Effective product photography is absolutely critical for ecommerce stores. And while it’s tempting to DIY your product photos, it’s one of those business tasks where it’s best to enlist the help of an expert.
But knowing you need to hire a professional photographer or studio is one thing, knowing where to find them is another. You don’t want to hire just any professional photographer—you want to find a product photography studio that knows its stuff, with specific expertise in ecommerce photos. We’ll show you how to confidently make the right decision when making this investment in your business.
Learn about the different photography specialties
Anyone with a modern camera or even a smartphone can be a photographer. At least, that’s the consensus when you search for DIY photography tips online. But you shouldn’t settle for anything less than a good quality photo if you hope to make a good first impression on your ecommerce or retail website.
If doing photography yourself isn’t your first thought, you might still come across generalist photographers who shoot anything a client hires them for. An upshot is they charge considerably less than specialized photographers who only work with clients in their chosen niche. It may seem a good idea at first, especially if your ecommerce business is in its early stages.
But, in a roundabout way, it can also cost you more if the photographer can’t produce good quality photos fit for your business and you need to hire someone else or re-do the shoot.
Hiring a photographer specializing in products is a good idea to get your ecommerce store on the right footing and avoid costly mistakes. Not just that, if your business focuses on one type of product, like jewelry (instead of the broader range of clothing and accessories), you can hire a photographer or a studio experienced in your particular product range.
Benefits of hiring photographers who specialize in products and other specific niches like Amazon or ecommerce include:
- They know the best lighting and editing techniques for your products
- They already have the necessary product photography equipment and studio space
- They have the industry experience to advise what works and what doesn’t, and likely keep up with the latest trends in your industry
- You can see their previous work of similar products to yours
In-house or outsource?
It often makes sense to outsource product photography if you can afford it—especially at first. Hiring a photographer in-house means an initial investment for a photo setup, hiring expenses, and a competitive salary. The average yearly commercial photographer's salary is $37,000 but is more in higher cost-of-living areas like in New York City.
To outsource, you can hire a freelancer or a studio. Each freelance photographer has a unique skill set and offers a different day rate, ranging from $800 to $5,000. The final payment will also include an image licensing fee (an additional $250 to $10,000) and other expenses.
When hiring photography services, consider:
- How many photos you’ll regularly need. If your business needs daily product photo updates, hiring in-house may be better.
- Upfront and ongoing costs for hiring in-house, like equipment and studio setup and payroll expenses.
- Turnaround time for photos and overall bandwidth. Some freelancers work solo and will plan client work based on their schedule and commitments, which can extend deadlines. Studios generally have several team members which keeps orders turned around fast.
Set your budget
You need to find a range you’re willing to invest so you have a starting point for your research. It helps to know your business needs and then figure out a budget from there—full-blown commercial and lifestyle photography shoots are more costly than a set of white background shots, for example.
A single ecommerce listing photo can cost between $20 and $90. A custom photography shoot can range anywhere from $800 up to several thousand and more. The cost of product photography varies so much because it depends on:
- The photographer’s pricing structure—flat per photo, hourly, per product, or day rate
- The complexity and number of photos you need for each product
- How many other professionals are needed to make it happen—assistant, makeup artist, stylist, hair stylist, and others
- Photographer expertise
- Level of retouching
- Any extras you may need, like video clips or 360-degree shots
Photography is a business investment like any other. The same way an effective marketing funnel can bring a return on your investment, so can professional product photography. After all, one study found that product description pages (PDPs)—which contain photos—are the most important touchpoints in the purchase process.
Where to look for product photographers
There are many places to find product photographers, from your personal and professional network to online directories and searches. Some search options include:
- Referrals from your network—send an email or message to fellow ecommerce professionals who work with great photos and ask who they hired to take them
- Referrals from brands with photography you like—don’t be afraid to reach out even if you don’t have a connection
- Browse hashtags and pay attention to captions and tags on Instagram which may reveal who is responsible for the work
- Photographer portfolio platforms like Behance
- Paid and free stock photography websites that show photographer contact information
- Universities and career centers with photography departments
- Professional photographer databases like Workbook, Wonderful Machine, Photobooker, At Edge, and SmartShoot
- Commercial photographer organizations, like ASMP, APA, and PPA
Vetting your options
Your search may yield a lot of results. Try to narrow it down to your top 2–5 picks and then dig deeper. Consider the following:
You want to hire a professional to do this important task. Take note of their communication style and processes they have in place. Demonstrating an ability to effectively answer your questions also indicates you’re dealing with a pro.
Passion for their craft
Check out the photographer’s website and pay extra attention to the about page and overall tone and voice. This will help you gauge if they are passionate about what they do. You can also get an idea when you actually speak to the photographers themselves.
It’s important to hire a studio with technical shooters who are formally trained, experienced with studio lighting, advanced retouching, and have a fine attention to detail. Our set, for example, is designed to rotate quickly to capture the product from every angle needed for the crispest final shot.
Experience within your niche
Finding a photographer who already knows the intricacies of your product or industry is easier than working with someone who has to transition from a different style of photography. So if you need product shots Amazon will approve, engaging social media photos, or more advanced 360 shots, look for photographers who demonstrate that skill.
Check out the Google reviews before you hire anyone. You can also browse Trustpilot, particularly for larger studios, as well as do a Google search for “[studio/photography name] reviews” to see what comes up. Heed red flags and pay attention to their responses to any negative comments.
Questions to ask when hiring a product photographer
As you get a better understanding of which photographers are right for your business, there are a few more steps to take to make your collaboration a success:
Ask for clarity on rates, deliverables, and copyright
Make sure to check if photo edits are included and what kind of files you will receive–is it both web-sized and high resolution. If the photographer lacks transparency on what’s included, the final cost, and turnaround time, consider it a red flag.
Find out the business logistics
Important questions to ask about legalities and other logistics include:
- Are you insured?
- Do you have a backup for equipment (what if it breaks on the day of the shoot?) and for your photos (what if the photos get lost or corrupted—do you have backups for the files, so you don’t have to reshoot?)
- Do you shoot at your studio or do you hire a space? If the latter, who pays for that?
- Do you work solo or do you have a team?
Do a test shot
All you need is one item to get a good idea of their ability to work to your business needs and if the style fits. Most studios or photographers should offer some way to pay for a small test shot before you invest in a whole set of photos. Some may even offer a test shot for free.
Sealing the deal
When you’re ready to make the hire, make sure you’re clear on how to best work together moving forward. Every photographer and studio has a different way of working. But when you learn their processes, you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Ask about their workflow
Ask about what’s expected from you—do they need brand guidelines or a product shortlist? Find out how you should prepare and deliver your items, and whether you need to be onsite. Ask how long the process will take and when you need to make payments.
Be clear on revisions and feedback
Inquire about the level of input from your part to balance sticking to what you want for your brand and what the photographer knows will work well for the output, for example, for an ecommerce store, Amazon listing, or a website landing page.
Check if the photographer provides you with a list of proofs (unedited photos) that you select for editing or if they pick the best from the shoot and deliver the edited photos to you.
Make your ecommerce stand out with professional product photos
Good-quality product photos will boost your brand's reputation and customer confidence. But don't worry about doing everything yourself (or stretching your team too thin) when you can hire a professional photographer.
Whether you need white-background ecommerce and Amazon product images or more creative imagery with your branding at its core, they will help you get the right images. It's just a matter of researching your options and asking plenty of questions to find the right professional.
How to find a photographer FAQs
How much should a product photographer charge?
A product photographer or studio should charge between $20 and $90 per photo. For a custom production shoot, the photographer’s day rate may increase to $500 to $4000, plus additional expenses, like location, model hire, and image licensing.
How do I get a product photoshoot?
To get a product photoshoot, you can search for photographers who specialize in your industry, like ecommerce and Amazon listings. Then follow the advice in this post.
How do people find photographers?
Universities and career centers
How do I find a photographer to shoot?
Search for professional photographers with the speciality you need. You’ll have a better result working with an experienced pro or a studio, but if you’re tight on budget, search for local generalist photographers with good online reviews.