Pricing is such a complex topic that many people struggle with. There is no right or wrong answer as different photographers have varying skill sets, experience and even teams. The biggest problem would be to undercharge. So in this article we breakdown how to price product photography work and some of the most important factors you need to consider. If there’s something we have missed, share it in the comments below.
Before we get to talking about pricing, there are some costs that we all incur and they have to be considered while pricing. This you need to consider to build a sustainable business like your salary (that’s probably catering for your rent, food and drink, health insurance, transport etc.), studio rent and overheads, insurance, taxes and probably other costs that I have missed. This should all be reflected in your pricing and spread across the work that you do. Christina Peters covers this in detail.
Unfortunately, there’s no one size fits all approach. There are many factors that go into pricing like the size of the client, the size of the product, location of the shoot, the type of shoot like e commerce or styled shoot, where will the images be used etc. let’s look at these and more in detail.
The size of the client
The size of the client will determine their marketing budget and by extension, the budget they can afford for their photography. You will need to segment your clients into small, medium and corporate entities. For corporate entities that mostly deal with agencies, it’s kind of straight forward, there’s usually a half day or a full day rate that is at market level.
For medium and small clients, you always have to balance between your value based on what you are offering and their budget. It’s always important to remember that not every client out there is for you and that’s OK.
One tip is; as you are discussing with your client, ask them what their budget is for the project so you can gauge where they are at. Negotiation is key, if their budget is below your rate, you could consider offering less for instance less images, less props and styling. You also need to learn how different customers behave so you don’t invest too much time for nothing. Sometimes it’s better to walk away, you need to weigh your situation.
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The size of the product
The size of your product really matters. There are items that can easily be put on a table top and shot and there are items that are quite large like sofas, a motorcycle or cars. You will need to cost these differently; remember you will need a bigger space, you may need bigger lights, bigger backgrounds and even more manpower to assist while the shoot is ongoing. All these need to be factored in to the cost of the shoot.
The type of product
Different products require different levels of effort to photograph, for instance, ice cream is a very hard product to shoot. It melts quickly but you need to capture it accurately. Think about chrome objects that are fully reflective, they require more effort and attention on your side as they are very reflective. Another question you need to ask yourself is whether you will need specialized equipment, additional manpower e.g. will you need a retoucher or an assistant? If it’s a food shoot, will you need a food stylist? All this needs to be accounted for.
Location of the shoot
Will the shoot be in the client’s premises or in studio? If you are going to shoot at the client’s location, you need to arrange for transport and make sure all the gear + manpower you need is transported to the location. A studio shoot would mean you need to agree with client whether the product will be delivered to studio or you pick them up yourself.
If you don’t have your own studio location, is it necessary to rent out a space? You can still shoot at a home studio or your preferred location. However, if the client and other parties want e.g. agency staff want to come over for the shoot, then you may need to hire a studio.
In case you need to hire a studio, make sure to ask around for different studios rates and then you can make the decision as to what works for you.
E commerce vs styled shoot
A lot of the times, e commerce images are shot on a white background with little or no styling. That means the set up doesn’t change as much and you don’t need as much time to set up the image.
For styled shots, however, there are several things you need to consider like props, backgrounds, how many sets are you going to work with? So for each set you need to shoot, you will need to arrange and adjust everything till it’s just right, adjust the lighting and angles and repeat the sequence for each subsequent set up. Styled shoots will obviously take more time, require more resources and creativity from your side. You need to account for this.
There’s another level to styled images, some client projects require environments that are not easily available or they may be too expensive to create in the said environments. In this case, most photographers work with professional retouchers who are able to create these environments digitally. Think about some of those ads of cars you see in a desert. In such a case, you will need to take into account the cost of hiring a professional retoucher.
Number of images required
The more images that are needed, the more time needed to execute. This means that the cost will be higher. There is also the aspect of economies of scale, the more the images, the less the unit cost of each image unlike when the images are fewer.
The team required
To get to understand what the client needs from you, you need to really gather quite a bit of information from them. To understand the size of manpower you will need to execute their work.
Pricing is a thing we have wrestled with but it’s a thing we are working out as we go along. We are learning and adjusting as needed. We also figure our prices will keep changing as we continue growing so it’s never a constant. Let us know below if there are any pricing challenges you face or if we have missed any important point.