I’m not a professional photographer and if Instagram is anything to go by, I’m in the minority. When thousands of pictures flood the internet every day, how do you make your photos stand out for your blog or social media?  Do you need a makeup team and professional equipment on hand 24/7, or is a smartphone all you need to get likes and retweets? And what about working with a photographer?

There are many valuable sources to find photography tips and ways to let your pics stand out. But in this article I wanted to talk specifically about finding a photographer to work with.

Some magazines require professional photos, and if you have the equipment and editing know-how then you are a step ahead of the game. Not only can you offer freelance writing to your clients, you can assure them of professional grade photos.

But for those with just a smartphone and basic cropping skills, learning how to work with a photographer is a must.

But what if you don’t have hundreds of dollars to compensate a photographer? That’s OK, I didn’t either when I needed to find a photographer to collaborate with. I reached out to a fairly new photographer who had just recently moved to the area. I looked at her photos online and checked out her business on Facebook. I contacted her and asked her if she would be interested, making it clear that I didn’t have anything more to offer past the potential of getting her pictures in print.

And she said yes. We met up and I explained the project to her and what kind of photos I was looking for. At first, I thought this was good enough.

Tip 1: Get firm guidelines from your editor for how many photos they typically require, along with dimensions, pixels, and content the photos will cover.

We set a date for getting together and photographing the location. It was a profile for a coffee shop, so naturally, we needed photos of the shop, interior, coffee, drinks being made, the staff behind the counter, that sort of thing. But, I neglected to include the coffee shop owners. I had done my interview with them, but I forget to ask when they would like us to come and photograph.

Tip 2: Schedule the shoot with the owners of whatever location you are planning to photograph. They will probably want to clean, organize, and highlight certain parts of their business, and prepare their staff.

That first day of photos it was a lot of guesswork because I wasn’t sure what exactly should be shot. I had an idea for about 5 photos, but the magazine wanted 20-25 to choose from.

Tip 3: Read through recent issues of the publication you are writing for to get an idea of photos and layout. Make a list of all the photos you are looking to get ahead of time and talk it through with your photographer and the owners. They will probably have suggestions for more photos as well.

Mock lay up, I am not an artist or photographer

I actually made a mock layout, just to help give me ideas for more photo possibilities. I knew what the article was about. I also knew I had no control over how the editor would place the photos, but just imagining the finished product gave me ideas for more photos and the kind of photos that would complement the article best.

When working with a photographer, make it a collaborative effort. Thank the photographer for their time and ask if there’s anything you can do in the meantime to pay them back. Get their full contact and business information so you can accredit them correctly, and tell them if there are any special editing or dimension requirements the editor gives you.

Working with a photographer might be a step outside of your comfort zone, but having that experience can help your future pitches and not limit where you look to send your queries.