Choosing the right architectural photographer

MLC Centre, Sydney, designed by Harry Seidler Associates. Photo by Rose Lamond.

MLC Centre, Sydney, designed by Harry Seidler Associates. Photo by Rose Lamond.

Just like your clients go through a decision-making cycle that includes many facets when choosing you as their architect, you also need to consider many things when selecting the right architectural photographer. Here are some things to consider.

Style and substance

One of the first things that will no doubt catch your eye about a photographer’s work is their particular style. Once you have a shortlist ready, peruse through their work and see what it is that you can pinpoint that you like. It could be colours, angles, mood, variety… the list goes on.

Build a relationship

Drawing back to the original analogy, the process of decision-making when you’re searching for the right photographer is not too dissimilar to when your clients are weighing up their options.

One of the most important things is, of course, the relationship you build with them. Having mutual respect and understanding will make for a much better outcome. It also means that you can continue to build on this relationship as you continue to produce more work.

Unlike the architect and client relationship, which often brings with it a long design and construction process, shooting your project will take up anywhere from a half day to multiple days spread over a longer period. But even though it’s a shorter period of engagement, being able to communicate and get along is a big factor in whether you’ll be happy with the final outcome.

Federation Square, designed by Lab Architecture. Photo by Jon Tyson.

Federation Square, designed by Lab Architecture. Photo by Jon Tyson.

Price plays a part

Any savvy business person knows that price is a huge driver in the decision-making cycle. To neglect it would be foolhardy. But rather than letting it be the lynchpin in your final choice, look for alternative ways to get what you want.

If the architectural photographer you really want to commission is outside of your price range, speak to them about how they might be able to still shoot the project at a reduced rate. This may mean that you end up with a smaller bucket of final selects, or that you only shoot the key part of the entire project. Negotiation and compromise are key.

But don’t forget there are cases of ‘getting what you pay for’. For example, if you plan to use these images for awards’ entries and are trying to show the scale and breadth of your project, without a full suite of all areas you may find that you’re not able to communicate that project effectively to the jury and therefore limit your chance of winning.

Just as architects have set their rates according to experience and expertise, likewise architectural photographers have rates based on their ability and often their network to the media and others. As you’d imagine, photographers that are frequently published in the likes of Belle, Vogue, Architecture Australia or Indesign, can call for a higher rate as their work is more sought after.

Although the price may be the final factor that helps you choose the right architecture photographer, don’t let it be the only one.

Drone of city, photo by Scott Szarapka.

Drone of city, photo by Scott Szarapka.

Tech or special needs

What exactly is your brief calling for? Is it a simple series of exterior shots? Or a combination of interior, exterior and drone with video?

Depending on this will also inform who you choose to shoot your project. Many architectural photographers are also very capable of shooting interiors, but be sure before locking anything in. Don’t forget to also be sure that your chosen photographer can deliver on all parts of your brief. Not getting what you’re looking for the first time can present a costly exercise in re-shooting. This could mean finding another time with the right weather and going through the motions of getting client approval and styling all over again.

At the end of the day, selecting the right architectural photographer will come down to a matrix of requirements that you’re looking for – cost, likeability, style. It also gives you the opportunity to put yourself in the shoes of your clients. Is there anything you could change to make that decision-making process easier for your own clients?

Aleesha Callahan