Hiring an associate photographer is exciting and scary all at once. On the one hand, needing to hire extra help means your wedding photography business is growing! On the other hand, you have to entrust your business and reputation to another photographer who will shoot weddings in your absence. It’s a great way to expand your clientele, but it can be tough to give up that much control. Some business owners will wonder, How do I hire the right person for the job?
Finding an amazing associate photographer is possible as long as you keep your business goals in mind. You should hire someone who not only gets your operation style but can grow in the direction your business is headed.
Need some tips to determine exactly who fits the bill? Here are seven rock-solid ways to make sure you’re hiring an associate photographer you’ll love.
photo by Little Mohr Photography
Use your network to find the best associate photographers
They say networking is the best way to get hired, but it’s a good way to find talent too. If you’re having a hard time finding an associate photographer, lean into your network of photographer friends. Because they’re familiar with you and your work, they’ll have the insight to recommend a good match.
Another resource you can tap into is your network of second shooters. They make excellent associate photographers because they know what it takes to successfully photograph a wedding from start to finish. Plus, many are established photographers in their own right. So if you’ve booked a second shooter or two in the past, reach out to the ones that impressed you. They could have the winning combination of warmth, leadership skills, and shooting chops to help you expand your business.
Hire someone who matches your personality
What’s the tone of your wedding photography brand? Do you present yourself with a warm, bubbly vibe when communicating with clients? Or is your approach more laid-back and calming?
Whatever the answer may be, hiring an associate photographer who can express their expertise in your brand’s voice is key. Because in your absence, an associate photographer represents all the things your business stands for. So whether you value outstanding client communication or empathetic hospitality, finding the right person to embody your mission is important.
That being said, accurate representation is just one benefit of hiring your twin flame. It also creates a great partnership. Another like-minded individual will be easier to connect with and train, which saves you time.
photo by Elk & Fir
Hire someone with a similar shooting style
To keep your work consistent, find an associate photographer with a similar shooting style. In the long run, this will make some important tasks easier for you.
For example, when your associate delivers RAW files from a wedding, editing will be faster if they shoot in a style you’re familiar with. You won’t have to spend extra time getting the shadows and highlights right because each image would be captured with your post-production process in mind. So as much as possible, browse an associate photographer’s portfolio to see if their work meshes with your own. Do their shots land somewhere near your mark or would you have to lead them too far from their own style?
You can always bring an associate photographer up to speed on how you operate. However, your best bet is finding someone you’re already on the same page with.
Hire someone who’s passionate about shooting the type of weddings you book
Having a similar shooting style is one thing, but there’s another key trait to look for in an associate photographer – a passion for shooting the type of weddings you book.
Most photographers can shoot a range of weddings, but they might specialize in just a few. They might be passionate about shooting quirky, alternative weddings that’ll be talked about for years to come. Or they might like to keep things classic, focusing on modern weddings with a tried and true standard – huge white cakes, chapel ceremonies, and traditional dresses and tuxedos. And even still, their passions can delve deeper into things like low-light photography at night weddings, elopements, or film photography in exotic locations.
If you specialize in shooting a specific type of wedding, make sure your associate photographer is both knowledgeable and passionate about that art form. And if you’re hiring multiple associates, it’s smart to build a team with diverse skills. That way, no matter what kind of wedding you’ve booked, you can send the right associate for the job.
photo by Emily Kaar
Have an associate photographer shadow you at your next wedding
One way to predict the success of an associate photographer is to observe how they work in the field. That can be as easy as shortlisting a few candidates, inviting them to your next wedding, and observing their strengths and weaknesses.
For a wedding appointment to go smoothly, photographers should be somewhat outgoing, as well as great communicators. They should give clear instructions while posing the wedding party and the couple. They should also have great wedding day etiquette, making sure they don’t detract from anyone’s experience. Look for these signs first. A talented photographer won’t do you much good if they can’t navigate the interpersonal demands of a wedding.
Then there’s the actual camera work. Is your potential associate focusing on detail shots, such as rings, cuff links, and bouquets? Or are they shooting the more human side of things – facial expressions, small groups, hugs, dancing? You might want a little of both, but it helps to know what kind of shooter you’re getting before hiring an associate photographer.
Give good feedback
If you do invite candidates to shadow you, be sure to give feedback on the shots they take. Give clear expectations of what you’re looking for, then observe how an associate photographer adjusts to meet your needs.
No one is going to match your style 100%, because no one can do what you do exactly the way you do it. But above all, you want to work with someone who’s coachable. And that means hiring an associate photographer who listens and applies the feedback you give them.
So if you tell an associate photographer that they’re shooting too close to subjects or cutting limbs out of the frame, give them the chance to course-correct. If their work improves, you’ll know you have someone who not only listens but handles detailed requests in real-time. That’s an important trait to have because, at weddings, flexibility is key!
photo by Michelle Chartrand Photography
Be ready to negotiate
Many associate photographers are established professionals. Some have clearly defined rates that they’ve earned over years of dedication and hard work, and these pay expectations may be firm. The only exceptions are newer photographers looking to build their portfolio or get more experience.
While it’s possible to negotiate pay, you may not have a ton of wiggle room with every candidate. However, some things are more negotiable, and you should be ready to accommodate some requests when hiring an associate photographer. That could include availability, scheduling, or task-based requests.
These concerns might come up when associate photographers have other priorities/interests. These could be:
- Keeping a primary, full-time job
- Not having to run a full-time business
- Enjoying the artistic part of photography (no management)
- Working in a team rather than alone
Depending on what an associate photographer’s longterm goal is, be sure to negotiate availability expectations or other small details that could impact your working relationship.
Hire the right associate photographer for your business
If you’re just beginning your search, good luck! The right hire for you is out there. Just make sure you tap into your network and keep your business goals top of mind.
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