How product photography pricing works

Product photography projects are almost always priced either by the product or by the image. Let’s look at how these pricing approaches differ.

By the product:

With this pricing structure, the service provider will quote a price per product regardless of the number of images taken per product (2 images will cost you the same as 8).

Because there is a cost associated with each and every image – photography, editing, QA, formatting and delivering – product photography pricing by the product is not that common.

By the image:

With this pricing structure, the service provider will quote you a price per product image. As mentioned above, because each image has costs associated with it, service providers, Tim Bishop Studio included, like to quote by the image.

Service providers will ask you to list the number of products in each product category that need images and the image views or angles you require for each product category. The net result will be the total number of images required for the project. It will take a bit more effort to come up with the total image count for the project but it will be worth it because you will be able to budget the project much more accurately.

5 key factors that impact product photography pricing

The following 5 factors will have the biggest impact on the prices the service provider will quote you for your product photography project:

1. Location of the project: The biggest decision you need to make when planning your project is where will your products will be photographed – at your business (warehouse, distribution centre, office, or store) or at the service provider’s photography studio. Photography projects that take place at your business have different pricing structures compared to photography projects that take place at the service provider’s studio.

2. A number of products per product category: Price per image is usually inversely related to the number of products you have in each product category. It is all about economies of scale. If you have a large number of products in one category the photographer can set up once and shoot many products quickly. This equals a lower price per image. Conversely, if you have few products per category the photographer will be changing camera and lighting setups often slowing production. This will mean that your per image price will be higher.

3. The number of images per product: It takes time for the photographer to get a product ready for photography – taking it out of the package, assembling, cleaning, etc. Once that product is photography-ready and the first image is captured it takes less time to capture subsequent images as the product is already prepared for photography and in the photographer’s hands. For these reasons, the average price per image will be lower if more images per product are required.

4. Type of product categories: The type of products that require imaging is a major factor affecting the price. If your products are small and simple – like a coffee mug for example – photography and editing will be relatively quick and therefore the price per image will be lower. If your products are complex with many pieces or large and heavy – like furniture or sporting equipment – they will be much more difficult and slower to photograph and therefore will cost more per image.

5. Image usage: You may be using your product images for basic marketing purposes – electronic catalogue, e-commerce site, etc. – or for specialized marketing purposes like high-end print advertising. The ultimate usage of the images will impact how the products are photographed and how the images are edited. Expect to pay much more per image if you require specialized marketing images.

Product and image factors that impact product photography pricing

Other than the 5 key pricing factors listed above there are several product and image-related variables that can impact the product photography pricing you receive from your service provider.

Product size: Smaller products are easier and faster to photograph than larger products. Larger products often require specialized photography and studio equipment. Expect to pay more per image for larger products.

Product weight: Much like large products, heavy products are difficult to handle and photograph and will usually be priced higher.

A number of pieces in the product: If your product consists of several pieces the photographer and / or helper will need to lay out the pieces before photography, this takes time and will increase the cost per image.

Set required: Some products require a set before the product can be photographed. A few simple examples of product categories that can require sets include food and household products. These sets can range from simple to elaborate. Sets take the time to design and construct and therefore can have a significant impact on product photography pricing.

Product assembly: Building and assembling products requires additional photography studio resources and will, therefore, cost more per image.

Sample images: For product photography projects with many products per category, before production photography begins, it is a good idea to take sample images of a few products from each category. This allows you to review the images for the correct angles and quality standards and to provide feedback to the photographer. There would be a charge for the sample image process.

Speciality images: Certain images require specialized photography which would be subject to additional charges. An example of this would be close up shots of particular areas of the product which require the photographer to change the camera lens and studio lighting setups.

Additional image editing: Most standard image editing includes clipping out the background, adjusting levels, and cropping. If you require additional image editing over-and-above the standard there would be an image editing surcharge applied to each image. The cost of additional editing will depend on your specific requirements.

Additional costs to include in your product photography budget

The price per image that your service provider charges to photograph and edit your product images are only part of your total cost.

Below are 5 tasks that you and / or your team will need to perform on the photography project. These tasks involve your resources and hence cost money. Consider each task and determine if it is relevant to your project or not. If it is, estimate the resources required, how much time they will spend on each task and the total cost to your business.

1. Project planning: There are many tasks involved in planning your project including:

  • Research and source product photography service providers
  • Prepare lists of products that need images
  • Document product category requirements – views / angles, special photography, additional editing
  • Decide where to photograph the products – at your place or the service providers

2. Shipping or delivering products: In this task, you submit product lists to the inventory or warehouse staff, they locate the products and ready them for shipping or delivery. If the product photography is taking place at the service provider’s studio then you will need to ship the products to the studio location. If the photography is taking place at your business then you will need to deliver the products to the photography studio area in your DC, store, office or another business facility.

3. Image QA: Once your product images have been edited they will need to be reviewed for quality. Images that satisfy your image quality will be formatted and sent to you by the service provider; images that are not satisfactory will be re-edited or re-photographed. It is recommended that you assign a resource with product knowledge to this task.

4. Project Management: Although most of the project management will be handled by the service provider you will need to assign a project manager on your end to handle the following tasks:

  • The project planning (as outlined in point 1)
  • Managing the product ordering and shipping or delivery process
  • Daily communication with the service provider’s project manager
  • Reviewing images for quality
  • Dealing with issues that come up with the photography studio (if the project is taking place at your business)

5. Photography assistant: If the photography is taking place at your business the cost of the photographer helper is usually your responsibility. As a rule, you will need one helper for each photographer on the project. Although the job of the helper is important it is not highly skilled – hiring and training a temporary employee is common. The helper’s job is to prepare the products for the photographer; taking the product out of the package, assembling it if required, cleaning it if required, and all other tasks such that the photographer is handed a photography-ready product when they need it.

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