When a potential client looks at your portfolio, do the images show off your work? Do they convey the professionalism you feel you put into your work? Or are they cell phone images of floors before the job site was complete? Are the colors accurate? Can you see the floor through the glare from the windows? If you answered no, it might be the time to make sure the quality of your photography reflects the quality of your work. Here are some tips I would suggest for wood flooring pros.
1) Decide if you want 'good enough' or pro quality
These days everyone with a cell phone considers themselves a photographer, and no doubt you can take great pictures with a cell phone, especially newer ones, which have higher dynamic range (meaning they see greater detail in both light and dark areas). But there is still a dramatic difference between the results of a high-quality cell phone camera and a professional image shot with professional equipment by a professional photographer. (See the images below for a good demonstration.) Just like anyone can go out and rent a sander and sand a wood floor, anyone can grab a camera and take photos of interiors—with similar results. A good interior photographer will have a professional camera with the right lenses, a tripod and special equipment like a circular polarizer, which reduces glare and other hot spots that can make wood floors tricky to photograph. Professional equipment will also be better able to capture the texture of the wood, which is particularly important for the highly textured wood floors popular today.
My goal is to get images from my camera as close to perfect as possible, but the final polish for a professional photographer is having the Photoshop skills to edit the images. A modern pro is a Photoshop expert who will color-correct the final images so the colors in the images are true to real life. A pro will also make sure there isn't any distortion in the image from the camera angle or use of a wide-angle lens.
2) Choose the right specialist
Look for a photographer who specializes in interiors. Your cousin's friend may be an amazing portrait photographer, but shooting portraits and real estate are totally different subject matters. There's a different knowledge base required, and they require different equipment, too. Real estate is one of the fastest growing areas of photography, with many people entering the business, so check potential photographers' online portfolios to make sure you're happy with the quality of their work.
3) Communicate clearly about what you want
Once you've chosen a photographer, it's important that you communicate your expectations as clearly as possible. If you've seen specific images similar to what you want, share them. Try to describe what exactly you are looking for in as much detail as possible. Most interior photographers typically don't focus on the flooring, so if you want them to show more flooring in the images, be specific. Just because some detail or amazing craftsmanship may be obvious to you doesn't mean it is obvious to the photographer. Giving the photographer a detailed list ahead of time makes it easier for both of you, especially if there will be any special equipment the photographer needs to bring. If I'm talking with a client and realize they want something I can't produce, I'll refer them to someone who can.
Many people know about the "rule of thirds" when composing photos, but depending on what you want, that may not be suitable or appropriate when trying to show off an interior. Again, it's important to show your photographer examples so you'll be happy with the final result.
4) Understand that we are not movers or home stagers
Just like you don't show up to a job site expecting to have to move all of the client's furniture out, don't expect your photographer to rearrange the house or clean up its clutter. The photographer is hired to be the photographer, not the home cleaner or home stager. For liability purposes, I don't touch other people's stuff. Additionally, if there are residents in the home, their children, dogs and cats need to be contained while the photographer is there. I love dogs, but when I arrive alone at a house carrying a big strange object in my hand, they don't always love me. And once I was attacked by a cat while shooting alone in a home, and it was terrifying! I have a link on my website to my "home preparation page" so it is clear—in writing—what should happen to prepare the home before I arrive.
5) Be clear on licensing
This is an area that is confusing for photographers and clients alike. It's common these days for people to come across "photographers" who will charge you $50 for a CD of all their files. No one can make a living at that rate, and if you're looking to cut corners I'd suggest sparing yourself the hassle and just using your cell phone. If, instead, you're looking to build a relationship with a professional photographer who can be a reliable vendor for you in the future, you can typically expect to pay a location fee for the photographer's time and talent, and then a licensing fee on top of that for each image you use. How long can you use the images and what will they be used for? Will you get high-resolution files? Low-resolution versions for use on your website and social media? A professional photographer should make those details clear.
Of course, just like with wood flooring pros, when it comes to photographers you generally get what you pay for. You're paying a fellow pro for years of training and experience, professional equipment and the expenses of running a legitimate business. If you act like the type of client you would like to have and create a situation where it's easy to work with you, both of you will benefit.