By Patrick Weilmerier | Imaging ServicesThis post answers 4 questions about product photography rates: 1) How do product photography service providers differ; 2) How are product photography services charged; 3) What additional charges should you anticipate; 4) What other project costs should you consider?
Most businesses that sell through e-commerce channels have experience with product photography in one way or another. They either develop their own in-house system or they contract out to a local photographer. For businesses with thousands of products and an ongoing need for product photography (e.g. manufacturers), the preferred approach is to create a custom in-house product imaging system.
I can speak from experience, large-scale product photography and image production projects are complex. They involve expensive equipment, skilled people, unique workflows, communication, and project management.
Creating in-house systems that stitch people and workflows together to produce high-quality images is not for the faint of heart (trust me I know). Businesses that create their own systems are often frustrated with their low production or poor quality or (sadly) both.
There is a new category of software to address this product image production challenge: Image Production Management software is workflow software that streamlines all activities in the product image production process and provides an online system to bring them together. This software produces high-quality images at production rates that far exceed in-house custom systems.
What product photography tasks can benefit from workflow software?
There are 5 key workflows in the product photography and image production process:
1. Product Photography
- Part number / UPC management
- Image view management
- Image upload
2. Image Editing
- Image access, editing, and reporting
- Image reprocessing
3. Project Management
- User access and role management
- Image access and backup
4. Image Quality Assurance
- Image QA, reprocess, reshoot
5. Image Formatting
- Image formatting and exporting
6 Ways to optimize your product photography projects with Image Production Management software
Image Production Management software optimizes your product photography projects in 6 key ways:
1. Streamlines the entire product photography process
Since product photography is the largest single workflow in the image production process, it is the area where in-house systems tend to fail. In general, photographers lose most of their time:
- Matching product numbers on packages and boxes with the numbers on their short lists (typically spreadsheets)
- Renaming image files from camera assigned numbers to the product numbers
- Deciding which image views are required for each product category and making sure that they are captured for each product in the category
- Keeping track of which products have been imaged and which have not
[Image Production Management software maximizes photographer’s productivity. The photographer enters the product number in the software (or better yet they use a barcode scanner to scan the UPC) and the software tells them if the product has been photographed or not and what image views are required e.g. top, bottom, left, right, close up. When the image views are captured they are copied from the camera into the software and associated to the product. The software contains the list of products that need to be photographed and records all images that have been captured. No more wasting time fussing with Excel or hard copy product lists, no more renaming images, no more puzzling over which products have been taken and which have not.]
2. Provides complete web-based project management functions
It is common, especially with large organizations, to have project managers in separate locations from the photographers and image editors. Project managers can spend a huge amount of time managing the various workflows and people in geographically separate locations. Their toolkit includes multiple spreadsheets, databases and shared documents.
Project managers are responsible for:
- Setting up projects including compiling product lists with product numbers, UPCs and product categories, and determining the image views required e.g. product category A requires top, front, and side views, product category B requires bottom, top and close-up
- Managing photographers, image editors, quality control personnel and other users
- Generating production reports being shared with management
[The central management system in Image Production Management software is web-based and accessible anywhere, anytime. Product and category lists can be managed (upload / add / edit / delete), image views can be assigned to categories, users can be added and assigned specific roles (photographer, image editor, image reviewer etc.), and production reports can be generated. This allows project managers to set up projects easily, manage remote photographers and editors and monitor project progress without leaving their office.]
3. Maintains project synchronization with photographers
As I mentioned in the last point, for many large scale product photography projects, product photography happens where the products are e.g. distribution centers in multiple locations. Additionally, project managers are often located in offices that are not in the same location as the photography studio. The problem here is that when the project manager wants to make a change to the project – add or delete product numbers, add or delete a required image view, report on product photography – it is very difficult and time-consuming for them to get this information to or from remote photographers.
[When changes are made to any aspect of the project that affects the photographer, like adding new product numbers or categories, Image Production Management software synchronizes, over the Internet, to the photographer’s software. The photographer also uploads images as they are captured to the web-based project management system. Now both systems are up-to-date with respect to images captured and product information like numbers, categories and image views.]
4. Maximizes image editor efficiency and productivity
Image editing can take place anywhere; it does not have to happen where the products are photographed. The challenge here is getting the images captured by the photographer to the image editor as soon as possible in order to minimize image turnaround time. It is also a challenge getting images back from the editors. Most businesses use FTP for this process which is slow and cumbersome.
[Image Production Management software allows image editors to download images directly to their desktop immediately after they have been photographed. Images are uploaded once they are edited. All this is done over the Internet, no FTP involved, and with simple to use software. The software records the editor who worked on the image, when the work was completed and how long it took to complete. This workflow allows image editors to work anywhere, anytime and all their activity is recorded and tracked.]
5. Allows for images to be reviewed before they are published
Most in-house product imaging systems do not have workflows for image review and quality control. Once images are edited they are published to internal sites and catalog databases and distributed to customers. Because product images are important sales tools, publishing images that may be formatted or named incorrectly or poor quality could negatively affect sales.
[Image Production Management software has a complete QA workflow whereby each image can be reviewed by a designated image reviewer. Images that pass QA are ready for formatting and those that are rejected for various reasons (background, edges, tone, color, clarity, clipping path etc.) are sent back to the editor that initially edited the image or back to the photographer for reshooting. This QA process is fast and efficient and is done online, anywhere, anytime.]
6. Reduces the time it takes to format and distribute images
The process of formatting images and distributing them to internal systems and external customers is a major bottleneck for many businesses involved in product photography projects. Let’s say you have 5,000 images that need to be formatted 5 different ways and sent to 20 separate destinations, it is easy to see how challenging this process can become without automation. The standard process for most businesses is:
- Create Photoshop actions for each batch of images to format them according to an image specification e.g. 1,500 x 1,500 pixels, jpg, RGB, 72 dpi, 10 pixels white border
- Renamed the images according to the requirements of the image recipients – this involves using a renaming script or a software application
- Transfer the formatted and renamed images to a network drive or to an FTP server
- Review each image folder to confirm that images are not missing
It is clear that the steps above are resource intensive.
[Image Production Management software automates the process of formatting images. Because all product images are stored in a central system, formatting and naming are efficient. Enter the image format specification into the system (size, file type, dpi, color mode, white space, and naming convention), enter the location of the files (FTP or server) and run the job. The system takes the final approved images and generates copies according to the defined specifications. Images can be formatted in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually.]