I deal with clients and help them get the architectural photos that they need. And I am talking here not only by me taking the photos for them but also by publishing help and guidance on my website.
Checklist: How To Hire An Architectural Photographer. In this post I will tell you as a client what you need to know to help you the right architectural photographer for you and get the photos you need. I will tell what I have learned from over 30 years of experience in both construction and photography, and well over 10 years as a working architectural photographer.
This checklist is written in plain English and tells you what you need to know and no more. I am on a mission to eliminate unnecessary details and tell only what people need to know.
And in this post you are getting my knowledge as a Chartered Builder (MCIOB) and also as a professionally qualified photographer (ABIPP).
Who am I?
I am Rick Mcevoy MCIOB, ABIPP. I am an architectural photographer and construction photographer based in the South of England.
I photograph buildings for clients and buildings in nice places for me. This is what I do.
I photograph buildings. And this is pretty much all that I do!
I work mainly for architects, developers and contractors as well material and product manufacturers, suppliers and installers.
Let’s get straight into this.
1 – Prepare a brief
You need a brief to give to a photographer. This is the starting point in commissioning architectural photography. Just like any other professional appointment.
There are of course specific things when appointing a photographer which I will cover next.
2 – Content of the brief – Scope
This is simply what you want the photographer to take photos of. The more thorough the brief to the photographer the better the entire process will be for both parties.
3 – Content of the brief – Shot List
Shot list. This is important. Write down a list of the specific rooms, elevations, products, materials, details – anything that you specifically want photographing. Any competent photographer will capture everything on your shot list, and also other things that they think could be of interest.
4 – Content of the brief – Information for photographers
You will need to provide some or all of the following
- Site address
- Overall site plan
- Building floor plans
- Building elevations
- Important features of the building/ project
- North/ South/ East/ West orientations
- Restrictions relating to the site
5 – Content of the brief – Timing
When can the photos physically be taken, and when do you need the edited photos? Another critical thing that needs getting right to ensure the success of the commission.
6 – Content of the brief – Inclusions
What are you priority areas to be photographed? What are the headlines, the highlights?
Think how many photos you will really need. For a private residence or small construction project I typically produce 30 images, not often more than that. Obviously, the size of the project and reason for the photos will dictate this. When I photographed an entire new build fire station there were well over a hundred images edited and issued, but much less would have been better with hindsight.
No-one wants to have to go through hundreds of photos. Start with the 30 photos that you really want and take it from there.
7 – Content of the brief – Exclusions
What you do not want to be photographed. Things like
- Utility spaces such as cleaning cupboards come into this category.
- Similar rooms
- Back of house areas
- Security/ confidential areas that are to remain that way
- Anything you do not want others to know about
- Contentious things
- Or things you just don’t like!
8 – Content of the brief – Licensing
The photographer normally retains the copyright, but in the formal quote the basis on which the photos are to be used by you as the client should be clear.
Decide all the potential uses for the photos and tell the photographer?
9 – Content of the brief – Exclusivity
Can the photographer sell the photos to others? Or do you want/ need exclusive use of the photos.
Can the photographer use the photos for their own promotional uses? Are you happy that photos of your building might appear on social media?
It is usual for the photographer to use the photos for his/ her own marketing purposes, but I have quoted for and done shoots where I could not release the photos into the public domain.
10 – Content of the brief – Pricing basis
I advise a fixed fee inclusive of expenses and processing time. I tend to base my prices on a half day or full day rate on site taking photos. I include the time taken for processing and all that other good stuff within this fixed fee.
11 – Finding a Photographer – Google
The starting point for most of us these days is Google. Obviously the first listings on Google are paid ads, so I always scroll down to the first two or three organic listings that are not ads and go from there.
A word of warning – number 1 organic search result on Google is not guaranteed to be the photographer for you though!
12 – Finding a Photographer – Professional Photographers
Photography is just like any other profession, so you should choose a professionally qualified photographer.
After all would you engage an unqualified architect or electrician?
And you would not hire an electrician to do your plumbing?
13 – Finding a Photographer – Professional Photography bodies
Here are professional photography bodies in the UK that I know. I am a member of the BIPP by the way.
14 – Finding a Photographer – Photographers Websites
Check out a photographers work. Are they architectural photographers, or are they general photographers who photograph anything and everything?
Would you use a plumber to re-wire your house?
Would you choose a wedding photographer to photograph your building? Nothing against wedding photographers, but I photograph buildings so you won’t find me capturing someone’s special day!
15 – Finding a Photographer – Photographers Style
Check out my Architectural Photography page. Do you like my photos? You might not. And if you do not that is a shame but fine.
Do not engage a photographer whose style you do not like. I do what I do and am happy to do the same for you, but if you do not like my look and style things will be difficult.
It is important to appoint the right photographer for you.
16 – Getting quotes
Get more than one quote, just as you would with any other contractor or service provided. And make sure that quote includes everything that you need. Make sure that the quote from the photographer is clear and complete and answers every point of discussions and the brief.
Cheapest is not always best which I am sure you already know!
17 – Appointing a photographer – speak to him/ her
If you can meet the photographer before you appoint them then I recommend that you do so. There is nothing better than meeting face to face to really get to know someone. You can’t do that by email.
And you might want to interview a couple of quoting photographers.
And in these difficult times we find ourselves in this is being done more and more online which is not as good as face to face but better than by email.
Even speaking on the phone is better.
18 – Appointing a local photographer
If you get a local photographer this will help you in many ways.
You can get a better service, more flexibility and easier access should things need to be addressed if the photographer is local to you rather than the other end of the country.
And you are supporting your local economy which I think is important and something that I try to do.
This is not self-interest – far from it. I am excluding myself from most of the UK saying this!
19 – Timing – Construction works
When will the works be complete enough for photos to be taken? The works need to be complete, snagging done, and the site vacated to show the project as is intended.
And this is always a challenge!
20 – Timing – Client Fit-out
Do you want the photos taken before or after client fit-out? Before and you have a nice, empty shiny building. After and you have the space as it is intended to be used.
21 – Timing – Planting
if a building is not completed to correspond to the planting season, which is often the case, there may be large unplanted areas which can make the building look unfinished.
22 – Timing – Time of Year
Obviously, the sun is lower, and days are shorter, but these are normally just things we photographers have to deal with.
23 – Timing – Bare trees
I love bare trees but who wants a spectacular new building photographing with bare foliage? If there is a substantial amount of evergreen foliage then this is not a problem.
24 – Timing – Orientation of the sun
Where is the sun shining? Is there a primary façade? Do you want sunlight streaming in through the windows, or warming up the significant front elevation?
25 – Timing – Sunrise/ sunset
Are either of these important to the content of a photo? If so are you prepared to pay extra for the photographer getting up in the middle of the night to capture that headline shot for you?
26 – Timing – traffic
Is there a peak time for traffic/ visitors/ building occupants arriving/ departing?
27 – Timing – outdoors areas
I had a problem on a shoot as the client had just put the cover on the swimming pool. A big, bright blue cover which made the shoot of the lovely grounds a challenge! And I had to hide the swimming pool.
28 – Weather – Rain
No-one wants their building photographing when it is raining. Well no-one that I have met anyway! So the changing weather causes mayhem with schedules and external shoots. And a dull grey rainy day can impact on an internal shoot, looking from the inside out.
29 – Weather – Cloudy Days
I am fine with cloudy days as I can change the sky. But if it has rained things become more of a challenge. So cloudy but dry I can live with.
30 – Weather – Contingency days
In the UK we need to plan reserve days in case the weather changes. Sometimes though this is just not possible.
If your photographer is local this is easier to manage. Trust me I have had problems with this on shoots a long way away.
31 – Weather – ideal conditions
The ideal conditions for me are cool, dry, calm with blue skies with some nice white fluffy clouds.
I know. But I had to say!
32 – Preparing the building
This is a big thing, which can have a significant impact on the success of a shoot. I will go into detail about this.
33 – Preparing the building – the photographers perspective
From a photographers’ perspective, a building that has been prepared for a shoot is easier to photograph.
And the easier a building is to photograph the better the photos and the quicker a shoot can be successfully completed.
And preparing a building, and it’s grounds, means less editing time which potentially means less cost for you as the client, and the quicker issue of better photos.
34 – Preparing the building – the clients perspective
Think of this as though you are preparing the building for a viewing by a potential vendor – I don’t need the smell of fresh coffee and freshly baked bread (as nice as that would be).
When I say prepare a building, here is a list of things that I ask to be done before I arrive on site
35 – Preparing the building – my checklist
- Snagging works complete
- Make sure no works going on
- All materials, plant and equipment removed/ hidden
- Check all the lights work
- Make sure the light bulbs are all the same
- Turn all the lights on inside
- Disable PIRs/ absence detection (if photos are required with all lights on which is normally the case)
- Unlock all doors that need to be accessed
- Move vehicles/ skips/ scaffold/ piles of debris
- Get rid of hose-pipes (which can be really hard to remove in Photoshop)
- Hide the bins
- Close doors to areas not to be photographed
- Cut the grass
- Remove any temporary barriers/ fencing
- Check for gravel spillage – another real time consumer
- Sweep paths/ roads/ driveways
- Get rid of vehicles
- Chewing gum on paths/ playgrounds?
- Clear work surfaces
And for residential shoots
- Light fires so they have that lovely glow
- Check light bulbs are the same in a room
- Straighten curtains/ blinds
- Straighten soft furnishings/ cushions
- Remove dog beds/ food bowls
- Tidy up toys etc (tidy not necessarily remove)
- Provide freshly laundered towels and bedding
- Tidy up stuff on bathroom/ kitchen surface
- Remove all personal/ confidential documents from show
- Put things in the garden away
But make the house homely at the same time!
And workplaces need to look welcoming and professional.
A good old general tidy up always helps – this applies to every building of course!
36 – Preparing the building – additions
Once everything is looking all shiny and sparkly a few additions that will finish things off nicely are these
- Imagine the building how you want others to view it.
- Publications on desks/ tables
- Colourful features
- Branding items
37 – Preparing the building – one more thing
Sorry I forgot the one intangible in all of this. In my experience clients who have gone through the process of preparing their buildings have found that this has helped crystallise their shot list. It sort of started the thought process.
38 – Construction issues – access
Are there specific access requirements/ permissions/ inductions that need to take place?
39 – Construction issues – site activities
Is there anything happening on site that might get in the way?
40 – Construction issues – permits
Are there any permits that are required to be issued before photography can take place?
41 – Construction issues – PPE
Does the photographer need to wear PPE? I of course have full PPE which is suitable for most construction sites, and my camera gear is also set up so I can get around live construction sites quickly and efficiently causing minimum disruption.
42 – Construction issues – CSCS
Does the photographer need a CSCS card, or are alternative arrangements going to have to be made? I am a current CSCS card holder by the way.
43 – Construction issues – incomplete works
This is a common problem when I turn up to photograph completed construction projects. Practical completion has been achieved but there are still works ongoing to sometimes surprisingly significant extents!
Of course, completion of a major construction project is a remarkably busy and stressful time – me turning up right in the thick of things with my camera is rarely appreciated by contractors, and I can’t blame them!
44 – Construction issues – when is the best time to photograph a completed project?
The best time to photograph a completed construction project is once everyone has packed up and left site, all the furniture, fixtures and fittings are in and but immediately before people start to use the building and make it their own.
45 – Construction issues – furniture
A building without furniture can look like a cold empty space. Furniture gives a space meaning and purpose, it helps to represent the original design intent and future use.
46 – Construction issues – client installations
And the addition of client installations sort of completes the building, making it not just an empty space but a living working environment. I am repeating myself here for a reason – this is particularly important.
Photos of a completed but empty building can be disappointing.
47 – The day of the shoot – client attendance
Do you want to attend on the day of the shoot? Some clients do, some do not. It depends on many things. If it is a house then of course there will be someone there, be it the house owner or their agent.
And for commercial buildings it just depends.
48 – The day of the shoot – me
There is one thing that I do need to warn you about in advance. If you commission me to photograph your building, please remember that I am a man and I only do one thing at once. So, when I am in the zone and taking photographs there is little point talking to me – I am not listening!
49 – The day of the shoot – access
Is there clean and unimpeded access to all areas on the day of the shoot? I have often had to struggle through virtual mud baths to get to the inside of a shiny new building which has made things difficult!
50 – The day of the shoot – people in the photos?
Do you want people in the photos? Normally not, unless it is a public space or public facility such as a sports centre, where people are preferable.
And that leads to a problem I encountered once – I went to photograph a leisure centre that had just been built but there were no people there at all – it was like a ghost town.
I ended up including myself in some shots!
No people means no complications, releases or consents unless the building is a public space.
51 – The day of the shoot – contingency planning
There are many things that can go wrong that can only be dealt with by both parties agreeing on a plan B. I have written about many of these things in this article, and have a little checklist list of the most frequent problems that I have to address.
- Adverse weather
- Works not complete
- Access to areas not possible
- Furniture not in place
- Deliveries/ works on the day of the shoot
- Utility companies on site/ digging up the road outside
- Decant operations
- Ongoing site works
- Non-attendance of participants
At the very least a conversation needs to take place about these potential problems, and the impact of any such issues documented and the consequences costed.
52 – Image Issue
I issue a set of fully edited images that in my opinion fulfil the brief issued to me. Sometimes I need to do further edits but normally the image set I issue is fine.
53 – Image files
You should get photos in the universal JPEG format. No photographer should issue RAW files as you need specialist software to open such files.
54 – GDPR
Use a GDPR compliant photographer. The photographer will have information that needs to be safely managed.
55 – Data Integrity
Ensure that the photos are backed up by the photographer in case you need them again in the future. And I suggest you have backups of the edited images issued to you.
I have cloud backups of my images, which I store for period of time yet to be defined. This has been added to my standard terms and conditions – I will guarantee to hold copies of data for three years from the time of image capture.
56 – Supply chain sharing
An interesting one. Are the photos to be shared with the supply chain? As the commissioner of the images it is important that any shared uses are agreed with the photographer as part of the appointment process.
The photographer retains the copyright so is well within their rights to sell the photos to other contactors or interested parties.
57 – Confidentiality – add to the brief
If there are matters of confidentiality these need to be raised right at the beginning as most photographers are pretty active on social media, and might share things during the shoot.
I do if I am allowed to.
58 – Confidentiality – famous people
I have photographed buildings for famous people. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to say who these people are.
Client confidentiality is especially important to me, and I take this very seriously.
Again this needs to be discussed and managed by agreement in advance.
59 – Confidentiality – people’s homes
This is particularly important when I am photographing peoples’ homes. I always agree with the client how I may use the images myself.
Whilst I might be the copyright holder as the photographer who has taken the images I have a professional responsibility to respect the confidentiality of my clients.
At the very least I do not reveal the location of photos of people’s houses when I publish my work on my website and social media.
60 – Insurances
Like any other contractor check that your photographer has public liability and professional indemnity insurance.
My standard terms and conditions
If you would like to receive a copy of my standard terms and conditions please get in touch by email, commenting on this post or by using the contact form – entirely up to you how you do this. Get in touch and I will send you them in a Pdf.
And the Pdf version of this post will be added to my subscribe process. If you want this in Pdf again just let me know and I will send it to you.
And finally, and I am so looking forward to removing this section.
I have written extensively about photographers and safe working during the Coronavirus Pandemic on my blog.
Check out these posts
I base my working practices on the Construction Leadership Council Site Operating Procedures, which have been broadened out to cover anyone working outdoors.
At the time of writing this, June 2020, we are on version 4.
One last thing. If you want to know more about me and my architectural photography check out my Construction Photographer page.
And if you want To work with me or just find out more about me then check out my imaginatively titled Work With Me page.
Thanks for reading this, see you on the next post.
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