Professional Photography for Designers

Beth Dotolo, a successful and busy interior designer, shares the whys and hows of hiring a professional photographer >> Your design work is your business identity. In a service-based business, where your relationship with your clients are built on trust, it’s important to appear professional. When you put your best foot forward, you give clients security in your business which makes you more hireable. The above image is an amateur photograph of the very same living room.

Professional photography plays a huge part in branding your business. Capturing your best work and showcasing it for future clients is essential in advertising your business! Just think about it from your potential future client’s perspective. If you were shopping a website, would you be more likely to buy a product that is shot with a point-and-shoot in a dimly lit room? Or would you buy the same item from a site with professionally shot on a crisp white background with great lighting that highlights the best parts of the product? The products could be the exact same price, but you would have more faith in the seller that comes across more professional. The same is true for the interior design profession.

Does the following set of images even need to prompt which is pro and which is amateur?

So, why hire a professional photographer?

  • A Creative Eye
    • Photographers have years of experience creating great angles & capturing a creative perspective on the room. It’s also great to bring on an additional member of your ‘team’ that can objectively shoot your space.
  • Quality Print & Campaign Ready Photos
    • At times a publication will ask for photo submissions. In this economy, you are more likely to be published when you can save the publication money and time by providing your own photography. Plus, you have marketable photos for press and advertising campaigns.
  • Professional lighting
    • Lighting is everything. It can highlight the best parts of your projects and even set a mood.
  • Range in Equipment
    • Different projects require different equipment, some rooms need different types of lighting. Some rooms are small requiring a wide-angle lens to capture everything. A professional photographer will have all of this to make the most of the spaces you designed.


How do you find a professional photographer?

  • Local Creative Agencies
    • Many creative agencies have photographers in their roster of talent.
  • Shop Your Local Competition
    • Who has done some of your favorite local designers photography. Many times the photographer is credited.
  • Local Design Publications
    • See who is credited in some of your favorite interior shoots.
  • Google


Questions to ask your photographer before hiring:

  • What is their specialty?
    • It’s important to hire a photographer that specializes in Interior Photography. These photographers are skilled in shooting spaces and understand interior design and what you want to achieve with your space.
  • What is the rate?
    • Photographers usually operate on a day rate. Day rates can range from $800/day to $4000/day and up. Keep in mind it’s a creative industry so photographers can sometimes be flexible offering breaks in the rate or even providing a half-day rate for smaller jobs to meet your budget. Just be sure to understand the value in the service, just as you expect clients to understand the value of the services you provide.
  • What is the photo usage?
    • Usage is the rights you have to use the photographs. Even though it is your work, the photography is the copyright and property of the photographer. They grant you the usage. It’s important to know what usage they are granting and properly credit the photographer. Some photographer will grant unlimited usage, with photo credit, which can be more expensive. Some photographers will grant web-only usage. This is up to you to negotiate with the photographer. But, be sure to get a release form signed or remain in good contact with the photographer. Many publications & design competitions require a signed photography release by the photographer.
  • How do they conduct their shoots?
    • Do they take several snapshots of the space and let you chose the best angle later? Or do they work on site to find the best angle and then work to perfect ‘The Shot’? I prefer to perfect ‘The Shot’! This way the photographer can take several photos of the same space on a tripod and retouch your photo to get the perfect lighting levels, etc. I also prefer to have a few snapshots & mood shots of details that require less work.
  • Does the photographer retouch?
    • Ask if the photographer will retouch your work or just provide you with raw images. Sometimes this is built into the rate and sometimes it’s an additional fee. Most good photographers will bulk this into their rate. After all, they want to put their best foot forward as a photographer, as well.
  • What is the turnaround time?
    • Be sure to get a good understanding of the photographer’s timeframe so you know what to expect.


Professional Photography & Client Expectations

You will be sharing your clients homes with the general public when you use your work for marketing and advertising. There are a few things that you should cover to be sure that there is open communication and so that you can protect your clients.

  • Be sure to include a clause about photography and how it will be used in your interior design agreement, so they expect that you may photograph their space when it’s complete. Some clients prefer to be very private and may not want you to photograph their space. It may be a deciding factor on whether you work with the client or not if you can’t use your work in your portfolio.
  • Let your client know that their home will be taken over the day of the shoot. In a professional shoot, there is a lot of equipment and people involved, which can be somewhat invasive.
  • Be sure to protect your client’s privacy. Never use their name, unless they give permission. Also, be sure if you’re doing an exterior shoot of the home that all house numbers are erased. Anything that can reveal the location or name of your client should be protected, unless you have client permission to share.


A picture is worth a thousand words, so be sure you’re saying the right thing about your business!

In coming posts, professional interior photographer Kevin Dotolo will share some tips and tricks for shooting your own work when you simply can’t afford to hire a professional. 


Beth Dotolo, author of this feature, is principal of  Pulp Design Studios,  an Interior Design firm in Dallas. You can also see more of professional photographer Kevin Dotolo ‘s work on his website.

A full list of all our global mentors [ who are top professional interior designers ] on our Mentors Page.


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