Expert Interview: How to Hire a Photographer for Your Lawn Care or Landscaping Business (and the Cost)

Whether you're just joining us for the first time or you've been watching the videos in this series about photography for lawn care or landscaping businesses, you probably have a few questions:

  • How do I know if I'm hiring a really great photographer?
  • How much is this going to cost?

Those are great questions and we're going to give you some answers today. Stay tuned.


(Check out the video with description, resources, comments, etc. on YouTube)


Video Transcription

Chad:  Hey, what's up? It's Chad with Landscape Leadership. Today, I'm here with my friend Mike Miville, who does a bunch of photography for our clients, all in the lawn care and landscaping industry.

Mike, these are really great questions and one that I think you and I talk about a lot personally. How do you know if you have a good photographer? It used to be really hard for me and I think it's especially difficult for lawn care and landscaping company owners to know what makes a professional good. And do they need to have shot lawn and landscaping in the past? And if they didn't, how do they know if they're getting the right person?

How to Hire a Great Photographer for Lawn Care or Landscaping Images

Chad:  There's just a lot of questions around this. So what are some tips that you could give our viewers about how to measure the professional you're looking at to see if they're really good?

Mike:  That's a good question. I wish I had an answer! [both laugh]

When you're looking to hire a professional photographer, you have to look at a range of what they've done before. A photographer may just have only a few kinds of work on their website and you may think that's all they do, right? Sometimes it is. And sometimes that's what they just want to project and they have shot other things.

So if you're hiring a photographer based on a recommendation and their website doesn't have something in your industry, you can ask them if they have anything else in their portfolio that is more in line with what you're looking to have done.

Chad:  Yeah, I think back to when you and I first started talking. I've known Mike for 10 to 12 years now and I knew he was gifted because every time I'd see one of his pictures I was kinda like, "WOW...that's a good image." And I wasn't really sure what was going on in my brain. So when you and I first started talking a while ago, seven to eight projects, I said, "Do you have any of these?" And you said, "I don't." 

I think that's common. [Mike nods in agreement.]

But one of the things that you had images of was exterior photography and I think that was easily translated to see what you could do for us. 

Mike:  Yeah. I mean I've worked a lot with models and people that weren't models in situations very similar to what Chad was looking to do. And I had done a lot of architectural photography and stuff outside. So I knew what we needed to do to capture great photos for these clients. I was able to provide some images that were along the lines of what you were looking to do for your clients.

But we have a different relationship. You might not have that same relationship with a photographer you're looking to hire. Maybe they don't seem exactly along the lines of what you're looking to do, but they're just a little bit more based in commercial marketing photography, or exteriors, or whatever. Asking those questions to a photographer, if they have other examples, is a really good way to go.

Chad:  So we have a unique angle, in the fact that we're a marketing agency that's doing a lot of things for our clients. And then we engage with a photographer to help us accomplish those goals through visual assets. A lot of times lawn care and landscape company owners, well...they know somebody...

Maybe they have someone on their team and their spouse is a "photographer" or their kid is just bought a new camera. You have to resist that temptation to oversimplify this because of what could end up happening. A lot of times when I talk to these company owners, and they've had these experiences in the past, they're really frustrated. They got 20 images out of a two day shoot! They've gotten things that were too cutesy and too artsy and they weren't really about what they wanted to photograph.

Or, the photographer just had a list of addresses. They just kind of showed up and took what they felt like should have been taken. So I think there should be some red flags and some things that kind of make you a little bit suspicious.

So if you're talking to a photographer, it's someone you knew or you got a referral from, what are some of the things that might make you have some pause to say, wait a minute, what's going on here?

Mike:  Yeah, a couple of things that should give you hesitation...If you're talking to a photographer you've never worked with before, and they don't ask you questions, how do they know what to photograph or what you want out of the photographs?

After they ask all these questions, how much time they think it should take? They should give you a good estimate of that. Is going to take them hour? It's going to take them two hours? That's better than them just saying stuff like, "Oh yeah, we offer a day of shooting for X, Y, Z..."

Well, what's a day of shooting?! Are you going to get three properties, are you going to get 10, or one? Who knows?! They should be asking you questions that lead to those answers.

Chad:  Yes. We talked in the previous video about why the importance of a plan really just ends up paying off for you in the long run. Having that schedule, what's going on, the people that are involved, that sort of thing. And so if a photographer is not exploring that with you, that's a huge red flag.

You referenced time, that's probably the primary factor of what photographers used to give a quote and an estimate. So that transitions into our next part of this. How much does this cost?

How Much Does a Professional Photographer Cost?

Chad:  I've seen, WOW...I've seen the gamut and it doesn't mean that cheap is bad and expensive is good, because I've had some clients tell us they paid professional photographers $8,000 to $10,000 for a two or three day shoot and they didn't have much to show for it. They were really disappointed.

Or, they were able to get a decent amount of deliverables at the end of this, but it was a huge headache for them. The photographer got there and they didn't know what they're doing. There was stuff in the photography that they didn't want in there and they just felt like, "Yeah, we got some pictures, but there's probably 20% of them that are any good." So let's talk a little bit about how much does a good photographer cost?

Mike:  One of the things that we discuss are the deliverables. You're usually you're looking for a specific number of photos. We are trying to figure out how many good usable shots are going to get out of a shoot. Now I might go onto a set and we could have an hour to shoot stuff and I might get a hundred photos. And out of those a hundred photos maybe I feel like 10 to 15 are usable. So I usually give Chad a range. If we have a full day shoot it's going to be 50 to 150 photos.

Chad: You give me way more though! Under promise, over deliver!

Mike:  It has to do with those other factors that we talked about in earlier videos. Is the place already prepped and propped before we get there? Is the homeowner or models going to be in the shots? Because that adds more time having drive, talk to the models, and get them comfortable on camera, etc.

Chad:  We've talked about that drive time. Sometimes we've had shoots where there were four properties all one block. We've got a ton of pictures and then we had other places when there was a 45 minute drive in between locations. If you're paying for a photographer's time, you're also paying for the time they're driving to your location and when they're driving home. That's what you're paying for.

So what's a range? What could somebody expect to pay a great photographer?

Mike:  I mean, here's the other thing when you're paying for a photographer. You have equipment that's a cost a photographer will factor in. Just like you have insurances and things like that, they have their costs.

So a day rate for a decent photographer is usually around $1,500 to $3,000 per a day. And if you get somebody that's saying, they can shoot for $500 a day, they're more than likely not full-time professional photographer. You're probably going to have to deal with looking at timeframes around their schedule because they probably have to go to work. They may not be entirely focused on you and they could also not be focused on those photos so you may end up with questionable stuff.

Chad:  I think you posted this a while ago on social media and, and it's kinda snarky, but there's so much truth in it. You posted, "When you pay my rate, you're not just paying me for my time now. You're paying me for all years before for now, when I figured out how to do what I do."

I think that's true because if you think about landscaping or lawn care, everybody has a different variable hourly rate. And even within that, there's materials, there's these things that drive the cost, but there's expertise. It drives the cost. And again, it's not to say just because somebody is more per hour, it means they're better. But if someone's extremely low, it might raise some questions.

Should I Also Hire a Marketing Agency for My Lawn Care or Landscaping Company?

Chad:  In addition to paying for a photographer, you have to ask yourself the question, "Does it make sense for me to pay a marketing agency on top of that?" That's hard for some people to grasp. Why would I pay a marketing agency? I could just go right to the photographer. I get these properties lined up, I stage them out, I make sure they're ready.

Well, there's a lot of things that you know Mike... that I save you a ton of time because I already know. Lawns and's my life, over and over...

You've said I've saved you hours and hours. We talk about some of your other clients and other industries and the legwork that you have to go into to get these locations to where they're supposed to be and do that. So, there's definitely value in hiring a marketing agency.

Mike:  Yes.

Chad:  It will cost you more money to use a marketing agency. But what ends up happening, in the long run, is you end up benefiting from this by getting images that you really want and ones that match pieces of your overall marketing strategy. And when they're on location with your photographer....I do a lot of stuff, too. I'm sweeping walks, etc..

Mike:  You know all of the trees and grasses and all of the bushes and things like that to help me understand what you need for your clients' images. You say, "Oh we want to talk about pest control on this type of bush!" Well, you know all of things you're looking for. I don't know!

Chad:  Yes, "Mike, flip this over and look underneath here, there's a really good shot of this." And so we get all these crazy shots that you never would know. Is that a plant or is that a weed? No, that's a weed, dude. Don't take a picture of that. Most homeowners wouldn't know it either.

Your eye is really keen, but I'll see weird things. I remember that one location we were on in Florida where there was  a partially wet area of the front paver driveway. So I grabbed the hose and we just misted it it down and made it all even. Two sets of eyes are better than one and three's even better. So that's why it's great when a client is on location, someone from the marketing agency, and the photographer, that's ideal.

It just saves a ton of time and there's a lot of times I play that role of a director where I'm directing clients to do certain things and you're telling me certain things you want them to do. It's a nice relationship where we maximize the time together.

I feel like it's money well spent. And then if there's subsequent shoots, like we go down the first time together, then maybe you're okay to go on the next time. The client knows what to expect, they know how it's going to go. 

Mike:  Sometimes you think you're saving money by directly hiring a photographer and not the marketing agency. But if you hire both, you get somebody who knows what they're looking for in your strategy, as well as a photographer. That's where it comes together and that saves time of me just wandering around and taking shots of things that you might not use or need when the marketing person just knows.

Chad:  Yeah. There've been times 20 seconds of your time means I have images for a blog posts two years from now.

As you tell your clients all the time, you get what you pay for. Hopefully this glimpse into our conversation about hiring a professional photographer for your lawn care or landscaping company educates you on some of the things you should look for and to consider if you should engage a marketing agency to help in that process. Thanks a lot. I hope you have a really great day. 


Want regular, practical tips like these to take your lawn care or landscaping business to the next level? Then consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. Or if you'd rather read our in-depth articles on Landscape Leadership's website, you can also subscribe to our blog   

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