image?

Ask about the photographers pricing and be clear about who is responsible for what. For example, if you're using a graphic designer to produce some leaflets, you don't need the photographer to deliver prints. You may not need the photographer to do the post processing, some graphic designers prefer to do that themselves, but clarify with both parties, who does what. Most photographers charge more proportionately for shorter bookings. Typically there will be an hourly rate, a half day rate and a day rate. Product photographers often charge by the image for catalogue shoots. Don't be afraid to clarify this and work out which pricing model is best for you. It may be worth taking a longer booking in order to get more looks and therefore more use out of the photographs.

Licensing - ask about licensing, in English law, the copyright to a photograph belongs by default to the photographer and it can be licensed in one of several ways - exclusive and non-exclusive, for advertising, for print etc. The price you pay includes and depends on a license, be very clear about your requirements, otherwise you may find you have paid a low price for internet only usage and so when you want to print the photograph in a book, there will be another license fee to pay. Realise that photographers can sell images via several channels - and so a non exclusive license should be cheaper than an exclusive license.

Lastly, your relationship with the photographer. You should feel that the photographer is working to get the best out of the shoot for you. Its a creative relationship based on clarity and trust that can deliver outstanding results. If you don't trust your photographer, if you think there are hidden prices or that you are being guided down a route that you don't think is the best for you, then ask for clarification and keep asking until you are happy.

To summarise - this is how to maximise your photography budget.

  1. Be very clear about what you want the photographs for and where they will be used
  2. Try to get photographs that can be used for a variety of purposes
  3. Insist on a meeting with the photographer to discuss the brief
  4. Be clear about the pricing and make sure that it works for you
  5. Choose a photographer you can work with

Good luck with your project. If you're local to Birmingham and the West Midlands, give us a call - 0121 794 0234, we'd be happy to talk!