A quick Google search of the keyword product photography services yields an astounding 1,3 billion results in under a second. The popularity of product photography has been on the rise for years, echoing the burgeoning popularity of eCommerce as the phenomenon.
What exactly do those product photo studios sell?
What services do they offer?
What does a potential client need to know about the menu of offerings provided by such business units?
How are Amazon product photography services different from those for social media?
Is retouching included or is it an add-on?
Who is responsible for the creative part of the photoshoot and what's the flow of the process?
How do you choose a professional product photo studio?
We thought you’d never ask.
Here's our lens-to-viewfinder guide on the array of the offering of this creative branch of the ecommerce industry. But first things first – if you are a total newbie to the subject, here’s a quick recap of the definition.
Product photography is a commercial branch of photography that mostly deals with image production for eCommerce, creating photos of different objects according to strict parameters to facilitate their consecutive sale on websites, social media, and marketplaces. Most such product images are made isolated against a white background, but there are more creative variations as well, that include props, models, and textured backgrounds.
While making pictures involves 2 main stages for a person uninitiated into the process [the production part and the post-production editing phase], the most critical one is still the preparatory step of creative conception. It’s rarely sold as a service, but this is the firm foundation that the entire business is holding on to dear life on.
So, we insist to single it out as product photography consulting & art direction service.
Even though a majority of studios that specialize in product imagery don't charge for this stage of the process, it's the most valuable ingredient of the offering: accumulated decades of experience and artistic vision.
Here are a few scenarios, where photography consultancy can be a paid-for service.
Say, you are a startup that is really tight on budget, you want to know how to DIY your product photos for your online store.
In all likelihood, you will have watched a few videos on YouTube and read a few guides on ecommerce photography.
But then you may also consult your experienced photographer on the best equipment and tricks over a coffee or beer, picking his experienced brains before you rent a camera, studio, and lighting gear. See? You have just taken advantage of the product photo consulting service.
Alternatively, you may have grown your business to the capacity where you produce more than 20 000 images per year, so it's time to set up an in-house photo studio.
This is when you are better off paying for an in-depth consultation on how to set up a photo studio from scratch, based on your specific requirements, the talent available, premises, budgets, etc. When consulting a seasoned photo studio founder, you will have saved yourself tons of hassle, time, and money by buying a step-by-step guide to equipment purchasing, manning, workload cycle planning, etc.
You have a reliable photo studio that you have cooperated with for years and this is an optimal value-for-money for your bottom line. But you feel that you could benefit from some art direction in your image portfolio.
Getting professional advice regarding the concept, props, backgrounds, references, ideas for your next product is also an option, whereby you get some artistically-minded freelancer to draft a photoshoot concept for you, elaborating all the above-said creative aspects.
As a result of this creative advisory session you may end up with a photoshoot mood board of sorts, that outlines the props, background, model types, angles, formats of the resulting images for your items. They can be used as a detailed brief for your regular studio to follow.
Several such scenarios are possible, but one thing is for sure: when you buy an advisory photography service, you buy decades of experience and heaps of talent in one.
This service is critical for both: the resulting impact that images will evoke in onlookers and the budget of the shoot.
It is here that creativity meets technicalities, idea meets its physical implementation, planning meets the process, lighting meets the object, canned air flow meets the dust, and the model meets the accessory.
The success of the photo session is as dependent on the planning and conception stage, as the post-production stage depends on the shoot itself.
If you have planned it all nicely, having purchased all the props and having reminded all the models to attend on time, you will have a smooth shoot where item replaced item by the clock with no overtime to be paid for studio or equipment rentals.
If you have taken care to place items on the marking of the table, cleaned them all properly, fixed the straps with blue tack – your post-production will be cheap and quick.
Food photos are the ficklest of them all with lots of inedible tricks used to make the food look edible [did you know that a shoe cream is used to make a chicken look nicely grilled and the glue substitutes milk in cereal shots?].
Kitchenware, linen, bathroom appliances come in all shapes and price ranges. Their bulkiness, shiny surfaces, and cumbersome shipment are among the top challenges for a photo studio.
As the average check for this segment is above $100, most manufacturers make sure to produce multiple stunning shots of the same gadget at different angles against various backgrounds for every channel. Hero shots are in high demand in this category, whereby each product page usually looks like a landing page of a full-fledged website.
With plenty of bright colors, box inscriptions, and child safety warnings at the forefront, toy photography uses a lot of group composition and close-ups.
This product photography is less commonly used in isolation against a white background due to 2 factors: many of the products are bulky and most of them look better in context outdoors or on a model in action.
Outdoor recreation category on Amazon feature lifestyle shots in action
A beast that few photo studios specialize in due to one massive aspect: lots of objects are massive. This is still product photography by definition, as it is made for the purpose of ecommerce distribution, but this is a rather specialized niche branch of it.
Handmade products are usually shot on an iPhone by the same person who made them for Etsy posting. The premium items with manufacturing scalability potential may enjoy some professional eye – in which case lots of closeups are used to showcase the uniqueness of the hand-crafted item.
Similar to the automotive images, antiques are bulky and tough to ship [both due to fragility and insurance costs], so they may also engage an incoming photographer service.
While they may sound somewhat too technical, in most cases you will be OK with JPEG and PNG. Some file formats are pretty heavy, some are lighter; some are OK for screens, others can be used for big boards; some are good for marketplaces, others are perfect for TikTok.
When we talk about this classification of the product photography services, we need to know the channel of distribution, target audience, and budget as the starting point. They will define the techniques and modes used for the shoot.
Undeniably the most universal and ubiquitous type of professional product photography services is the one shooting items against a white background. It's simple: it's the golden standard for major ecommerce marketplaces, like Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, eBay, etc.
These stores are so overcrowded with information per pixel screen, that the background needs to be white space.
The variation of this type is the use of black and colored backdrops, which are popular for branded online stores and social media.
All three basic object placements are used in this technique: flat lay, mannequin, and hanging item placements.
Steady lighting and exact object positioning will help ensure a series of objects in a category will look neat and professional.
It’s not uncommon in ecommerce product photography services
to involve a model, props, or textured backgrounds to give context to an object.
When you surround an item with the environment, it's easier for a user to picture an otherwise lifeless object in their life.
If you are looking to obtain indoor lifestyle shots, make sure to discuss a concept with your photographer – so that you are on the same page in terms of a user persona, mood, and props that you want to see in the resulting image.
Similar to the above, this one needs no studio, but lots of logistical planning and moving. Once you know the perfect location for the set, choosing the right timing in terms of weather, traffic, sunlight is your next big mission.
Must-have mode of ecommerce photography services for shoes and leather bags. The results may be stored as GIFs or in video formats.
A rotating table is often used to produce a smooth rotation of an object around its axis.
This is a golden standard for sneaker images, that usually boast a gazillion tiny details in the design of every inch of the shoe – from sole to laces.
Ecommerce marketplaces compete with each other as well as smaller brand websites. So they all have strict image requirements that are designed to fit the design of the platform, UX and UI.
Some ecommerce giants will trim your images automatically, the others require exact resolution for each type of the marketplace page. The objective of such rigid regulation is to facilitate a smooth collaboration process for all merchants and speedy website performance.
Last but not least comes product photo retouching services. It can be outsourced on a freelance basis or can be purchased as part of the shoot.
These are some of the functions of the post-production stage:
Photo editing is a time-consuming process that requires a lot of technical skills, so any photographer aims to produce images with minimal shadows and imperfections to reduce the post-production stage.
Whatever part of the process you need to delegate – if it's just art direction, shooting, or post-production – Squareshot has the experience, equipment, and talent for that.
An extensive lineup of the brands whose online stores we helped fill with immaculate product images is the living proof that we invite you to check out. Alternatively, talk to our ecommerce-savvy sales manager, who will guide you to the understanding of what product photography services you need at this stage of your business development.