How To Hire A Custom Stock Photographer

Today's post is all about how to hire a custom stock photographer. I am writing this post because I haven't seen much information on this topic. I have hired 2 stock photographers to create photography for both The Happy Arkansan and this blog. I feel that I can speak on this topic after having been through the hiring process 2 times. Working with stock photographers 1-on-1 is SO much fun and I love the process. Today we are going to delve deep to understand a number of topics related to hiring a custom stock photographer.

How To Hire A Custom Stock Photographer | As stock photography is becoming more popular people are trying to find ways around using the same basic stock photography. An excellent way to do that is to hire a custom stock photographer. Click through for my tips on hiring your very own stock photographer.

Things To Consider Before you Hire A Custom Stock Photographer

There are many variables that you need to consider before you decide which stock photographer you should put your money behind. I want to go through some of the most important variables to me when I was making my decision on which photographers to hire for my blogs.


The biggest thing that you must consider when hiring a stock photographer, in my opinion, is the style they have. Everyone can try out new styles and try to fit your branding, but if you can find a stock photographer that fits your style to begin with, your photos will turn out much better in the end. If you are paying money for this, you don't want it to be experimental. Instead, you want to know that the photographer that you have hired is good at this.

I feel that most people don't understand that there many types of photographers.

Some can focus on senior portraits, maternity photos, wedding photography, and so much more.

On top of that some photographers feel more comfortable with natural light while others love a good lighting kit.

Digging deeper some photographers may love to do a lot of effects and touching up while others try to do as little Photoshop as possible.

Photographers are not all alike and you need to know the strengths of their style before you sign up to work with them.

So how do you get a feel for their style?

Simple, get some of their images. Many custom stock photographers also have stock photography shops where they sell their one-size-fits-all style of stock photography. Many of those people also offer free images for email subscribers.

Find people you are interested in and look at and use their free and paid images. 

You may also check out their custom stock photography portfolio. Often, they have some of the images they have done in the past on their website in some form or fashion. They may also have some testimonials on their site. Use that information to see the kind of images that they deliver to their clients. You may even be surprised by the quality of the images in their client portfolio versus the ones they have in their one-size-fits-all gallery.

What are You Looking For When It Comes To Style?

So, there are a few things you should be looking for when it comes to their style:

  • Bright versus Dark: What style of images do they tend to focus on? If your brand is bright and happy you don't want a stock photographer who dims their work or uses dark filters as their style of choice. You can only help those kinds of images on your end so much so find a photographer who creates bright images if that matches your brand.
  • Models versus No Models: Obviously, if you want to have some pictures where people are working, reading, or doing other things that relate to your brand you would go with someone who uses models. If you would rather have things like styled desks, tablescapes, flatlays, etc. models probably won't be as important for you. It depends on what you want in your brand.
  • White Space: White space and how white that white space is may also be something you want to consider. For me, bright white images are very important, but for you that may not be a big deal. If you want your images to be edited in a certain way you want to make sure that your custom stock photographer has experience doing that for people.

Style, as I stated earlier, is so important. You can compromise on a lot of things, but style is the basis of how your images will look when you get them back, and you can't compromise on that.

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Custom stock photography is not cheap. You wouldn't want it to be cheap. There is so much that goes into creating the stock photography for your brand. The process is lengthy:

  • Conversing back and forth with you to create and find a plan of attack for your photos.
  • Buying any necessary props to go along with your shoot if they don't already own that particular prop.
  • Setting up test shots to make sure that everything looks good and adjusting as necessary.
  • Starting the actual process of shooting your custom stock photos.
  • Editing your stock photos and making sure they look good.
  • Sending low-res copies to you to make sure they look nice and see if any revisions need to be made.
  • After the revision process (if there is any to be done) sending you the link to download your high-res images and making sure that you are able to access them easily.

That is just a simplified version of a process that I know is much more involved and in-depth. So yes, someone who is spending over a dozen hours on this entire process is going to charge a pretty penny. 

On the other hand, the newer a stock photography place is, the cheaper they will probably be. Don't be surprised if the stock photographer you are wanting to use goes up in price quickly. Both of the stock photographers I use have different rates than when I initially worked with them. I don't blame them either, it takes a lot of time and energy to be a custom stock photographer.

Custom Stock Photography from Ivorymix

Custom Stock Photography from Ivorymix

Time Frame

Let me just say this right now: if you are not a patient person, custom stock photography is not inherently for you. It doesn't mean that you can't enjoy it and get custom photos made for your brand, it just means that it will probably be quite difficult for you. There is a wait time for stock photos. As we touched on in the price category, this is not an easy delivery process. They are batch creating and batch editing a lot of photos for you. Many stock photographers have jobs, other stock photos they need to create, other clients, etc.

You are important to them, but they cannot bend to your every wish.

Waiting for your stock photos to arrive will be very difficult, but you don't want to rush perfection. Rome was not built in a day and you don't want your photos to be either.

Amount Of Photos You Will Receive

This coupled with the price thought will help you determine bang for your buck. If you are paying $300 but you end up with 60 great photos you can use, that will be a lot better than paying $100 but only getting 10 photos. When you make your list of potential stock photographers, make sure that you consider their policy on the amount you receive as well as the possibility of purchasing more stock photos if you like more than you get.

Size Of Team

The size of the stock photography team is also important. Is this a 1-on-1 vibe or will you be working with an undisclosed member of their stock photography team? It is important to get a grasp for the type of team because this will help you be more clear about your goals.

If you know that you will be working strictly 1-on-1 with the owner of the stock photography company you know that the style you fell in love with will be easily achieved by the sole stock photographer.

On the other hand, if that person belongs to a team of photographers you may need to be more clear about your collaboration goals so they can find the best team member for what you need.

Custom Stock Photography from ColorUBold | Take a look at the full set here.

Custom Stock Photography from ColorUBold | Take a look at the full set here.

Number Of Revisions

If you are detailed with your vision and you trust the photographer, you hopefully won't need any revisions. In case you do, though, it is important that they are willing to do it. I never use my revisions, but there is a lot of comfort in knowing that they are there when I need them. 

How To Hire Your Custom Stock Photographer

Now, let's get into the hiring process. 

Hiring a custom stock photographer is usually pretty easy. It's usually a matter of taking all of those things listed above into consideration, finding the perfect stock photographer, and then checking out their process.

Usually you either put down a deposit (and the full amount before you get high resolution, downloadable versions of your stock photos) or you pay the entire price up front if it's a lower amount. Then you tell your photographer your vision, and he or she creates images based off that.

A few weeks after you stock photographer starts they will deliver the stock photos online through a website that allows you to see the images (but obviously not click and download them.) From there you approve, disapprove, and pick any images that you want to receive.

After you make the final payments (if necessary) your stock photographer will send you a very large (and beautiful) file via a place like Dropbox so you can download all of your amazing images.

Let's delve deeper, shall we.

How To Translate Your Blog's Visual Vision

Translating your vision is so important when it comes to creating the best blog pictures. Essentially, you want your stock photographer to be able to capture your blog's essence in photographs.

Depending on the stock photographer, it may be as simple as telling them your thoughts or as complex as a survey. Depending on how long your stock photographer has been in business (and how automated their process is) you will probably get a different thing each time.

When I worked with Kayla of Ivorymix she had a lengthy survey for me to fill out. I was also able to send her a couple of things to go along with that survey so I ended up sending her the brand and mood boards that were created for The Happy Arkansan as well as my The Anatomy of The Happy Arkansan Pinterest board. Here is a peak of my boards for The Happy Arkansan that were designed by the gorg and talented Bri of XXO Bri when she designed my site last year. Here is an example of one of the boards I sent.

Some brand board inspiration that I sent to Kayla of Ivorymix

Some brand board inspiration that I sent to Kayla of Ivorymix

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On the other hand, when I worked with Jasmine of ColorUBold, I didn't have as much to go off of because I didn't have nearly as much branding done with this blog. Instead I sent her a quick collage of stock photos that I liked. I used stuff from her collection that I knew she could mimic as well as stuff from other websites that I adored. I also sent her my blog colors and color codes so she could match those during the stock photography process.

Custom stock photography inspiration that I sent to Jasmine of ColorUBold.

Custom stock photography inspiration that I sent to Jasmine of ColorUBold.

Your inspiration needs to be as intense as the stock photographer needs to create an excellent set for you. Sometimes, you are just in tune with your stock photographer and you just need a sentence and a photo. Other times you may need to delve deeper. It's all about striking the best balance.

Be Clear About Your Photo Expectations

If you want models, say you want models. On the other hand, if your photographer is used to working with models, and you don't want models, you need to be clear about that up front.

Expectations are important for any working relationship. If you don't set at least a few goals for your work, you may not be able to come to terms with what your stock photographer is handing back. If you are not clear with your instructions, your stock photographer will have to go with their gut feelings.

Even if you vet your photographer from here to the Moon and back, you may still get photography you are not proud of if you leave them to it.

This is not to say that stock photographers are bad, it's to say that no one understands your vision like you. They definitely don't understand it if you don't let them in on it.

Give Your Email Daily Attention

I cannot stress this point enough. You need to be paying daily attention to your email. Stock photographers are on a deadline. They won't to be able to deliver the best stock photos to you as quickly as possible if you aren't keeping up. Help them out by being attached to your email.

Being attached to your email allows you to answer questions, approve props, and more as quickly as possible. Stock photographers are busy and shoot days need to go off without a hitch. Be there for your photographer when they need you.

Let Your Stock Photographer Work

Last, but certainly not least, let your stock photographer work.

Please do not make a habit of "checking in" on your photographer throughout the process.

A check-in at the end of your photographers deadline is okay, but multiple check-ins throughout the entire process is a no-go.

You will have plenty of time for revisions if they are necessary after your photographer shares the stock photos with you.


This month, since our focus is on stock photography, I wanted to give one special reader the chance to win a year long membership to one of my favorite stock photography companies. Jasmine from ColorUBold has an amazing stock library. I am giving one lucky winner a year's access to this awesome library.

I love using Jasmine's photos and I know you will too. Entering this giveaway is super simple. Just use the widget below to enter:


Hiring a stock photographer can be a great way to share your brand's vision. It is important to consider a lot of variables before you hire your perfect stock photographer. I hope that this article has given you great insight into what you should be focusing on.

Midweek Motivation: You Are Fearless

Happy Wednesday

It's time for your weekly dose of motivation on Amanda Cross Blog. This series is here to be the kick in the butt you need each week to get over hump day and get excited about your blog once again. Feel free to check out past Midweek Motivation posts after you get done with this one for even more motivation. This week we are chatting about the fact that you are pretty freaking fearless my friend.

Midweek Motivation: You Are Fearless | Wednesday doesn't have to be a  bad day. Get your hump day blogging motivation. This week we are chatting about how to be fearless in pursuit of the things that set your soul on fire and why you need to address your fear in order to succeed in your business.
Be fearless in pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.

You know, not that many people can do what you do. Not that many people can pick a blog topic, get a website started, and brainstorm or even put out content on the internet. Some people wouldn't even know where to begin when it comes to doing the amazing things that you are doing. They may even shudder at the thought of putting themselves out there like you are doing right now.

If you are really passionate about something, you gotta be fearless. Chances are you are doing this alone, if you are like me. I have people in my life who casually blog, but they don't blog to make this thing a full-time gig like me. I had to turn to the internet to find people like that. People who were fearless just like me. That doesn't mean I am going through this alone, I have my family and my friends who support me, but at the end of the day I am the one who has to be fearless. I have to pursue this dream with all my heart because at the end of the day I am the only person who is affected if I fail.

I refuse to let myself down, so I am going to be fearless instead.

Being fearless doesn't mean stupidity. It doesn't mean quitting a job because I want to pursue my dreams. I think so many people confuse fearlessness with making unwise decisions, but that simply isn't the case. I am fearless but I am smart. I can tell you are the same way.

You may work into the wee hours of the night trying to accomplish the last blogging task. You may work in your pajamas during the weekend and skip the party your friends are going to so you can work on your latest content upgrade. You know when you need to have fun, but you are also excited to work on the blog when the time comes.

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The thing about being brave is it doesn’t come with the absence of fear and hurt. Bravery is the ability to look fear and hurt in the face and say move aside, you are in the way.
— Melissa Tumino

When you are starting to see success from your blog (in whatever way you define success) it will be scary. You won't know whether you should continue or sulk along and choose another path. It's scary to move to the next level, and it can be so scary that we stay stuck in our current level. This is the time when you need to be the most fearless.

In order to be fearless you have to acknowledge the fear.

It's easy to pretend to be courageous, but we don't want to fake it until we make it. I want you to be able to truly be fearless. I want you to truly be courageous. Acknowledge your fear, your hurt, and your second thoughts. Write them down on a piece of paper and then work on a plan to defeat those fears. After you have acknowledged those fears by writing your plan, shred your fear paper, because that doesn't apply to you anymore. Work on putting your fear plan into action so that you can move on from those fears that you have.

acknowledge. address. move on.

Those four words should be your motto for getting over fear in your business. Once you get over you fear you can do so much more. You are a wonder woman, darling! 

How To Write A Post For SEO While Being Human

Welcome to the last installment for SEO Month on Amanda Cross Blog. I am so excited to bring you this installment because I think that it is an important skill to be able to write in a way that humans and search engines understand. 

Let's take a quick look at our SEO Roadmap. As you can see, all of our spots are filled in now. After you have finished reading this post go back to the other parts in this series so that you can see what else we talked about (and we talked about A LOT, because I definitely get carried away with the content I provide each week.)

  1. Search Engine Optimization Basics: Using Keywords
  2. How to Submit Your Site To Search Engines (And Why It's Important)
  3. How To Properly Use Backlinks & Social Media For SEO Growth
  4. Writing A Post For SEO While Being Human (You are here!)
How To Write A Post For SEO While Being Human | Creating  content for your blog readers while being SEO friendly can be difficult. Click through for my  best tips on creating content that resonates with people and search engines so that you can grow your SEO presence and your audience  as well.

Humans First, Let The Search Engine Catch Up Later

You need to write for your human friends first. We have talked about this at length, so if you saw my post about keywords you would know how smart search engines are. Once it sees real people commenting, visiting, and loving on your content it will know to place importance on your content.

You obviously care about search engines, but you can't give all your energy to worrying about ranking in the search engine. A big part of your energy needs to be spent on making sure that your content is readable and valuable for your readers. Search engines don't take too kindly to things like keyword stuffing, small uninformative content, etc. So your best bet is to write the best content that will impress the most people and let their love of your content drive your SEO growth.

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Be Valuable

Last week I asked you a very simple question: What value do you bring to the table? Hopefully you were able to answer that question with ease because you bring a lot of value to the table. People and search engines need to see the value in your site and a lot of that comes from the length of your content and how people engage with that content. 

I am a huge fan of giving y'all everything I have. Recently when chatting with someone for a freelancing gig I told them exactly that. My style is generous. That's why my tag line is Generous Content Creation and why I started the hashtag #GenerousCreative on Instagram a few weeks ago.

In my eyes, you have spent your time on my blog after finding it however you did, I want to leave everything on the table for you. I want to give as much of my knowledge to you as I can adequately put into words. This is not the strategy that everyone chooses to take, but it's my strategy, and I hope that is one of the reasons you love my blog so much.

Related: 10 Tips For Creating Remarkable Long-Form Content

Do your Keyword Research

During the very first post for SEO month we chatted all about keyword research and how to do this research for your blog. Keyword research is very important because it combines two elements--figuring out the kind of content that would work well for search engines as well as people. With those great keywords you will be seen more in search engines and help the people who are looking for the content around those keywords.

I am not going to give you another lecture on keyword research because we spent an entire blog post on this topic just a few weeks back, but I just wanted to let you know that keywords are very important to writing a great blog post that gets you noticed by search engines and people. 

Create Content Series/Categories (& Interlink Them All)

Next we are going to chat about creating series and categories. Google wants people who have authority on a topic. You showcase your authority by creating a large amount of content about a topic on your site. The best way to do this is to create a series around that topic or a blog category around that topic.

How To Create A Content Series

Creating a content series is simple and easy--it just takes a bit of planning on your part. Creating that series about SEO, Pinterest, or whatever topic that you talk about will help you create authority so you want to make sure that your content is well planned out. 

Creating a series is awesome, though, because it helps you get and stay in a certain mindset. Knowing that for the entire month of June I would be chatting about SEO helped me stay in the SEO mindset. Basically all the content I was consuming while writing these posts was SEO related and I was surrounding myself in SEO content. 

It also helped me write all of my content faster and I was done writing content by June 10th. I was scheduled three weeks out which felt amazing. Series are great because they thrive when you plan in advance which makes you more likely to get stuff done. When you create a series you have a roadmap to follow, which takes the guess work out of your day to day blogging life, if planned correctly.

Related Reading: 10 Steps to Writing a Successful Series on your Blog by ProBlogger

Why You Should Interlink Your Content

Whether or not you decide to create your series you still need to be interlinking your content. Interlinking is so helpful for any blog because:

It keeps people on your site longer

Once people realize that you have other great content about the same topic--they want to click over to that other content. Creating those links for people gives them a reason to fall in love with your blog because they know that your content is great. You want to show people a lot of content on their first visit because it can potentially spiral into return visits. So, if someone has a great time with their first visit, there will likely be a second and third visit.

It Creates Internal Links

Google looks at a lot of things when it determines your blog's worth for SEO ranking and part of that is internal linking. Internal links really help to showcase how your blog is structured and creating those internal links will help Google understand a lot about your site and the kind of content that you create.

Related Reading: The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking that Will Improve Content Marketing SEO by Kissmetrics

A Tip On Interlinking

Create a spreadsheet or document with all the titles and blog URLs for the content on your site. Take a few minutes while you are creating content to interlink content. Creating this spreadsheet is so helpful because it helps you get familiar with the content that you have produced. Sometimes we produce amazing content on autopilot and we forget that we have even created the amazing content that we have. I currently use a document because it's easy to add my latest article to the top of the content pile.

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speed Up your Site & Make It Pretty

Google looks at a lot of elements to your site and two of those things are site speed and time on your site. So, therefore, you want to speed up your site and make sure that it's not a giant eye sore. Not trying to be rude here, but people like pretty and fast sites. We are in a world of GO GO GO so you need to make sure that your website does the same. 

Google is amazing and they even have an easy tool that you can use to test your page speed for your blog. The test is performed on desktop and mobile which is so helpful because so many people use mobile now to look at blog content. Once you enter your URL it only takes a few seconds for the test to run and give you your blog's results and some ideas on how to optimize your blog's page speed.

Now for design, keep it simple y'all. Make sure that your font is easy to read, make sure your background is easy to see on (I suggest a white background and black main text personally.) If you are like me and you have a pretty colorful brand, you can add that to your brand in other ways (like with buttons, graphics, headers and subheaders, etc.) You want the bulk of your site to be easily readable so that you can attract your ideal audience.

Be Yourself

Last, but certainly not least, be yourself. People are attracted to your personality. People want to get to know the real you. If you are stuck in this mindset that you have to be like everyone else, you won't get anywhere in the blogging game, and you won't appeal to humans. If you spend your whole life trying to be like other people--what good will that do for you? What good would that do for your readers who depend on you to be you. If I fall in love with you as a creative, I don't want the watered down version of someone else.

Being yourself is easier said than done though, especially as a creative. We cling to these online communities because more than likely we don't have people like this in our lives. Get back in tune with yourself, even if you have to do that at the end of every single day. Do things that you love and talk like you like to talk. It's like zeroing yourself out every single day.

Before you perform any activity with a scale it's important to make sure that it is zeroed out. The scale has had all of these outside influences impacting it and you don't know exactly what has happened to it. As a precaution you take the time to get that scale back to zero and get it centered in performing it's task again. After your zero out a scale you can use it like normal.

Take that time to zero yourself out. You have been impacted by interacting with people in your niche and people in the Facebook groups you love. This is great, but it can cause you to be off-centered in what makes you unique. So discover that again every day and you will be golden.

This is important to SEO because people come back to your site, share your content, and engage with your content when they know that it is coming from a genuine and authentic place. The best way to win your readers trust is to be unapologetically you. Whether you are generous, blunt, hyperactive, etc. people want you!

Final Thoughts

We have come to the end of the road for Search Engine Optimization month on Amanda Cross Blog. We have chatted about tons of amazing topics and read thousands of words about SEO this month. I hope that these tips have been helpful for you as you discover and grow your SEO presence online.

Please let me know what your favorite takeaway from SEO month was! I will see you again next Monday as we start a new series on the blog and this series is picture perfect.