When it comes to getting the right images for your resume, website or work goals ultimately you rely on the person behind the lens to bring out your best. When finding and selecting that person the choices are limitless. Often, however, our budgets are not. Once you find that person then comes the collaboration part to making the magic when you happen at the shoot day. It is a lot to consider and can be overwhelming and confusing. To get the best outcome for your effort I asked fashion photographer Patrick Patton for suggestions on how we can all take photos we love and will be happy with at an affordable price.
all images www.patrickpattonphotography.com
– In conversation with Patrick Patton –
Q: How do you find a good photographer?
There are countless ways to find a good photographer, and it depends on what sort of photography you need. If you are looking for a photographer that works with models like myself, you’ll want to find the best model agencies in your area and find out who is shooting their models. Just search the agency’s Instagram and look at who is tagged in the images. The photographer should be tagged or given credit in some way. Don’t forget about clicking over to the tagged images section of the agency’s profile. That’s where you can see who is tagging them in photos. They might only be featuring a fraction of the images that are sent in to them, but you can bet there are photographers, models, and other creatives out there tagging the agency and the photographer when they post the images on their own feeds!
There is sort of a sliding scale—artistic people are on one end, and business people are on the other. It’s good to remember that most artists don’t know the first thing about marketing, and don’t want to know about marketing. For artists, marketing and business are the opposite of art and creativity. If you are Googling photographers, or going with the most visible photographers, you are definitely going to find the best business people in the field, and not necessarily the best photographers in the field. That’s not always the case—it’s more of a general rule—but it’s something to think about when looking for a photographer.
Q: Should we ask for references or judge by their portfolio?
In regards to the photography itself, the old adage applies here—a picture is worth a thousand words. You simply can’t fake a great image, and you certainly can’t fake a solid portfolio. That being said, it still matters that you enjoy working with this person, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask around. Asking around can be tricky though, because some brands and creatives may be a bit territorial when it comes to “their” photographer. It’s unfortunate, but I have definitely seen brands not wanting to share “their” photographer, so they might be hesitant to recommend a fantastic photographer with rates that they like, to other clients. Brands can become protective of “their” look that the photographer is creating with and for them. Brands can also become jealous of a photographer’s availability. The thing about us photographers is that there is only one of us, and there is only so much available time in the work week.
Q: What can you expect to pay and what do you get for the price? For example should retouched images be included?
Every photographer is different, and for me, it depends on a lot of things. I take into account how busy I am at the moment, how long I estimate each specific job will take me, what the end use of this image will be (two good headshots will be priced differently than an entire look book with twenty different products on model), if I need to pay for additional crew, additional equipment, location, or studio, or other factors. I tend to price packages to include a set number of retouched images, and then I make additional retouched images available for purchase at any time after the fact if so desired. For me a quick headshot session with a couple retouched images starts at $200 but portrait sessions start at $300. I offer discounts for groups of two or three models who book their shoots together, and I also offer discounts for signed agency models. Every photographer prices sitting different.
Q: Can you negotiate?
I am always doing my absolute best work with whatever budget I am given to work with. Photographers are simply the middlemen between your vision and your budget. It’s the client who decides what sort of vision they have for the end product, and it’s also the client who decides whether they want to pay for their own vision or not. I’m simply there as a professional to tell you how much your vision will cost you to produce, and to help you scale your vision up or down depending on where you land in your own careful balance of your own vision v. your own budget. Most photographers are perfectly happy to come in and do the best work they can no matter how big or small your budget is. We just want to do stellar work!
Q: So if we have a smaller budget it does not mean we are sacrificing on quality?
Think of it this way; if you hire a sculptor to sculpt a marble statue for you, and you hand him a hundred dollar bill, how much marble is that really going to buy him? In addition, he still has to think about feeding his family, so he’s probably got to do a couple more jobs today in order to pay the bills, meaning he doesn’t have as much time to dedicate to your statue as he would like to. He may be able to make you a thimble-sized sculpture, and it will be the best quality he could produce within thirty minutes, because he spent most of that hundred dollars on that nugget of marble, and after all his overhead is taken into account, he’s realistically only making $15 on this job. He’s going to deliver the best product he can produce with what you’ve given him to work with, and you can bet he’ll enjoy working on it, too! That’s how photography production works. Photographers are simply there to create the most beautiful images we can with whatever you have for us to work with. I am going to deliver the most beautiful images I can every single time, whether the client has a $200 budget or a $200,000 budget, but the results are not going to look the same. This should be self-evident.
Q: What does it take to nail that perfect professional headshot?
I would say it takes careful consideration of which photographer you select, and then a trust in yourself that you made the right decision. You need to choose a photographer who you know produces fantastic images every time, because chances are you are going to hate the images of yourself no matter how great they are. We are all our own worst critics, and we are going to pick our own headshots apart on minute details that no one else would ever even notice. If you can put some trust in yourself that you chose a photographer who is going to deliver a solid headshot for you, then you can manually override that feeling of self-consciousness.
Q: If a client wants lifestyle or editorial images- how should they approach that shoot to get the outcome they want?
The most important thing is to have a clear vision and to communicate it to the entire team VISUALLY. Describing what you want using your words can mean anything to anyone, and ultimately ends up meaning nothing. “I want it to be just a little edgy, but still feminine,” or “I want warm tones and a nostalgic feel,” can mean a million different things to a million different people. I promise you that everyone you describe your vision to, including your photographer, will have a different vision in their own head. If only we could read minds! Alas, we are but photographers.
You must communicate your vision in a VISUAL medium. Poke around and create a Pinterest board that captures a mood and style you like. As you add more images, you’ll start to see a theme that maybe you can’t even describe in words. That’s okay! Now, get rid of images that don’t exactly fit, no matter how much you like them. The point isn’t to collect pictures you like. The point is to narrow it down to a specific mood and style. Now you’ve got a solid mood board! Then start looking for a photographer who you think can take images similar to your mood board, and send your mood board to them. Ask them what they think. If they love it, and you think they’re up for it based on their portfolio, book them!
Q: Do you like a client to bring props?
Yes! I love when clients bring their own creativity to the set! A photoshoot is always a team effort. It always helps to have more options and more ideas. Sometimes you can’t fit all of it in there, whether that’s because of a time crunch, or because the idea doesn’t quite fit thematically, but it never hurts to bring more to the table.
Q: You shoot a lot of models… what about us mere Mortals how can we look our best?
People are beautiful, and confidence is attractive. It doesn’t matter whether I am shooting a professional model or not, there is a big difference between a hesitant, self-conscious subject, and that same subject a little later when they finally get comfortable and decide to let loose and start really feeling it. Model or otherwise, it’s like magic when someone turns it on. It’s really just embracing the moment, and deciding to give it your all. Self-confidence is the key to unlocking the best version of yourself. If you’re trying to be someone else, a photographer is the last thing you need. Just be the best you that you can be.
Q: Studio or outdoors?
Outdoors! I love studio shoots too, but it’s a lot more technical and can get monotonous. There are so many challenges, variables, and opportunities that come with shooting outdoors! The challenges make the shoot a lot more exciting, the variables mean you have to be ready for anything, and the potential opportunities are limitless! You never know what the sun or clouds are going to do—the sky might light itself on fire and create the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, or it might start pouring down on you and force you to wait it out or find an awning to shoot under. You never know who is going to walk by with the perfect black and white dog to match the model’s black and white outfit, or what police officer is going to tell you that you can’t shoot here, forcing you to rethink the shoot. Shooting outdoors is about creating order out of chaos by adapting, improvising, overcoming, and discovering the potential in everything you see.
Q: How can we shoot with you?
Email, DM, text, call—reach out to me and let me know what you have in mind! You can see my latest work on my website at www.patrickpattonphotography.com to make sure I’m going to be a good fit for your creative vision. I post all of my fashion editorials and model photo shoots on my blog, which is free to sign up for. You can find links to all my social media platforms on my website and sign up for my newsletter there as well!
I fell in love with photography as a child, peeking around corners to snap candids of family members with my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle camera, but I never dreamt I would be so blessed as to call photography my profession. My wife and I spent a good portion of our late teens and early twenties touring together in a band called Oh My Land, which you can listen to on any streaming service ( www.ohmylandmusic.com). I established my photography business in 2015 and since then have met incredible people, been to interesting new places, and captured so many precious moments. Photography is both a skill and an art. One can be technically sound, own the best equipment, and have an exemplary understanding of light, but when the subject is in front of you, there is no formula to creating a beautiful image. That is the moment when the skilled professional takes the backseat to the artist. I am blessed to call myself a photographer. I take pride in the knowledge, skill, and experience I have to offer my clients; but my passion lies in the art of it all. I am also a newspaper reporter and an author of fiction. My short story Safeship is published in the sci-fi thriller anthology called Into The Unknown, and my debut novel The Withering will be published by Ambassador International and should be released late 2021 or early 2022 ( www.pspatton.com ).
I currently live on the beautiful Central Coast of California with my wonderful wife and best friend, my daughter, my son, and my Boston Terrier Rocket.