What To Look For In A Good Product Photographer
So you have products you’d like to sell. Great! But now you have to figure out how to best showcase your products in a way that will tempt people to buy. You might be tempted to just whip out your iPhone and take some shots. After all, smartphone cameras are better than ever, right?
Well yes, but the challenge of good photography isn’t necessarily the quality of the camera. Even for commercial purposes, photography is an art form. Doing it well requires a good eye, knowledge of equipment, experience with lighting and composition, and the ability to deliver a final photo that’s primed to sell. To do that, you need more than just a good camera. You need a good product photographer.
Why Should You Hire a Professional Product Photographer?
Product photography is about more than just showing off the features of a product. It’s about creating an instant feeling of “I must have that!” with consumers. Poor product photography, especially on e-commerce sites, can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce.
The fact is, consumers are very visual. How a product looks online greatly affects their buying decisions, in some cases carrying more influence than descriptions or reviews.
63% of consumers said images are more important than product descriptions, and 53% found images more important than ratings. – Crowdriff
Poor lighting, bad composition, lack of angles, unappealing setting, misrepresentation—all of these factors can leave a negative impression on potential buyers. And if the product they receive doesn’t look like it does online, it could cost you the sale in the long run. One study found that 22% of returns are because consumers receive a product that looks different than expected.
Good product photography sets the right expectations from the get-go, building trust and credibility between brands and consumers. Done well, it creates a huge competitive advantage for you.
What Does a Product Photographer Do Anyways?
Anyone with a camera (or smartphone) can point and shoot. But if you and a professional product photographer were to take a picture of the exact same item, it would be clear what a difference a true professional can make.
Before taking a single snap, product photographers must consider a hundred little details, each of which can affect the final output. And while much can be done in the editing process, you want to start with the best possible photo and improve from there.
Setting – What kind of environment will show off your product the best? Plain background, colored background, studio setup, real-life background, reflective surface—all of these options (and more!) must be considered.
Lighting – The right light can set the right tone for the product and reflect your brand accurately. Options can range from studio lighting to natural light, to heavy shadows.
Composition – This is another area where a real professional viewpoint shines, especially if you’re posing multiple products together or with other items. Good composition is a balance between art and science. Knowing how and where to position the product in the frame and the edit can make or break a great product photo.
Editing –Your product photographer will use the editing process to select the best shots, adjust composition and lighting, and apply any other stylistic or branded treatments to the photos to ensure consistency. Your photography will also know how to best size and crop depending on your final output, such as online store versus social media.
How Do I Hire a Good Product Photographer?
You don’t want to just hire any photographer for your product photography. Photographers often develop a niche expertise in different areas of professional photography. For example, you wouldn’t want to hire a photographer known for his or her black and white landscape images to take up-close pictures of your jewelry.
In general, here’s the best way to hire a good product photographer:
- Compile a large list of 10-20 potential photographers (Photobooker is a great source!)
- Research their portfolios and narrow it down to your top 3-5
- Request pricing/rates based on your project scope
- Talk to your finalists to determine the best fit
- Work out the contract and schedule
- Enjoy the shoot!
Photobooker makes it easy for you to source and narrow down good product photographers by geography and general rates. From there, we have some additional things you’ll want to keep in mind while researching potential photographers.
Look for (or ask for) examples of similar work.
Once you’ve narrowed your search to product photographers, you’ll want to look for ones who have experience shooting in a similar style to what you’re looking for. For example, think about the difference between the photography style for Apple products versus Old Navy. Very different styles, setup and output. Even if they don’t have something on their portfolio, if you like them, it’s worth reaching out and asking if they can send you samples.
Ask about their process from pre-production through to final delivery.
This will help you feel comfortable about the photographer’s experience and let you know what to expect. Treat this like an interview. Ask them how they feel about having the client on set and giving input. What you’re looking for here is personality fit and communication style—you want a photographer who will be your partner in this project, listen to and consider your feedback and concerns, and make the best possible creative decisions along the way.
If you have a lot of products to photograph, see if they have experience managing a large-scale project of a similar size.
If you have a large set of SKUs to get through, make sure you find someone who has handled a major shoot. Experience pays off big in the long-run here. The organization and management skills required for a large shoot are much different than a small shoot. Ask them to talk about their process for working efficiently and effectively.
Ask about their fee structure and what’s included in the rate.
We’ll get into pricing more in the next section, but this is a great question to ask, even if you aren’t looking for exact numbers at this point. You’ll want to know generally if their rates include things such as travel expenses, studio or equipment rentals, insurance, or additional staff/assistants.
How Much Does a Good Product Photographer Cost?
The answer is: it depends.
At Photobooker, we see the hourly rates ranging from $50 to $400, with most falling between $150 – $250. The fact is, there are a lot of considerations that go into scoping the project, all of which can affect what a good product photographer charges.
When talking to photographers, it’s important for you to clearly outline your project’s needs, style and expectations. This will help the photographer understand exactly what you’re looking for so they can price accordingly. Here are some of the variables that factor into the final cost:
- Number of products you need to be photographed and how many images you need of each photo – This will affect not only the length of the shoot but the time needed for editing.
- Types of products and desired style – For example, shiny watches are trickier to shoot than, say, a shoe and will require more shoot time and editing time.
- The photographer’s experience – Do you take a chance on a cheaper, less experienced photographer or pay more for proven expertise?
- The need for studio or equipment rentals – Some shoots have specific setup and equipment needs that the photographer may not have on hand, such as additional lighting or props.
- Usage rights – More on that below
The last point is something people often forget to account for when hiring a product photographer. Even though the photographer is being hired by you to take the pictures, they own the copyright to those images; you are simply leasing access to them. Depending on how your photos will be used (print, digital, both) and how long you want to have the rights to use the photography (a few years vs. in perpetuity), a photographer’s rates may vary.