When to Hire a Full-Time Photographer

Having a regular photographer to photograph you allows you to be more comfortable and relaxed for your images.

Most small business owners start out doing everything themselves, trying to DIY their content, their marketing, their accounting, sales, and more. But eventually, they must start outsourcing in order to grow.  A full-time photographer can be a good springboard into the experience of outsourcing.
 
As we tiptoe into a brand-new year, it’s time to ask yourself two important questions that will help your business succeed in 2021. The first is, what aspects of my business do I need to let go of? And the second is, what things can I add that will be most impactful this year? Sometimes the answers to these two questions fit together in that I need to let go of doing something myself and bring in an expert who can do it better and more efficiently than me.  

In terms of photography, unless you consider yourself an amateur hobbyist, it makes sense to outsource your photography sooner rather than later. But finding the funds and then making the financial commitment isn’t easy. Budgeting for this work is a huge part of making it happen. So, when is the right time to hire a full-time photographer for your business? If you’re struggling with this question, read on for some helpful considerations to assist you in that decision.  

What You Need to Know Before Hiring a Full-Time Photographer 

If you think you might be ready to hire a full-time photographer, start by asking yourself these questions. 

  1. Are my images tied directly to my point of sale?  
  1. Can I find what I need in stock photography?  
  1. How many images do I need?  
  1. How often do I need new images?  
  1. Do I have the time to create the images I need myself? 
  1. Am I any good at photography?  
  1. Does my brand require a polished visual style?  

Now let’s break down each section to see how your answers can help you with your decision.  

Your full-time photographer knows how to make your product stand out even more vibrantly than before.

Cannot Sell my Product or Service without Photography 

If you are a product-based company, there is no doubt that you need a professional photographer. The quality and wow-factor of your images have a direct correlation to whether your product sells. 

Now that you know you need a pro; the next question is whether you need to hire someone to create images for you full-time or not. This will depend on how often your inventory changes. If your product changes monthly or is seasonal, hiring a full-time photographer will be very beneficial to you. If your product is constant or only changes once per year, you may only need to hire a photographer every once in a while.  However, we recommend working with the same photographer (so long as you had a good experience) as it will keep your branding and photography across your entire product-line consistent. 

If you’d like to learn more about the use of improved photography to increase your reach and sell more product, click here to read our J.S. Fearnley case study. 

If you are a service-based company, branding photography may still be directly tied to your point of sale.  Photos are one of the fastest ways to build trust with your potential clients, and it’s that trust that leads to conversion. If you provide the services yourself, then you should consider investing in a full-time photographer to help you grow your personal brand. If not, then stock photography may be an option for you. 

I Can’t Find Stock Photos that Represent my Brand Well 

We all love a great collection of free stock photos. If you just need generic photos that tell the right story or a beautiful background to throw a quote or testimonial on top of, that’s when stock photography may be an option to consider.  

However, the problem is it can be very hard to find exactly what you are looking for. There are many sites that offer licenses for paid stock photography, but even then, you won’t always find what you need. If you need photos of yourself, your team, or your specific product, you already know that stock photography won’t cut it. 

Before you spend too much time searching stock photography archives, you’ll want to make sure the images you find meet the following criteria. Ask yourself if the stock photography you are using speaks to the specific demographic you are trying to reach. Does it resonate with your audience? You also must make sure it is cohesive with your current branding—that it matches the colors and mood of your brand. With so many stock images available it is possible to find what you’re looking for, but if you put the images through the tests above and they don’t perform, it may be time to consider creating custom images of your own. 

I Only Need a Few Images 

If all you need is a few images, then hiring a full-time photographer doesn’t make sense. Consider investing in a one-time photography shoot with a photographer you trust to create some stellar images you can use to get you started. You may even be able to create the images yourself, depending on your answers to questions 5 and 6 above.   

I Need A Lot of Images 

If you need lots of photos, then you must ask yourself if you have the time and skill to create them on your own or if you need a pro who can create them for you on a set schedule and within your budget. An even bigger concern than needing a lot of images is needing a lot of new images on a regular basis.   

I Will Use the Same Images Over and Over Again for the Life of My Business 

Can we just say this is a bad idea? Things change. Times change.  Businesses change. You change. You’ll need to update your photography occasionally. This was just the wrong answer. 

I Need New Photos Once Per Year 

In our opinion, swapping out your photos once per year is a good place to start, and for some businesses, it’s all they’ll need to do. If this is your case, you don’t need a full-time photographer. Budget an annual amount for photography, then hire a pro that can work within your budget. You can update your headshots and revamp any images you may be using on your website. You may have to use a different photographer each year, depending on their availability, but by setting a budget and getting a date on the calendar, you’ll be one step ahead and ready with new photos when you need them. 

I Need New Photos Once Per Quarter 

Most businesses fall in this category and would benefit from updating their photography quarterly, in time with the seasons or promotional campaigns throughout the year. This is where working with a new photographer every time you need new photos can create a lot of unnecessary strain on your business, where every new photoshoot can feel like a mini re-brand. Working with the same photographer can streamline the photography process and ensure they know your brand inside and out. This creates consistency and when you find the right photographer, the quality you can trust. 

So long as you don’t need photos of yourself, you can try to DIY quarterly photography for your business, but as you may already know, this is very time-consuming. It can become easy to fall off schedule, miss the timing of an important promotion, and often leads to a lot of last-minute headaches. Hiring a full-time photographer in this instance ensures deadlines get met, budgets stay balanced and you have everything you need before you need it. If you’d like to read how Worthwhile Media provides VaVa Virtual with ongoing, consistent photography that not only exceeds their expectations but helps them save time and reduce their stress, click here to read the case study.
 

DIY can be time intensive and exhausting when it doesn't come out to the standard you require.

I Need New Images Once Per Month 

It used to be that few businesses fell into this category, but with social media, it is increasingly more common. The mental and emotional energy needed to come up with new content on a consistent basis can be exhausting. As the owner of your business, are you an expert in storytelling or do your superpowers lie elsewhere? Let a storyteller handle telling your story and you do you. Hiring a full-time photographer at this stage makes a lot of sense. 

Do I Really Have Time to DIY my Content? 

If the answer is yes, then hiring a photographer becomes a matter of choice. If you enjoy doing the work yourself, then there is nothing wrong with continuing to do it so long as you have the time.  (Though I do recommend asking yourself the next question first.) 

If the answer is no, then hire a photographer. 

Am I Actually Good at Photography? 

If the answer is yes, then refer back to the previous question. If you answered yes to both questions, then it may not be time to hire somebody.  If the answer is no, we hope the next step is obvious—hire a pro. 

And if you have the time and you are good at photography, but you don’t enjoy it, I’ll let you in on a little secret—you don’t have to do it yourself! Just because you are good at something doesn’t mean it’s the best use of your time. If you find yourself wishing you could do something else whenever you pick up the camera, you need to make a plan for transitioning that role to someone else. 

My Brand Doesn’t Need a Polished Style

Though rare, there are some brands that thrive in the “unpolished” and “raw” world of “authentic” photography. We use quotation marks here because in branding and marketing everything is a choice, even the choice to “be real”. These brands, dare I say it, don’t need professional photography. However… it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t benefit from it. 

If your brand is “unpolished and raw” you may be just fine with iPhone photos and selfies. However, if this look works for you, but you no longer have the time to keep up with the content demanded by your consumers, remember that a pro can duplicate that look for you and give you back your time. Not all photography is perfect light and posing. A true pro should be able to create any look you want, even one that doesn’t look professional. In the end, it’s all about the time you have to devote to content creation. 

Most brands do, however, need quality photography and a polished look.  It’s a well-known mind-trick that quality photos of a product make you think the product is quality. If you don’t have quality photography that shows off your product or service and you don’t have the time or skill to create it yourself, it’s time to think through what you need to do to be able to hire a professional photographer to create what you need. 

I Know I Need a Pro, Now What? 

If you’ve concluded that hiring a professional photographer will be beneficial for your business, but still aren’t sure whether a full-time photographer is right for you, know that the answer to this question ultimately lies in how many photos you need and how often you need them. In simple math, if you need lots of photos and you need them often, a full-time photographer starts to look like a really good idea. We know this is a big decision—one that often comes down to cost, so in a final breakdown, we’ve listed the pros and cons of each option below to help you decide. 

One-Off Photographer When You Need Them 

Pros:

  • Can try out different photographers to find the right fit
  • Can price shop

Cons:

  • Photos may be inconsistent between shoots if working with different photographers 
  • Your favorite photographer may not be available the next time you need them 
  • You risk working with someone that isn’t a good fit 
  • The quality of photos may vary 

Full-time Photographer on Staff 

Pros: 

  • The photographer is always there when you need them 
  • You know the quality of work you are going to get
  • Consistent Photography across every session 
  • Ease of scheduling photo shoots 
  • A personal relationship with your photographer 

Cons: 

  •  An expensive option—salary, benefits, bringing on an employee

Subscription-Based Photography Services 

Before you decide between working with multiple different photographers over the life of your business or bringing someone on full-time, we’d like to share with you a third option that we call the happy middle ground: Subscription-based photography services. 

With a subscription-based photographer, you have all the benefits of hiring a full-time photographer without the costs associated with a full-time employee. 

Pros:

  • Photographer is always there when you need them 
  • You know the quality of work you are going to get 
  • Consistent Photography across every session 
  • Ease of scheduling photoshoots 
  • A personal relationship with your photographer 
  • Cost savings from hiring an independent contractor vs. an employee
  • Ability to lock in a price for the duration of your contract 

Cons:

  • None 

You can even try out your subscription-based photographer for a one-off session and then convert to a subscription when it goes well. 

With a subscription photographer, you know you’ll always have a photography session on the calendar when you need one and you always know the cost associated with that session. Subscription Photographers are a great alternative to hiring a full-time photographer and generally work with their clients on a monthly or quarterly basis, depending on the needs of the client. As independent contractors, they help you save on payroll and benefits but remain available to you when you need them. 

Adding a full-time photographer to your team will take a burden off of you, while adding extra polish to your brand and product!

Make a Plan Now to Hire a Pro

If you’ve been reading this article and have come to the realization you need to hire a professional photographer, but don’t have the funds yet to do so, now is the time to make a plan for how you’ll get them.  One of the fastest ways to grow in your business is to outsource the work others can do, and outsourcing your photography needs to a professional photographer may be just the step in the right direction you need to take. 

If you are ready to hire a full-time photographer or just want to taste what it might be like to work with a pro in a single session, reach out to Worthwhile Media. We’d love to tell you more about how subscription-based photography can help you reach your audience, boost your brand, and bring customers and clients to your doorstep. 

Worthwhile Media is a full-service branding agency focused on custom content creation through effective storytelling in the mediums of photography, video, and the written word. Offering subscription-based services and single photography sessions, they provide images and content for web, print, social media, and public relations. From headshots and banner reels to seasonal marketing campaigns, Worthwhile Media is available to meet all your content creation needs. Reach out today to schedule your free discovery consultation. 

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1/21/2021

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When to Hire a Full-Time Photographer

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