There are many aspects to commissioning a photographer for an architectural project, this guide is a useful checklist for the architect, designer, client, photographer and for others involved in the project.
Thorough planning and communication between the client, location owner and photographer can help ensure efficiency and that ultimately, client objectives are met.
While each photography assignment is unique, the guide below will be helpful for the planning and production of a location photography project.
A checklist for commissioning architectural photography, which will be outlined in more detail below:
1. Identify your objectives
Be clear about the purpose of the images, where will they be displayed and what you want them to include?
Do you only require photography at the end of the design process, for the completed project?
Or, do you require photography from the start of the construction process, to cover the whole duration of the project to create a ‘visual diary’ up to and including the completed project?
How many images do you require?
2. Find a Photographer
Research and find a photographer whose work you find inspiring and who is someone you would like to work with.
3. Write a Brief
Include visualisations as outlined below.
4. Discuss the brief and other practicalities with the photographer
Discuss by phone or face to face, to ensure clarity and to help to avoid any surprises on the day of the photography assignment.
5. Read the quote and the photographer’s Terms and Conditions, then accept the quote in writing
The written quotation is the contract and acceptance of the quote consolidates the contract.
6. Ensure the invoice is paid in accordance with the photographer’s terms
The Image Usage Licence usually starts after the invoice has been paid in full.
7. Publish the images and enjoy sharing them with your viewers
Reach a wide audience with images of your projects and gain recognition for your design work, in addition to new clients and commissions.
How to Commission a Photographer for Architectural or Interior Photography
You and your design team have worked hard to bring your latest project to completion, you are proud of your work and now need to commission a photographer to represent it.
Or, your team has just been commissioned to start a new project. You are anticipating using innovative materials, techniques and processes which will become hidden on completion and want to ensure that you have a record of these for future reference, or perhaps to form an online portfolio or even a printed book if a the project is large in scope and scale, perhaps a new build or a conversion? Therefore you need to commission a photographer from the start, in order to create a coherent set of high quality images.
Making sure your project is photographed by photographer who understands the appropriate visual language is an essential step in communicating your ideas and design solutions.
The photographs will be used to to market your expertise, therefore it is important to collaborate closely with the photographer to ensure that the images will convey the information that you desire.
1. Identifying Your Objectives
Be clear about the purpose of the images, this will help to better explain the project to the photographer through the brief and subsequent conversations in a productive way:
What do you want the images to include?
What are the key design concepts, architectural elements, and other features to communicate?
Do you have a mood in mind for the images? This can be affected by time of day and quality of light.
Would you like images taken at different times of the day, e.g. twilight images?
Do you only require photography for the completed project?
Or, would you like photography at certain points throughout the whole process of construction, conversion or restoration, to create a ‘visual diary’ that could form an online portfolio, or a printed book, with the addition of text?
This could be valuable for a new build, or a conversion, especially to document specialist materials, techniques and processes that will be hidden in the completed structure and for ‘before and after’ images for new build and conversions.
Decide where the final images will be displayed - online, on your website and/or social media? Or in print.
2. Find a Photographer
Although photographers have different styles, they will always work to your brief to ensure that the key viewpoints and details of your design vision are represented in the photographs.
You may find one photographer to work with for all of the photographic requirements, or you may decide to collaborate with several, depending on the scope and scale of the current project.
Try specific variations of your project title in search engines to draw out relevant photographers, e.g. ‘Aberdeen architectural photographer’. Simply searching ‘Aberdeen photographer’ will draw out wedding, portrait, baby, commercial photographers, which are not relevant to your particular search.
Then, it is important to take time to have a look through the online portfolio of a photographer, at both their personal projects and commercial projects, so that you have an idea of the image style(s) in which they work.
Commercial work may differ in image style to personal projects, which may be more experimental, because they are not in response to a client brief, but more about developing relevant personal interests or refining new aspects of visual language, before using in a paid commission.
So, ultimately you are looking for consistency in subject matter, high quality images that tell a design story, catch your eye and inspire you, skill in effective composition, in addition to professionalism, compatibility and enthusiasm, so that the photographer becomes an integral part of your marketing team.
You will be able to discuss the mood and purpose of the images for your project with the photographer when discussing the brief.
3. Prepare a Photography Brief
A brief is a written document that outlines your requirements for the photography and is essential for clarity of communication and expectations between client and photographer.
The photographer will prepare a tailored quote based on the brief.
A written brief will also ideally be accompanied by visualisations and design drawings, marked up by the architect showing:
Overall site plan
Building floor plans
Visualisations to show important features of the project
Accurate North arrow orientation
Restrictions relating to the site
Function of building
The written brief needs to include:
Your goals: the objectives of the photography shoot.
What is the purpose of the photographs – how are they to be reproduced, e.g. for printed publication or online: website and/or social media?
Format of images: portrait, landscape or square, or multiple?
Key viewpoints, details and elevations to be included in the photographs.
Anything to be excluded from the images, or downplayed.
Areas to be photographed and number of views expected.
The total number of images required
A house or smaller project will usually require 20-25 images.
A larger project will usually require 25-35 images.
Any post-production requirements, other than basic image enhancement which is included: colour temperature adjustment, exposure balance, upright verticals, such as: exterior images: e.g. removal of visual clutter in the form of litter, or graffiti on the building or fences or walls, or in interior images: e.g. removal of visual clutter in the form of unsightly plug sockets.
Whether images are to be in colour or black and white?
Black and white images are effective to focus on structure and graphic form, without the distraction of various colours competing for attention. They can be high contrast for drama or low contrast for subtlety.
Delivery deadline and file format/size required.
I shoot in RAW and provide web optimised .jpg files for delivery within 36 hours of completing the photography session.
Contact details for client: name, phone numbers for office and mobile.
4. Discussion with the Photographer
Once you have sent the brief and visualisations to the photographer, discuss the brief together, in addition to practical considerations and contingency planning, as outlined below.
Wherever possible discuss by phone or face to face, it is more time efficient, allows for a comprehensive discussion and increases clarity of outcome, so that the photographer can properly understand what your objectives are for the photography.
Aspects to discuss with photographer in addition to the brief, to avoid any surprises on site:
Is the building in use/under construction/about to be handed over?
What construction materials are used and light sources throughout the building.
Is a prior visit to the project with the photographer required or feasible?
Timings - there may be specific events that need recording or specific lighting situations, e.g. an exterior shot at twilight with interior lights on to create a warm glow.
At a minimum the exterior photographs will need to be co-ordinated with the position of the sun to provide front-side light for the key elevation.
A range of light situations for one project may be required which may necessitate several visits by the photographer or a full day on site. This timing will be factored into the quote.
Check that the photographer has Public Liability Insurance. I do.
Has permission to enter the site been granted to the photographer?
Are any permits required?
Is any form of protective clothing / high vis clothing required?
If a new build, will the property be furnished? An ideal time for photography for new build is just after basic furniture has been installed, but before occupants arrive with personal objects.
Are the property owners expecting the photographer?
Has the property been prepared, i.e. general de-clutter and tidy up? Cut the grass and remove any hose pipes, skips, loose toys and tools.
Will you or the property owner be present during the shoot? If so, please remember that photography requires full concentration and it is best to let the photographer work undisturbed, after an initial tour of the property, so that they can work in a completely focused way.
Is there any part of the site that is private?
Do you want people in images? Normally not, unless it is a public space. Note that if an identifiable individual is going to be shown in the image permission will need to be sought from the individual. They will need to sign a model release form which give permission. If the images will be held on your system, the form must clearly state this.
There are some things that can go wrong and need planning for in advance. These include:
Access to areas not possible
Furniture not in place
Utility companies on site
Ongoing site works
Non-attendance of participants / client / property owner.
A discussion should be held before the shoot about these potential problems. A photographer will likely have certain issues covered in their Terms and Conditions such as cancellation fees required from the client in the event of some/any of the above.
For example, in my terms and conditions, in the event of adverse weather being anticipated on the day, identified in advance of the photography session, I will suggest deferring the photography to an alternative date, with no extra fee incurred, and dependent on availability in my schedule. If there is an urgent deadline for the client then I will advise of the weather and the implications for the images and agree a decision with them. Sky replacement is not recommended as it looks inauthentic because the quality of light in the sky does not match the scene, especially if the facade is wet from rain.
However, in my terms and conditions, in the case of cancellation of photography because the client or property owner did not attend to allow access on the day, then 100% of fee is payable to the photographer by the client. A rescheduled date will be accepted at my discretion and is not automatic. Similarly if access is not possible due to ongoing site works or any other reason that prevents access on the day. Please see Ts&Cs for full details.
5. Photography Quote and Contract
Following discussion of the brief, when the photographer has a clear idea of what the client needs from the photography, they will confirm the brief and fee to the client in a written quotation, which is the contract.
The photographer’s fee comprises:
The creative ability and technical skill of the photographer
The Image Usage Licence
The Value of Photography is determined by various considerations including how widely the images will be viewed, reproduced and distributed and for how long duration.
Image Usage determines a large part of the value and the value determines the fee.
If you are considering several quotations: shop value, not price.
Consider reducing the number of images, rather than compromising on quality, if you have a tight budget.
Remember that the quality of the photographs is a reflection of your design values.
The quotation will be sent to you along with the Terms and Conditions of the photographer.
Please make sure that you read the Terms and Conditions.
The quotation is the contract, the written agreement between the two parties.
Confirming acceptance of the quote in writing, consolidates the contract and your acceptance of the Terms and Conditions.
Terms and Conditions for CLARE LOU ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY
Copyright and Licensing of Images
The copyright of each image remains with the photographer.
The photographer grants a Licence to Use to the client which outlines how and where the client may use the images and for how long.
The client is paying for the photographer’s production fee + a Licence to Use the images in specified media and duration.
The Licence to Use will explain clearly how the images can be used, where and for how long. The Licence will have been written to meet the objectives of the client in terms of where and for how long images can be used.
However, because the photographer always maintains copyright of the images, the Licence will not permit any further editing, or manipulation to be carried out to the photographs by the client.
Third Party Use
If the client’s client (e.g. the property owner) requires use of the images (a third party use) this must be requested in advance, in the brief, in order for the photographer to include a specific third party in the Image Usage Licence.
I will always grant Image Usage Licence (subject to conditions of use) to the property owner, with no additional fee.
However, third party use of images is not permitted by e.g. a construction company who worked on the project, or a magazine who want to write their own editorial featuring your work.
Requests for third party use of images should be directed to the photographer, who will not unreasonably withhold permission, but will usually issue a separate Licence to Use, which will incur a separate fee.
6. Ensure that the invoice is paid in line with the Photographer’s Terms and Conditions
The Terms and Conditions for CLARE LOU ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY state that the Image Usage Licence starts after the invoice is paid in full, unless stated in writing by the photographer.
No use of images is permitted before this time.
7. Sharing images
Once the Image Licence to Use commences, usually after the invoice has been paid in full, you can begin to share the images to promote your project and reach a wide audience to gain recognition for your design work, in addition to new clients and commissions..
Ensure that where images are published, in print or online, a credit ‘images by Clare Lou Architectural Photography’, or relevant photographer name, is included, as outlined in the T’s&C’s.
I hope this guide helps the planning, preparation and smooth operation of the photography commission.
If you are an architect, designer, property company, property developer, heritage conservation or restoration specialist, architectural product manufacturer, hotel owner, or private property owner and have any questions about the process, or would like to discuss photography for a completed project, or creation of a visual diary, please contact me on:
Mobile: 07879 490554
Or, use the contact form
Look forward to hearing from you.