Although digital cameras have made it much easier for architects, interior designers and contractors to record their work, there often comes a point when you need something a bit better than what your entry level DSLR or SLR camera can produce. Portfolios, contest entries and advertising all benefit from crisp, clear images that bring the attributes of a project to life. That’s when an architectural photographer can come in handy.
But how do you find one? What will it cost? And will there be limitations on how you can use the photos afterward?
What Kind of Photographer Do You Need?
Houses present their own abnormal challenges in terms of lighting, styling, perspectives and distortion, so you want to hire a photographer who specializes in them, but not one who does everything.
There are two kinds of photographers who specialize in shooting homes: architectural photographers and real estate photographers. If you are simply looking to document a project strictly for selling purposes, then a real estate photographer is the way to go.
But if you want photographs that capture the artistry and character of a space, then an architectural photographer is your best bet. Typically, architectural photographers will
- Meet with you
- Figure out the best approach
- Think about the styling
- Move the furniture around
- And put a lot more thought into getting the photos
Once you do some research, look on each photographer’s website for a portfolio of work, ask yourself:
- Do you like the quality and character of the photos?
- Is the photographer accustomed to shooting projects like yours? (If the person shoots mostly hospitals and commercial spaces, and your home is a Tudor style traditional or mid century home, it might not be a good fit.)
- Who has the photographer worked for in the past? A list of former clients is often included on the site and will indicate whether he or she is accustomed to shooting for clients like you.
Are You Looking to Publish the Architectural Photos?
Decide if you want to have the project published; that will affect the kind of photography you want to go for. Furthermore, look at how long it will take, and what will you get from each shoot? Photographing a house usually takes one day, although many photographers are willing to negotiate half-day rates if you’re capturing just a room or two. A full-day shoot will generally yield 8 to 20 images, depending on the project, the photographer, the amount of styling needed and the time of year. (Is the sunset at 4:30 p.m. or 8:30 p.m.? Are they going to be shooting twilight shots?)
Who Will Style the Shoot?
Most photographers will help out with minimal styling as needed, but it’s best to ask about it in advance. If a great amount styling is required, be sure to have the designer present, hire a freelance stylist, or professional staging company for the photoshoot. It’s also helpful for the homeowner to be present at least part of the time, to provide accessories and prevent anyone from having to rummage blindly through drawers and closets.
Although today’s photographers shoot digitally and no longer have to send their work out to a lab, they still have to manipulate each photo individually, adjusting the lighting and color, removing distractions like motion detectors or stray electrical cords, and often piecing together the best attributes of an assortment of images to create one perfect composition.
Who Owns the Architectural Photos?
Unless you’ve made arrangements in advance, the architectural photography company you hired retains the copyright to their work. You will be granted permission to use the photos for advertising or promotional purposes, or to post images online. But if a third party, like a magazine or a manufacturer, wants to publish the images or use them as part of an ad campaign, that usage must be negotiated with the architectural photographer, who may seek additional compensation.
If you want to own the images outright, with no restrictions, the photographer will typically request an additional fee equivalent to the creative fee (the part of the bill related to doing the actual photography).
A professional architectural photographer brings a lot to the table, considering ‘the designer’ could win awards for this or use it for advertising. The better a project looks, the more work it’ll bring.
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