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  • Sarah Parisi Dowlin

How to choose the RIGHT brand photographer for your small business

True story: I once logged five hours researching the best broom to buy. Yes, a broom. As in a sweeps-the-dirty floor, store-it-in-the garage, can-buy-for-ten-bucks broom.

Looking back, I blame the hours spent on my epic broom search to pregnancy hormones or, more specifically, a need to obsess over something super inconsequential to balance the major changes going on personally. At the time, I was motiv

ated to find a household tool that a.) would look pretty hanging in my garage (umm, #seriously); b.) could be something I’d have for years (because #capsuletoolshed is a thing, right?) and c.) would be a joy to use (thanks, Marie Kondo).

Now, forget 5-hour searches for the perfect broom.* In my role as a project and client leader at one of Cincinnati’s premier branding agencies (you know, with Big Co clients and Big Co brands) I spent days finding, comparing and interviewing photographers from across the country to determine the best brand photographer for any given project.

But just exactly what, or rather, WHO are you looking for? How do you compare Photographer A with Photographer B? What really matters when investing in brand imagery for your business?

Luckily, I’m much more skilled at researching photographers than I am at broom-buying. For every agency project, I started with three important questions:

  1. What TYPES of images are needed?

  2. What VIBE do we need to communicate?

  3. What kind of experience or PROCESS does the client need to reach their specific goals?

Perhaps you are looking to add a brand photographer to your business’ creative team in 2022. The exact same questions I used to start every search while working for the #BigGuys can also help refine your search for the best photographer that meets your needs and gets you the results you crave.

First, what kind of images are needed to bring your business to life?

Good photographers generalize. Great photographers specialize. There are people photographers, product photographers and food photographers. Architecture photographers and interior photographers. Wildlife photographers and landscape photographers. You get the idea.

Within each genre, great photographers will often niche down to be even more specific. When working at the brand agency, one very specific project called for images of water splashing just so. You better believe we found a photographer that had expertise in manipulating water to create very specific wave patterns. Most likely your needs won’t be as specific as manipulating nebulous water droplets, but when you consider hiring a photographer for your business you need to first decide what types of images are most important for telling your brand’s story and find a photographer who is an expert at working with that subject matter.

At Parisi Images, our best work is done serving individuals and small to mid-size professional service firms with a curated library of brand images that demonstrate your personality, passion and purpose.

Second, what kind of brand vibe do you have (or aspire to have)?

In other words: what does your brand look and feel like? Is it dark and moody? Bright and airy? Colorful and true-to-life?

Knowing your brand vibe will help you choose a photographer whose style most closely aligns with that of your brand’s. This isn’t to say that a photographer can’t adjust their style, but it’s just that: an adjustment. When choosing a brand photographer for your business it’s best to choose someone whose work naturally leans toward your desired aesthetic.

Not sure what that aesthetic is your brand? Try this simple “mood board” exercise:

  1. Create an “Inspiration Image” folder on your desktop. Spend 30 minutes browsing image-heavy sites (Pinterest, Instagram, Getty Images, Stocksy, or even Google image search) grabbing screenshots of any photographs that appeal in some way to your desired brand vibe.

  2. Once you’ve collected several dozen images, scroll through and jot down notes on any specific visual patterns in color, mood, lighting, image crop and perspective that emerge.

Want help analyzing your mood board images? Send us an email with a link to your screenshot folder and we can review them together. In 15 minutes, I can help you parse out important details to your desired brand vibe and keep you moving on your search for the best brand photographer for your business.

Finally, how much guidance do you need?

Brand photography is more than pretty pictures. It is a strategy for giving visual voice to who you are, what you do and how you serve with the explicit goal of helping your customers know, like and trust you on their journey toward a purchase (#ch-ching).

Some business owners know exactly what they need from their images. If that’s you: AWESOME. It means you’ve likely already invested some time and money into building your brand. You’ll want to partner with a photographer that knows their way around a brand guide, can play well in the sandbox with other creative partners, and can and execute against a brief that they did not create (down, ego, down).

Other business owners have less defined strategies and need a bit more hand-holding (if you had trouble with the exercise in our second point above, this is you.). But, don’t fret! Great brand imagery is absolutely possible. You’ll want to find a photographer whose process includes a more comprehensive discovery stage; just be sure to allow for this portion of the work in your project’s timeline.

Either way, make sure you ask about any photographer you are considering what their creative process looks like and how they partner with any existing team members or creative resources.

Parisi Images has experience working directly with business owners and marketing leads as well as through marketing and branding agencies. Our mantra says it best: “Strategy First. Images Second. Partnership Always.”

Using these three questions you are well on your way to finding the best brand photographer for your business. One last thing that’s super important: choose a photographer that you hope to work with for the long term. Building an image library of on-brand images is an ongoing process and as your business grows, you will need to update and refresh your brand images. *After all that broom research, what did I end up buying? This Rubbermaid corn broom. Note the powerful item description: “effectively moves dirt and debris.”


Ready to start planning your next brand photo session? Schedule a Discovery Call with Sarah.

This post was originally shared as part of our Brand Photography 101 email series. Sign up to receive future emails here.

Photo in this post captured for Simplify in Style.


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