Collaboration in design – working with photographers

Gardens are such an immersive experience, it’s hard to explain the feeling of being there; hearing and smelling and feeling the site. A good photograph goes a long way towards conveying some of that sense of place, however, through sensitive capture of light and shadow at the best time of day for the site, clever framing of views, colour and depth of field.

Vibrant photographs help to sell our work to prospective clients and collaborators in a portfolio, website, print and digital platforms and via awards and accreditations. From the Instagram algorithm, allegedly favouring a bright, sharp photo, to a beautiful image that convinces a panel of judges to visit, it pays to work with a professional.

When choosing a photographer for the first time, it’s worth looking in magazines and online at how their storytelling style resonates with your own style and your target audience. The top photographers tend to be busy and may ask for some shots of a garden before taking on a project, since they will hope to sell the photographs to magazines. This is great publicity for you too, of course, and a good photographer can be your best PR.

For awards submissions, it pays to plan ahead at the beginning of a project and take your own ‘before’ shots of where you think the key ‘after’ views will be, to describe the context for the judges. It is also worth having a diary to book shoots through the seasons to catch your planting year-round.

The most experienced photographers will know the views to capture, but a shoot list should include wide shots and views through, mood images, plus details of hard landscaping as well as planting. Landscape format is better for awards, and portrait is usually better for Instagram.

Photographers usually charge a fixed fee for the shoot and images. Some include use for all media in that fee, some for a bundle for social media, and some charge per image used, so it is worth being clear before you begin, and always credit their work when you use it.

Make sure that the gardeners as well as owners know the photographer is coming, so lawns will be mown and planting in tip-top condition. A few days before, go to check all is well, and on the day go to help out, and enjoy.

This article first appeared in the Garden Design Journal, January 2020 – advice for fellow garden designers page 44 (‘Been there, done that’) © Marian Boswall 2020