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.