The keys to a happy relationship between photographerS and bloggerS

By Mithra Ballesteros

Hi! I’m Mithra (on the right). Before launching my blog and shop eighteen months ago, I knew that great images would be integral to attracting a readership. But I hadn’t worked with a professional photographer in over twenty years.

Then I met Renn (in the hat). She was in photography school and had little experience working freelance with clients. When I interviewed her, she said she would be a good fit for my work because she enjoyed the art of problem-solving in a studio. I loved that answer!

Now we are nearly three years into a great working relationship. We have learned so much together. I wrote this post believing that other bloggers might be interested in what we have figured out.

In this post, I will justify why a long-term partnership is better for both blogger and photographer. I’ll share the keys to a happy long-term relationship and some shortcuts. I’ll list warning signs of a dysfunctional relationship. And I’ll give you the bottom line on when to tweak an arrangement, when to let things ride, and when to say adios amiga

Plus, I’m sharing a downloadable PDF of our handy Photo Log.   

Four Reasons Why a Long-term Partnership is Better for Blogger and Photographer:

1. Cohesive Aesthetics

Ideally, a blog’s photographic style is so consistent that it becomes recognizable to its readers. Creating a joint aesthetic requires the blogger and photographer to experiment with elements that are very technical. Things like lighting, color balance, composition, saturation, set design, etc. Getting over that aesthetic hump is an investment of time. Who wants to repeat that process?

2. Ease of Communication

When blogger and photographer know each other’s likes and expectations, the workflow is more fluid and efficiencies can be captured. A good crop of images is achievable in less time.

3. Rent vs. Own

I don’t like shooting on my own. I cannot be both photographer and stylist at the same time without the image suffering in quality. On the other hand, I can’t afford a full-time in-house photographer. Hiring Renn as my permanent freelance photographer is a happy compromise.

4. Security that Reduces Stress

As a blogger or a small business owner, the myriad of responsibilities induces stress. I am so glad that this one very important area of my workload is absolutely handled. It frees up my brain to worry about – ugh – SEO. 

Mithra and Renn’s Secrets to a Happy Partnership:

1. Professionalism

From the get-go, Renn always showed up on time, with a working camera, extra batteries, and all necessary equipment. On my end, I tried to prepare sets in advance and I always had a yummy meal ready for our break. On the day she submits photos, she also submits an invoice, which I immediately pay in full. We set dates far in advance and we stick to them.

2. Collaboration

We are each other’s assistants. She helps me move furniture. I hold her reflectors. We are each other’s extra set of eyes. We know what needs to be done and we don’t get caught up in strict lines of demarcation over responsibilities.

3. Patience with the Process

Even though we hit it off right away, it took time to reach the level of efficiency at which we now operate. We are still tweaking the process – the way we handle production and post-production deadlines, the storage and delivery of images. We are improving every month.

4. Fun

I think this one should be first on the list because without it, why bother?  

The Warning Signs of a Dysfunctional Fit:

1. A nagging voice in the back of your head that the photographer or blogger doesn’t ‘get you’. This gulf in communication can and will bite you in the butt.  

2. A difference in aesthetics is a big deal. There isn’t a lot of room for compromise on this one. What can I advise on determining if you have a similar aesthetic? Nothing other than, “You’ll know it when you see it.”

3. Lack of follow-through even when communication is effective and expectations are clearly understood. Or unprofessional behavior such as missed deadlines, late payments, lack of preparation, substandard work.

Bottom Line: The Three Legs of a Freelance Stool

Not everything will be perfect. But there are three legs to a freelance stool: good communication, a similar aesthetic, and professionalism. If you have three of those legs, you’re golden. Two of those legs? You can still produce great work while also improving the weak leg. But if you have only one leg of that stool? Time to say Adios!

Shortcuts!

1. Know your photo dimensions in advance. Compose your shots with some room to spare for cropping. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of creating a set, shoot it horizontally, vertically, pulled back, and tight.

2. Paint color is tricky! How color looks to the naked eye is not how it appears through a camera lens. Take a photograph of a color swatch under studio lights to get a feel.

3. Box lights are versatile and not much more of an investment than a light box.

4. Create a system from the beginning for naming and storing photos. Whether you organize based on date, color scheme, intent of use, or some other category, the system should be logical for your needs.

Here is the Photo Log that I devised for our shoots.

Thanks for reading to the bottom! I hope you found some value in our experience.

Mithra Ballesteros is a shopkeeper at FinderNotKeeper.com where she sells instant, pop-up collections of vintage art and objects. She blogs about her small business adventures at TheBubbleJoy.com. Renn Kuhnen lives in Milwaukee and works full-time in the photography studio for The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. She maintains a thriving freelance photography business on the side.  

Photo Credits: Renn Kuhnen