Well taken product photographs can make the difference between clinching a sale and losing one, especially for ecommerce stores. Here are some things to consider before hiring a professional product photographer.
Decide on the Overall Direction
We’ll start with the overall site layout and message. How are the images going to be integrated into the overall layout? Should the photos look modern, cool and functional? Or warm and homely? What is the primary emotion that you would like your customers to have when viewing them on screen?
Shopify’s blog has a nice overview of the different styles you could adopt and some examples of e-commerce sites with excellent product photography. These can be a useful reference point for your site design.
Involve your Web Designer (if you have one)
Once the overall design has been decided, your web designer should be kept in the loop when choosing the photographer as it’s important that both of you are looking for similar qualities in the final images. Also, apart from the standard ‘catalogue’ type image, you may also need specially taken images for other components of the website. When looking at the portfolios of prospective photographers, are there are images in the portfolio that are in line with your vision for your own site or that you are particularly drawn to? Are they presented professionally?
Pricing it Right
When trying to gauge how much the shoot will cost, there are a few aspects that you should keep in mind. The physical location of the photographer and whether the travel costs are significant would be points that need to be considered. The size of the project would generally determine if work is to be done on a per image or per project basis although the complexity of the photos and items to be photographed influence this as well. For example, reflective objects such as watches or jewellery are more difficult and time consuming to photograph as compared to soft toys.
Are the photographs going to be used in any other media such as newspapers or posters? These will also influence the final cost. Generally, photographers retain copyright of the images and grant licences for specific uses (A simple example: Web use for a duration of 5 years). This should be negotiated depending on your needs. A Photo Editor has an excellent collection of articles aimed at photographers but also very useful for anyone thinking of hiring one, to illustrate the pricing and negotiation process.
Getting Down to Details
Relevant to this discussion is of course the specifics details of the actual shoot itself – whether models are required and how much they will cost (be sure that the photographer gets the appropriate model releases), the backdrop, lighting, and a description of how the photos are to be taken. These should all be put down in writing to minimize disputes later on. It would also be a good idea for several test shots on a small number of products to be vetted for quality and the ‘right look’ before continuing as this would minimize costly re-shoots.
Post Processing Requirements
Some final issues that would need to be discussed before the shoot include the extent of post processing by the photographer. Simple brightness/contrast and colour balancing should be a given, but more complex editing such as masking out of backgrounds (such as when the image of the product fades seamlessly into your site’s background) or specific image retouching should be negotiated beforehand. Such work is sometimes even outsourced to specialized image retouchers.
Professionally taken product photographs can add tremendous value to your e-commerce website with minimal hassle. We hope these tips come in handy when you are trying to decide the way forward.