By Patrick Weilmerier | Imaging ServicesThis post reviews the 5 key components to setting up an efficiently product photography studio producing high-quality product images, fast: 1) equipment you use; 2) people you hire; 3) workflows you deploy; 4) software you use; and 5) how[...]
Does this describe your business?
- You sell through e-commerce channels.
- You want to sell more product.
- You need high-quality images of all your products.
- You don’t know much about product photography.
If you answered yes to these questions then outsourcing your product photography is the right move.
But how much will this cost?
There is no simple answer. Your business, your products, and your image requirements all factor into how much you will be charged for product photography.
In this post I will answer 4 questions about product photography rates:
- How do product photography service providers differ?
- How are product photography services charged?
- What additional charges should you anticipate?
- What other project costs should you consider?
After reading this article you will understand everything about product photography rates. This will put you in an excellent position to intelligently review service provider quotes and to select the one that is best for your business.
How do product photography service providers differ?
There are 2 types of studios that offer product photography services – local independent studios and full-service studios.
Local Independent Photography Studios
In most cities there are hundreds of independent photographers that offer various services to their customers including portrait, event, and wedding photography. These photographers may have their own studio, share one with other photographers, or work out of their home. A small percentage of these photographers may also offer product photography services.
Why an independent studio may be the RIGHT choice for you:
- There should be several to choose from in your local area.
- You may be able to negotiate a good rate due to the fact that they are typically one-person operations.
- The cost of shipping your products to their studio will be low (across town as opposed to across the country).
Why an independent studio may be the WRONG choice for you:
- It may be difficult to find an independent studio photographer who specializes in product photography. Inexperienced product photographers can have a negative impact on both image quality and production.
- They may lack the studio capacity to handle your project e.g. they may not be able to accept a pallet of product delivered to their studio.
- They may lack the studio equipment to handle your products e.g. if your products are large or heavy they require specialized photography equipment.
- They may lack the expertise, equipment, and software to handle your photography requirements e.g. if you require 360 product images.
- It is unlikely that they will have web-based Image Production Management software allowing you to monitor the progress of your project and to review image quality.
Full-service Product Photography Studios
Full-service studios offer a complete range of still and 360 product photography services and have the capacity and equipment to handle large shipments, large-scale projects, and all product types. These studios are much less common than independent photography studios.
Why a full-service studio may be the RIGHT choice for you:
- They have the ability to accept large shipments of products delivered by truck.
- They have the capacity to handle large projects.
- With software-based workflows they will be able to meet project deadlines.
- They can handle products of all shapes, sizes and weights.
- They have the ability to provide both still and 360 product images.
- They provide customers access to Image Production Management software for monitoring project progress and to review image quality.
- They are focused on product photography only and can therefore offer rates that are lower than independent photographers.
Why a full-service studio may be the WRONG choice for you:
- If the studio is not in your local area product shipping costs will be higher.
- If the studio is not in your local area site visits will be costly.
How are product photography services charged?
It is important to understand the different ways studios charge for their services. Depending on the details of your project, you may favor one method over another.
By the hour or day
As you would expect, with this method you will be charged a flat hourly or daily rate for the studio’s services. For example, a studio could charge $150 / hour or $1,200 / day for still images and $200 / hour or $1,600 / day for 360 images (because they require more specialized equipment and software).
If your project has specialized image requirements that change from product to product the studio would find it difficult to estimate daily production. For this reason they would opt for an hourly or daily rate.
I strongly advise that you do not enter into an hourly or daily rate arrangement with your service provider. It is difficult to budget and there is no ceiling on your costs.
To avoid hourly or daily arrangements I recommend you spend time refining your image requirements to the point where a photographer can understand exactly what images you need for each product category. This way they will be able to quote your project by the product or by the image.
By the product
With this method the service provider will charge by the product. For example, at $30 / product for 200 products, the total project cost would be $6,000.
With ‘by the product’ projects, the service provider may allow for unlimited images per product. This is definitely an advantage for you but it is also why service providers shy away from this pricing structure – they could end up producing more images than they budgeted for.
This pricing structure often comes with 2 conditions:
- The number of images per product has a maximum, images over-and-above the maximum will be charged at a specified rate. This protects the service provider if the customer requests many images per product.
- Each product category will have its own per product rate. For example, a project for a bike manufacturer, pedals and brake parts could be charged at a different rate than frames and wheels. This protects the service provider if some of the product categories are difficult to photograph.
‘By the product’ pricing is usually tiered. The table below shows how this works:
|# of Products||Price / Product|
|0 – 5||$60|
|6 – 10||$55|
|11 – 20||$50|
|21 – 50||$45|
|51 – 100||$40|
|101 – 200||$35|
|201 – 500||$30|
|501 – 1,000||$25|
By the image
Similar to by the product, with this method you will be charged a price for each image produced. For example, if the per image rate is $8.00 and you have 100 products requiring a total of 250 images your total project cost would be $2,000.
This is the preferred pricing structure for service providers because:
- It matches their cost structure – they incur costs each time they capture, edit, QA, and format an image and therefore it is best that they charge by the image.
- They get paid for every image they produce for their customer (unlike with a flat rate per product regardless of the number of images produced).
‘By the image’ pricing works fine for you as well as long as you invest the time in analyzing your image requirements. This is not a difficult process, here are the steps:
- Categorize the products you need images for. There are 2 ways to go about this:
- Put them in standard product categories e.g. a bike manufacturer has brake, gear, frame, and accessory products.
- Put them in photography categories e.g. a bike manufacturer has small products (brake parts, accessories), medium products (handle bars, seats, brake parts, rail components), and large products (frames, wheels).
- Total the number of products you have in each product or photography category.
- Determine the number of images you require for each product or photography category. In the bike example, for wheels you might want 3 images – a front image of the full wheel, a close-up of the tire tread, and a close-up of the spokes.
- Total the number of images required in each product or photography category by multiplying the number of products in each category by the number of images required for the category.
- Add up all the images required in all the categories. This will give you the total number of images you require for your entire project.
Now that you know all your product or photography categories and the number of images required in each category the service provider can come up with an accurate per image price for each category and therefore the total cost for the project.
Because ‘by the image’ pricing is fair for both service provider and customer it is the most common method.
Service providers will tier their ‘by the image’ charges. Here is an example of what this would look like:
|# of Images||Price / Image|
|0 – 10||$20|
|11 – 30||$18|
|31 – 60||$16|
|61 – 100||$14|
|101 – 300||$12|
|301 – 600||$11|
|601 – 1,000||$10|
|1,001 – 2,000||$9|
|2,001 – 4,000||$8|
What Additional Charges Should You Anticipate?
Because product photography involves the uniqueness of your products and the specific image requirements you may have the service provider may need to apply additional charges to your project.
Below are some of the common additional charges you should consider when budgeting your project:
If some of your products are heavy a product weight surcharge may be applied. Heavy products are difficult to handle, often requiring both the photographer and the helper to lift and position the product on the table. This can be awkward, time-consuming, and at times require special equipment like heavy-duty photography tables.
This is a flywheel for a vehicle, it weighs more than 70 pounds and it takes 2 people to place it on the photography table.
Large sized products are also hard to handle and can require a second person to position them on the table. These products almost always require a larger photography table and large camera stand so the camera can get high enough over the table or platform to fit the product in the image frame.
This product is more than 9 feet long and 4 or 5 feet wide. This was photographed with a 9′ camera stands and a 8 feet by 12 feet floor-based photography platform.
Some products you can take out of their box or packaging and place them right on the table for photography, no prep required. Other products require extensive cleaning or even assembly prior to photography. A helper may be required for this prep. For the most part, basic product prep is built into the price but if extensive prep is required there would be an additional charge.
The image above is an example of the process required to unpack a product for photography. Image Source.
Many products require styling before they can be photographed. There are many examples of products that require styling, here are a few:
- Clothing that requires ironing, special folding, and / or pairing with other apparel on a manikin.
- Food products that require special layout on a cutting block or countertop and grouped with other food products. Food products can also require special sprays and other methods to make them look as edible as possible.
- Products where the packages are reflective or they have inconsistent shapes. In these cases the photographer may need to move the contents around within the package to get the right shape. In extreme cases, the contents of the product will be removed and the package stuffed.
Imagine the effort that it took to layout these plates of food – a fair bit of styling I would think. Image Source.
If your products take time to lay out on the photography table and this time has not been factored into the initial image price then there may be an additional charge. Here are some examples:
- Toys that have many components that need to be arranged in a specific way for the image.
- Industrial products like engine gasket kits that can have as many as 100 pieces that need to be laid out in a particular pattern prior to photography.
This product has over 80 parts that need to be laid out on the table, this process would take more than 20 minutes per product.
Some products cannot be photographed effectively unless they are displayed in a setting. Some sets are basic and some are elaborate. Home décor and furnishing products are great examples of products that require sets e.g. a kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom set. Sets can be time-consuming to build and photographing sets takes much longer than photographing products on a table-top.
The image above is a great example of a set that needed to be designed in order to display the cast-iron pot. Image Source.
These images show a product being used or in action. For example, a person wearing sports apparel and working out, or a vehicle with specialty rims and tires parked or in motion. These images can require special scenarios and people. The cost of lifestyle images depends on the people, sets, and scenes required.
There are several images in the screen shot above taken from the Under Armour website. These are examples of lifestyle images. Image Source.
In order to capture specific image views the photographer may be required to change their studio setup and use different and specialized equipment. It takes the photographer time to setup for these images and therefore an additional fee may be applied. The best example of these charges are close-up shots of specific aspects of your products like a connector, knob, switch, or area on the product that displays an important feature or function. For these close-up shots the photographer will need to adjust their lights, change lenses, and possibly add a ring flash to the camera for additional lighting.
This image is a close of a connector on an auto part – it is important for the buyer to see what the connectors look like. This would be classed as a specialty image.
You may have products that you want photographed together. For these images the photographer will need to prepare multiple products (unpacking, cleaning etc.) and lay them out on the photography table. Additionally, the photography for group shots can take longer than single shots.
Expect additional charges for group product shots.
This is a group shot I found on Gillette’s site. Classic group product image. Image Source.
Summary of Additional Product Photography Charges
The table below summarizes the additional photography service charges:
|Product / Image Requirement||Rate Information|
What Other Costs Should You Consider?
Now that you have a good understanding of how product photography charges work you need to consider the costs of preparing and shipping your products to the service provider and returning them to your business.
Consider the costs of the items below:
- Producing a list of products you need photographed.
- Pulling the products from inventory.
- Preparing the products for shipping to the service provider’s studio.
- Shipping the products to the service provider’s studio.
- Returning the products to your place of business from the service provider’s studio.
- Re-packaging products where the package was damaged during photography.
- Returning the products to inventory.
These are real costs to your business and must be factored into the overall cost of your product photography project.
In this post, we have covered the difference between product photography service providers, the different ways service providers charge for their services, the additional charges you may experience, and other costs that need to be factored into your project budget.
If you have some thoughts on this post please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.