3 Options for Outsourcing Your Product Shots

If you need product shots you either decide to set up a do-it-yourself product photography studio or you outsource to a service provider. In this post I outline the pros and cons of 3 approaches to outsourcing your product shots.

If you are still not sure whether outsourcing is right for your business, I recommend you read this post – In-house vs. Outsourced Product Photography – 10 Questions to Ask.

If you have made the decision that do-it-yourself is best for your business, read this post – How-to Set up Your DIY Product Photography Studio.

3 Options for Outsourcing Your Product Shots

There are basically 3 options to outsource your product shots:

  1. Contract with a local product photographer – send your products to their studio
  2. Contract with a product photography service provider – send your products to their studio
  3. Contract with a product photography service provider that offers on-site solutions

Option 1 – Local product photographer – send products to their studio

This option involves contracting a local product photographer. Below are the steps in the process:

  1. Search for a product photographer in your local area that a) has a studio that can handle your products and b) has the required skills and experience to complete the project successfully. Read this post for the skills you should be looking for in a product photographer.
  2. Create a list of products that require product shots. This list will be used to pull products from inventory and to guide the photographer.
  3. Ship the products to the photographer’s studio.
  4. The photographer captures the product shots and edits the images (this may or may not be part of the contract).
  5. The products are returned to you.
  6. The final edited product shots are sent to you.

Pros

  • Convenience – it can be convenient to work with a local photographer as they are in the same city as you. When project issues arise you can visit their studio easily.
  • Low shipping costs – the costs of delivering products to a local studio is low.
  • Supporting local businesses – contracting to a local photographer supports local business.

Cons

  • Difficult to find – depending on the city, a skilled and experienced product photographer may be difficult to find.
  • Low productivity –local photographers are mostly one person operations that do not have the infrastructure to support large projects – their studio may be small and they may not have software to support high-volume projects.
  • Limited service –local photographers often supply the photography services but not the image editing services. This can impact cost and productivity.
  • Lack of software –since most local photographers are not specialized in product photography they have not invested in software to support the product imaging process.
  • Lack of image review – when image production management software is used on a product photography project you can review your products shots online before they are formatted. Local photographers do not have the budget to purchase this software and therefore are unable to offer image review.

Option 2 – Service provider – send products to their studio

This option involves outsourcing your product shots to a service provider. There are 3 main differences between a service provider and a local photographer:

  • Focus – the service provider specializes in product photography and has a track record of successfully capturing, editing, formatting and delivering thousands of high quality product shots to customers.
  • Scale – the service provider has built systems and procedures to complete large projects successfully. They have photography workflow management software, project management systems, and the capacity to capture, edit, QA, and format thousands of product shots weekly.
  • Production – the service provider has the experience, processes, systems and software to create thousands of product shots weekly.

Below are the steps involved in the service provider process:

  1. Search for a service provider that focuses on product photography, offers solutions that meet your needs, has a proven track record of successfully creating high quality product shots, and has software systems that streamline the product photography workflow.
  2. Create a list of products that require product shots. Send this list to the service provider and use it to pull products from inventory.
  3. Ship products to the service provider’s studio.
  4. Using Image Production Management software, the service provider will setup the project and upload product numbers, product categories, and image views (front, back, top, side etc.).
  5. The products shots are taken, edited and available online for review.
  6. The approved images are formatted and delivered to you.
  7. Products are re-packaged and returned to you.

Pros

  • Solutions – the service provider will offer solutions for you to choose from.
  • Organization –the service provide will have completed hundreds of product photography projects and will have systems to organize all aspects of the project.
  • Confidence – because product photography is the service provider’s core business you can have confidence that they will complete the project successfully.
  • Speed – service providers will have software to automate repetitive tasks allowing for product shots to be captured at fast daily rate.
  • Quality – the quality of your product shots depends on many factors including equipment, techniques, skill and experience. A good service provider guarantees that the product shots will meet quality standards. In addition, a service provider that uses image production management software will offer you the ability to review your product shots after they are edited.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) – in order to calculate ROI accurately, time to market and product returns must be considered. Time to market is a factor; the sooner you get product shots into the market the faster you realize increased sales. Product shots reduce product returns; the sooner your product images get into the market the sooner you realize the cost savings from reduced product returns. A reputable service provider will produce quality product shots fast. This allows you to get images in your ecommerce system and to your customers quickly. This positively affects ROI.
  • Visibility – it is important for all project stakeholders to have 24/7 visibility to the project for project status reports, image review and product list management. If the service provider uses image production management software you will have this visibility.

Cons

  • Shipping – in most cases the service provider will not be local to you therefore you will have to ship your products further to the service provider’s photography studio. Your shipping costs will be more than with a local photographer.
  • Perceived ‘Excessiveness’ – there is a misconception that because service providers have systems, processes and workflows in place that their service is somehow excessive and designed for large companies only. This not the case at all. These systems are in place to make all projects fast, efficient and capable of producing quality product shots.
  • Cost – often service providers charge a higher price per image compared to local photographers. Although the price includes everything – photography, editing, QA, project management, and formatting and delivery. In addition, because the service provider is able to complete projects quickly your product shots are working for you much sooner – as mentioned above, this equates to increased sales and reduced returns. When all factors are calculated, service providers are cheaper than local photographers.

Option 3 – Service provider that offers on-site solutions

The last option is working with a service provider that offers onsite solutions – they deliver a fully equipped photography studio to your place of business as opposed to you shipping products to them.

Below are the steps involved in the service provider process:

  1. Search for service providers that offer onsite product photography solutions.
  2. Compile a list or products that need product shots.
  3. The service provider will prepare the studio and ship to your place of business.
  4. Prepare the studio space at your location. The space required will depend on production targets and products (size and difficulty preparing them for photography).
  5. The service provider will designate a product photographer to the project and will set up the photography studio in the allocated space.
  6. Pull products from inventory and have them moved to the photography studio.
  7. The photographer takes the products shots, edits the images, and provides online access for your image review.
  8. Once approved, the images are formatted and delivered to you via FTP.
  9. The products are returned to inventory.

Pros

  • Shipping cost savings – the photography studio is delivered to the products as opposed to the products being shipped to the studio – this saves a lot of shipping costs.
  • Access to product experts – the product expert is close to the studio and can therefore be consulted if there is a question regarding the product shots.
  • Maximum efficiency – the flow of the products to the studio can be optimized ensuring that the photographer always has the right products at the right time.
  • Best suited for large projects – when projects are very large the shipping costs and associated logistics make onsite product photography the best option.
  • Best suited for large products – if your products are large, shipping them to a remote studio will not work, in this case an onsite project is the best option.
  • All other pros mentioned in the ‘Service provider – send your products to their studio’ option

Cons

  • Setup Cost – because the photography studio will need to be shipped to your place of business most service providers will charge a fee to setup the studio. Although, this fee is more than offset by the saving from not shipping products to a remote studio.
  • Need space for the studio – in order for the studio to operate efficiently you must have the available space in your facility to accommodate the photography studio.
  • Hard to find – not that many service providers have the software, systems, and processes to provide their customers onsite product photography solutions.

Are you ready to outsource your product shots?

I hope this post was informative, please leave us a comment. We look forward to hearing from you.

Patrick Weilmerier
Patrick Weilmeier
Patrick leads Visual SKUs marketing activities and is focused on understanding customer needs, aligning with sales to generate opportunities, expanding markets, and growing revenue.

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