The Complete Product Photography Pricing Guide (2021 Edition)

by | Feb 4, 2021

you probably know product photography is an essential part of your business. but to understand why it’s so important will help inform your content strategy for your website. social media. emails. and digital advertising.

once you understand why product photography is an important part of your overall strategy – you can decide how much of your budget you want to dedicate to it and create a plan of attack for acquiring your content.

why product photography is so important

product images do the heavy lifting when it comes to your online presence. think about all the places you typically want to utilize photos of your product: website. social. email. blogs. digital ads. mailers. the majority of your customers will first be introduced to your brand and product through some kind of digital marketing. that means having a fire first photographic impression is imperative. 

you’ve got their attention. now what? now you need to convince them to purchase. and that’s done by building trust with your customers through product photos and videos. high-quality product images lead to higher conversion rates. a better user experience. and earned brand recognition and trust.

user experience

user experience can determine in what regard potential customers hold your brand. if they struggle to navigate your website or suffer from long page loading times then the odds of them sticking around to poke through blurry or low-quality images and making a purchase are slim to none.

according to Google: half of U.S. consumers are now buying a majority of their items online. this means most consumers have an expectation and a standard that must be met before making purchases. this is the era of having everything at your fingertips. anything less than excellent isn’t  tolerated.

soona’s CEO Liz Giorgi puts it plainly: your ecomm store shouldn’t just be transactional. it should be an experience.

higher conversion rate

with a great user experience comes higher conversion rates. this is more than an easy-to-use webpage. this means having beautiful photos and videos that clearly tell your product story. the higher the quality the more of them you provide: the more likely customers are to purchase. you can even inspire customers to buy more than what they came for if you plan your content library just right.

build trust

how many times have you been on a website (think: Amazon) and found a product you were looking for but the images looked… off. maybe they were blurry. or dark. or you could tell it was a rendering of a product and not an actual photo. did you throw caution to the wind and purchase anyway? probably not. you probably searched around until you found another seller that had high-quality images. buying online comes with an inherent risk of a product showing up to your home and falling short of expectations. anything you can do as the seller to curb those fears means money. in. your. pocket. 

earning recognition

finding your unique content voice is what will set you apart. think of Apple. how many times do you see an Apple commercial or ad and know what the company is before the logo pops up at the end? that’s because they found their brand personality and stuck with it. they created content consistency that became an extension of their logo. that’s how you build trust & recognition with your customers.

history of product photography

the start of photography

there were a handful of attempts to capture the first actual photo throughout the 1700s. it wasn’t until the 1820s that French inventor Nicéphore Niépce managed to successfully capture a permanent image. it took hours (maybe even days) of exposure to capture the image and it still was hard to make out. Niépce’s associate Louis Daguerre established the Daguerreotype process. this process cut the exposure amount to mere minutes and gave a clear and detailed end result.

the first easy-to-use camera

about 50 years after the Daguerreotype process was created came the first easy-to-use portable camera from none other than Kodak. This invention by George Eastman (co-founder of Kodak) is considered one of the most important inventions in photography history. this camera allowed photography to be accessible to the masses – thanks to its design. functionality and price ($25).

the digital age

Kodak was also the inventor of the digital camera in 1975. the product was eventually stowed for fear it would eat into the company’s main source of income: film. by 1985: the use of digital photography became more common due to easier storing and manipulation via computers. the ease of image manipulation led to the development of green screens and advanced editing software. 

product photography changed dramatically in the digital age – in large part because of the growth and use of Amazon as a selling platform. Amazon’s image requirements have set the tone for the rest of the ecommerce industry – product-on-white images became the norm.

where product photography is today

product photography is a key element of any business’ marketing strategy. in short: you need images of your product to convince customers to buy. but product-on-white (though required by Amazon) is not enough anymore. you need content that’s eye-catching and tells your product story. and you need to refresh your content often – and that’s where content creation can get overwhelming and expensive for small and medium businesses.

that’s where photography services – like soona – can really come in handy. we’ve reached the stage of innovation where you don’t even have to be physically present at your photoshoot.  soona has studios located in Denver. Austin. & Minneapolis. if you’re not close to either of those locations – you can ship your product to one of their studios and experience their virtual photoshoot. this means you can watch your photos appear in real-time and provide live feedback in your soona dashboard – all from the comfort of your desk or couch. content creation can really be that easy.

what type of photography services are there?

deciding the right option for your product photography needs is an important aspect of your business. making the decision about using a local photographer or a photography service will depend on your needs. your budget. and the style of the content you want.

local / freelance photographer

you can check out Photographers.org. Honeybook. Yelp. or searching on Google to find quality photographers in your area. these websites offer a collection of photographers for you to pick from with basic information about their specialties and reviews from actual clients.

pros:

  • close proximity. this can be helpful if you are in a pinch and need something turned around very quickly but don’t have time to ship your product to a service.
  • save on shipping costs. speaking of close proximity. you can save a little space in your budget by avoiding shipping costs at all or only having to pay a very small fee.
  • price negotiation. sometimes photographers are willing to strike a deal on pricing. this could be a price cut or a trade of goods. since it’s their own business they are able to make those kinds of decisions.
  • helping a small business. it always feels good to get your needs met by using a small business.

cons:

  • limited availability. you may finally pick the photographer you want to work with only to find out they are booked full for the next several months. being a single-person business leads to big scheduling limitations.
  • other focuses. most freelance photographers don’t specialize in one thing. they may do product photography as well as weddings and portraits. so you’re not only competing with other companies but individuals too.
  • expensive. freelance photographers may have the ability to strike a deal but that doesn’t mean they will. they have to make a living after all. plus they need to manage equipment upkeep as well. that costs $$$. because of these reasons: pricing can be confusing and vary.
  • slow turnaround time. you are at the mercy of your photographer’s schedule. that doesn’t just mean their shooting schedule. that includes their editing schedule too. and editing takes time. again: a one-person business has its limitations.
  • limited add-on options. it may be more difficult and more expensive than your budget allows to add a model or special props to your shoot. or they may require you to coordinate your own props and models.

full service photography studios

photography services may be the way to go for your needs. larger service providers (read: more than one person) can offer you more variety across the board. soona is a great photography studio option to check out.

pros:

 

  • easy scheduling. photography services have one major advantage: more photographers. more photographers = more schedule openings. 
  • quick turnaround times. having more resources also means dedicated editors who help turnaround your images much quicker than if one person was responsible for doing the photography and post-production process all themselves.
  • props + other additions. most services have a stock of in-house props you can choose from. they also likely have connections to provide models for your shoot. they also are likely to have a wider range of backdrops and settings. photo studios will often have lifestyle areas to choose from which are great for showing your product in use.
  • ability to handle anything. full service studios can handle any sized or quantity of product. they are built to take on bulk.
  • cost-effective. because these services are only focusing on product photography they are able to offer lower rates than independent photographers. they have a well oiled machine with little variable so surprise costs are rare.

cons

  • shipping costs. you may be dealing with outrageous shipping costs depending on how heavy or how much of your product you need to have photographed. though some places (like soona) offer free shipping.

how are product photos priced?

per photo

per photo is a common pricing model for both independent photographers and photography services – though it means different things to each. 

for independent photographers and some services: this probably means per photo taken. this cost usually includes basic editing as well and photos are often priced by batch or collection. you might not get to pick what’s included in the delivery.this pricing structure usually lends itself to a tiered approach with a reduction in price the more you buy.

Here’s what it could look like:

soona’s pricing is a la carte. photos are $39 each. this means you get a variety of images from your shoot to pick from and you only buy the images you actually want (with standard editing included). this kind of model allows for you to buy what you need now but leaves open the option to buy more from your shoot at a later time.

per photo

per product is probably the most rare pricing structure you’ll find. this structure allows the image provider to charge you a set rate per product they shoot. the downside of this is there’s usually a limit to the number of images that can be produced for each product and different products can have different prices. meaning: if one of your products is a little more difficult to photograph – the rate for that product will cost more than straightforward shots.

per hour / per day

this is the most ambiguous and most common pricing format. there is a lot of variation that can occur and for that reason: this is the least desirable pricing format you could encounter. 

the hour or day rate pricing structure can be difficult to budget for. at the base price: a photographer can charge upwards of $1,000 – $2,000 for a half/full day. this pricing could vary depending on your specific image requirements for each product you need to shoot. remember: setting up a shot takes time and time is exactly what you’re paying for with this price model. plus: you have to factor in editing time in addition to the shoot itself for an hourly rate.

additional costs

whether you go with a services or independent photographer: you’ll likely end up paying an additional charge for something. you want to make sure what you’re paying extra for is providing the kind of quality and cost-effectiveness that makes sense for you and your budget.

editing

most providers include basic editing in their base fees. basic editing usually includes color correction. lighting adjustments. and retouching any areas with small imperfections (think: a dirt smudge on a white backdrop).. you can expect an additional fee if you want more advanced editing – like skin smoothing if you have a model or fixing an imperfection on the product. 

photoshoots require more than just a camera and a subject. we’ve already talked about lighting and a backdrop but what else do you need? any successful shoot will have a camera. the right lense. a tripod. lighting. 

reshoots

if you don’t love the content captured at your first shoot – a reshoot is a possibility. most services have the ability to execute reshoots if there was an error on their end. but if you’re working with an independent photographer – it’s likely you’ll be charged another fee to capture additional shots.

models

some products require a model – 2-legged or 4-legged alike. for those products you can expect to pay a fee to add a model to your shoot. there may be a coordinating fee from the photographer and the model’s fee (which may be hourly). or they may tell you to coordinate the model yourself. if you require a model: we recommend using a photography service that has a one-time flat model fee.

styling + props

depending on how in-depth your shoot is going to be – you may need to hire a stylist and purchase props for your shoot. hiring a stylist can make a big difference in how high-end your images appear – but it’ll cost you. similar to a model: try to find a service provider that has a one-time flat stylist fee to avoid having to pay an hourly fee and deal with coordination yourself.

buying additional props for your shoot can also be a key element to kicking your content up a notch. it’s amazing what simple purchases like fruit. flowers. mirrors. & other props can change the look of your images. most larger studios will have a collection of props for your to choose from – but you’d still need to buy anything specific to your product you want included.

in the end…

you have options when it comes to product photography. you need to take time to figure out what you need from your product photographer. listing out your needs. budget. and timeline will make it clear whether you should choose the route of a local photographer or a full photography service. no matter what your predisposition is on either route: it may be worth it to try out both independent photographers and full service photography studios to really understand what works best for you and your budget. 

the key to take away from this article is this: investing in high-quality photography – whether its by way of a photo service or individual photographer – is necessary to grow your business.. amazing & consistent content means more clicks and conversions.

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