Top 10 Ways To Make A Photographer Fall In Love With You

Top 10 Ways To Make A Photographer Fall In Love With You

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Yesterday we published “Top 10 Ways To Piss Off A Photographer“, and I promised that today would be the opposite – how to get a photographer to love you.

A lot of these are just plain common sense, but it seems that common sense is often lacking in the course of daily life for many people.

When I asked a selection of photographers what pissed them off, I also asked them to tell me what they really loved. I am including their full “love” responses at the end of this post as well.

My trusted panel of photographers are:

John Harrington, freelance Washington DC photographer

David Hume Kennerly, Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist

Robert Caplin, freelance photographer in New York City

Andy Biggs, wildlife and outdoor photographer

Daniel Milnor, freelance editorial and commercial photographer

Lynn Donaldson, freelance photographer based in Livingston, Montana

Yunghi Kim, freelance photojournalist

After reading through their responses, I compiled a list of ten things that will cause a photographer to fall in love with you.

Please feel free to leave your own comments at the bottom of this post.

Top 10 Ways To Make A Photographer Fall In Love With You

10) Have the courage to think differently.
No photographer wants to work for someone who expects them to be a robot. If you’re open to breaking with tradition, trying new things, and pushing the envelope, you’ll be loved by photographers far and wide.

“Take chances. I can cliché this to death. No risk, no reward. No guts no glory. No pain no gain. Let us shoot that travel piece that goes beyond the food shot, obtuse portrait, night scene, city setter, landscape and detail shot void of highlights. Paris has more to offer, seriously, I’ve been there.” - Daniel Milnor

9) Be aware – beyond your own publication.
Photographers work with many different clients, publications, and people. You’ll find love from a photographer if they realize that you’re paying attention to THEM, beyond your own immediate life. Not that you should be spending all of your time looking for photo credits elsewhere, but if you spot a photographer’s work – it can’t hurt to let them know.

“I love it when you notice my photo credit in some random publication and drop me a line telling me you liked my images.” - Lynn Donaldson

8) Have fun.
Nobody likes to work for a grumpy bastard who hates his/her job – in any profession. Photographers have fun shooting pictures, and are blessed to be getting paid to have this fun. Photographers who are having fun are the best to work with – and editors are no different.

Have some fun, be optimistic, share a laugh or two every once in a while. Be a lovable human, lighten up — even if you’re under massive pressure, it’s still OK to have a laugh every once in a while.

By having (and sharing) a sense of humor, you are lightening the mood for the entire assignment, giving the photographer confidence and more creative freedom. You’ll end up getting the best work from a photographer if they’re in that frame of mind.

“Detect and activate your sense of humor.” - Daniel Milnor

7) Give compliments.
The best motivator is a good compliment. Not just with photographers, but for anyone. Compliments are addictive – when you start getting them, you want more. You’ll end up working harder and harder to keep them coming. A photographer will love you if you make an effort to find some way to compliment them. If you have a problem or suggestion, always start with a compliment first – people just generally respond better with this tactic.

“I love it when you compliment my captions.” - Lynn Donaldson

“Say, “I love you,” every now and then…” - David Hume Kennerly

6) Give constructive criticism and feedback.
Contrary to popular belief, photographers actually LIKE criticism — just as long as it’s constructive. They want to know what they can do better, and in most cases, they want to work with you again. There’s a difference between a complaint, and a suggestion that, if followed, could result in more assignments. Photographers know the difference.

“I LOVE CRITICISM! I need it to improve. Yes, give me compliments and tell me where I nailed it, but also tell me where I didn’t. Tell me what you’d like to see more of, less of. Tell me where you see room for improvement.” - Lynn Donaldson

“When I was first starting out, one of the most valuable pieces of advice a photo editor at the New York Times gave me was that the “heads” of my subjects were too uniform. “Stop giving me heads that are the same size no matter what focal length your using! Give me giant heads that fill the frame. Give me tiny heads I have to search for…” What a smart/visual way to describe what I needed to change. I still hear her voice every time I shoot!” - Lynn Donaldson

5) Help promote them.
Photographers are usually really good at being creative, thinking about ways to solve visual challenges, and meeting deadlines. But most are terrible at promoting themselves – something they’ll freely admit. In this arena, they need all the help they can get. If you’re willing to put in a good word about them, or do something that helps them promote themselves, you’ll be a hero in their eyes.

“Create joint marketing opportunities. When working with a photographer, figure out non-financial ways of increasing the visibility for you and your photographer. Social networking is one easy way of helping your photographer get more quality work.” - Andy Biggs

“I love it when I meet with you and you get fired up about a shot and tell me I need to call your friend at Magazine X. And sometimes, you even pick up the phone and call her on the spot. When you do that, big hearts shooting out of my eyes!” - Lynn Donaldson

4) Hire them for their style, let them shoot their style.
Photographers will routinely get assignments based on their shooting style, which is a great compliment. But too often, an editor will ask them to abandon their style, and shoot something that’s completely different. What started out as a compliment (selecting them based on their own style) has become an insult (saying that style isn’t sufficient).

If you hire them for their uniqueness, you should have the confidence to let them use it. If you do this, they could easily fall madly in love with you.

“Allow me to produce my work. If you are calling me because of how I make pictures, then let me make those pictures, not generic imagery that permeates our industry.” - Daniel Milnor

“Tell me you’re calling me for my vision and ability to execute, then, once we’ve collaborated on a great visual, be on site to sign off on the shoot. I’ll bend over backwards to make you happy on these types of shoots.” - John Harrington

3) Respect them. Treat them as a partner.
A photographer will love you if you treat them as an essential element in the creative process, and their creative vision is what you’re paying them for – not their skills at operating a camera. Sadly, for most photographers, this is a rare experience. But, when it happens, an editor should be prepared to feel the love.

“For new clients, after two times where they ask me to make a particular image at an event, and I show them I just did each time, and then they respond “oh, I don’t know why I even bother, you so know what you’re doing.” Yup – that’s why you hired a professional. From this point forward, I look forward to working with this client again and again for years to come, because they now respect me.” - John Harrington

“Be professional. Don’t act like you are doing the photographer a favor by contacting them.” - Daniel Milnor

“Work together. Creative collaboration is a great thing, and it feels good to be a part of. Much better than say… being dictated to or lightly threatened.” - Daniel Milnor

2) Be easy to contact.
If you make a promise to contact a photographer, keep it. If you’re working with a photographer on a project, be reachable. All too often, photo editors seem to drop off the face of the Earth, and it’s a frustrating experience. As I mentioned in the previous post, contactability (is that a word?) is important for everyone. If you want to be able to contact a photographer easily, you should make it easy to contact you.

“If I’m shooting for you, I love when you give me your cell number and tell me to call you if I have any questions or problems. It’s nice to know you’re accessible.” - Lynn Donaldson

“Answer your phone, or email, or mail, or text or IM or Skype or Facebook, or Twitter, or 1995 pager.” - Daniel Milnor

“I know you’re busy, but I LOVE it when you get back to me when I’m trying to schedule an appointment. Even a quick, “No,” is better than nothing at all.” - Lynn Donaldson

1) Pay them on time, and don’t be cheap.
Nobody, in any business, likes to wait for payment. Photographers are almost always working on a deadline – their images are expected quickly, and by a certain time and date. A photographer will love you if you treat their invoices the same way they treated your deadlines.

“Pay a decent rate for good work. If you want good output from a photographer, paying a good rate is essential. The air will be clear, and the photographer won’t be thinking about the low pay during the job.” - Andy Biggs

“Pay me on time. Pay me when you say you will. Don’t pass the responsibility for my getting paid. Seriously.” - John Harrington

“I heart magazines who pay via direct deposit and photo editors who put invoices through immediately.” - Lynn Donaldson

“Pay your bills on time. Pretty simple. I provide a service, and I get paid for it. On time. Fast paying customers are the best and get better work out of a photographer.” - Andy Biggs

“Agree that there’s no such thing as a half-day rate.” - David Hume Kennerly


John Harrington is an editorial, corporate and commercial photographer based in Washington, DC. John’s portraits are featured in publications and annual reports worldwide, and is no stranger to working with tight deadlines.

His reply:

1 – Tell me you’re calling me for my vision and ability to execute, then, once we’ve collaborated on a great visual, be on site to sign off on the shoot. I’ll bend over backwards to make you happy on these types of shoots.

2 – For new clients, after two times where they ask me to make a particular image at an event, and I show them I just did each time, and then they respond “oh, I don’t know why I even bother, you so know what you’re doing.” Yup – that’s why you hired a professional. From this point forward, I look forward to working with this client again and again for years to come, because they now respect me.

3 – Pay me on time. Pay me when you say you will. Don’t pass the responsibility for my getting paid. Seriously.

David Hume Kennerly has been shooting on the front lines of history for more than 40 years. He has photographed eight wars, as many U.S. presidents, and he has traveled to dozens of countries along the way.

At 25, the Roseburg, Oregon native won the 1972 Pulitzer Prize for his photos of the Vietnam War, and two years later was appointed President Gerald R. Ford’s personal photographer.

His reply:

1. Don’t hire someone else to shoot the cover photo after you shot the assignment.

2. Approve all expenses blindfolded.

3. Agree that there’s no such thing as a half-day rate.

4. Insist that you ride in first class, and if that’s not available, business.

5. Never use a wire shot over one taken by you.

6. Send you to Cannes to cover the film festival every year

7. Send you to Fiji to recover from the stress of covering Cannes.

8. Pay as much for internet usage as for print.

9. Don’t mention Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, or Alfred Eisenstaedt unless it’s in the same breath as comparing their work to yours.

10. Say, “I love you,” every now and then . . .

Andy Biggs is an avid adventurer, conservationist, teacher, and outdoor photographer whose photography celebrates the African landscape and its rich wildlife, people, and culture. With a deep respect and understanding for African wildlife, Andy unfolds the world of the Serengeti onto our doorstep with striking emotional depth.

His reply:

1) Pay your bills on time. Pretty simple. I provide a service, and I get paid for it. On time. Fast paying customers are the best and get better work out of a photographer.

2) Pay a decent rate for good work. If you want good output from a photographer, paying a good rate is essential. The air will be clear, and the photographer won’t be thinking about the low pay during the job.

3) Create joint marketing opportunities. When working with a photographer, figure out non-financial ways of increasing the visibility for you and your photographer. Social networking is one easy way of helping your photographer get more quality work.

Daniel Milnor splits his time between the chaos of Southern California and the spiritual landscape of New Mexico. He is happiest with his notebook, Leica and trusty leather boots, sizing up whatever situation is happening in front of him.

Milnor is former newspaper, editorial and commercial photographer who now tries to work solely on his own projects, projects that allow him to work in the fashion he feels most likely to produce images that go beyond the temporary.

His reply:

1-Be professional. Don’t act like you are doing the photographer a favor by contacting them. We are trying to work together right? Think Rodney King, “Can’t we all get along?”

2-Work together. Creative collaboration is a great thing, and it feels good to be a part of. Much better than say…being dictated to or lightly threatened.

3-Do your research. You ask it of us, we ask it of you.

4-Allow me to produce my work. If you are calling me because of how I make pictures, then let me make those pictures, not generic imagery that permeates our industry.

5-Take chances. I can cliché this to death. No risk, no reward. No guts no glory. No pain no gain. Let us shoot that travel piece that goes beyond the food shot, obtuse portrait, night scene, city setter, landscape and detail shot void of highlights. Paris has more to offer, seriously, I’ve been there.

6-Don’t knowingly put us behind the eight ball. Rights grabs, contracts, it’s okay, we can get beyond this now.

7-Answer your phone, or email, or mail, or text or IM or Skype or Facebook, or Twitter, or 1995 pager.

8-Detect and activate your sense of humor.

10-Know your photo history.

11-Realize that making pictures, for us, is way more than a job, or hobby.

Lynn Donaldson is a freelance photographer based in Livingston, Montana. She specializes in travel, food, architecture, and portrait photography.

Her reply:

1) I know you’re busy, but I LOVE it when you get back to me when I’m trying to schedule an appointment. Even a quick, “No,” is better than nothing at all.

2) I heart magazines who pay via direct deposit and photo editors who put invoices through immediately.

3) I love it when you want to see a wide take.

4) I love it when you notice my photo credit in some random publication and drop me a line telling me you liked my images.

5) I live in Montana and primarily cover the Northern Rockies, but I love it when you call and say, “Montana…that’s near Wisconsin, right?!”

6) I LOVE CRITICISM! I need it to improve. Yes, give me compliments and tell me where I nailed it, but also tell me where I didn’t. Tell me what you’d like to see more of, less of. Tell me where you see room for improvement.

7) When I was first starting out, one of the most valuable pieces of advice a photo editor at the New York Times gave me was that the “heads” of my subjects were too uniform. “Stop giving me heads that are the same size no matter what focal length your using! Give me giant heads that fill the frame. Give me tiny heads I have to search for…” What a smart/visual way to describe what I needed to change. I still hear her voice every time I shoot!

8) I love it when you compliment my captions.

9) I love it when you thoughtfully evaluate my work. I once went to a portfolio review at the Art Director’s Club in New York. Jim Franco was at Travel & Leisure at the time, and in the mere 7 minutes I spent with him, he changed my life! As he flipped through my book he said, “I think you really respond to a square viewfinder,” and he encouraged me to push myself with my Hasselblad and send him shots as I progressed. I did, and he gave me my first assignment a year later.

10) I personally like a lot of direction. I want to make you happy! But I also I love it when we brainstorm together and bat ideas back and forth about how to approach a subject. And…back to feedback….after the story’s filed, I love it when you take the time to tell me what worked best and least. It’s the only way I’ll improve!

11) I love it when I walk into your office and see my promo piece on your wall. Even if mine isn’t up there, I love looking at what you respond to.

12) I love when you have some of your OWN work on your wall!

13) I love it when I meet with you and you get fired up about a shot and tell me I need to call your friend at Magazine X. And sometimes, you even pick up the phone and call her on the spot . When you do that, big hearts shooting out of my eyes!

14) If I’m shooting for you, I love when you give me your cell number and tell me to call you if I have any questions or problems. It’s nice to know you’re accessible.

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