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Thread: What to charge for product photography

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    Member Iammuc's Avatar
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    Smile What to charge for product photography

    Hello all,

    I am a designer and have been asked by a client to do some product photography for them, downlights, dimmers, power supplies, etc. I have also been asked to photograph some of their current on site installations also like shop fronts (I will be driven around for this). This is all new to me and I have no idea what to charge so I am looking for some guidance from some veterans.

    I have decided to go down the route of buying a medium sized lighting tent and 3 articulating table lamps from say officeworks for the setup with some daylight bulbs. I like the idea of easily controlling lighting placement with those articulating lamps vs lamp stands and boom stands. Is this setup adequate?

    Thanks in advance.

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    Moderately Underexposed I @ M's Avatar
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    I would suggest that your fees for the described project should fall directly in line with :-

    #1 Your time spent completing the job, what $/hr value do you put upon yourself?

    #2 Your ability to confidently produce print ready, catalogue worthy images.

    I would respectfully suggest that if you can't answer the first question and have any doubts about #2 then you aren't ready to do the job.

    Please don't think I am neccesarily being harsh with my answers but do think about how you would think if I asked you what my charges should be to design something for someone when I don't have any established working knowledge of the design business.
    Andrew
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    Administrator ricktas's Avatar
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    I think the issue here is how much experience you have as a photographer. You posted your thread in the New To Photography forum, when you are seeking business advice (I moved your thread to the Business of Photography forum)? May we ask how much experience and knowledge you have as a photographer, cause you talk abou $ and lights, but give us no idea about your camera gear or experience. This is important, cause no use charging them $100.00 an hour (or more), if you are photography skills are not there. So what gear will you be shooting with and what experience do you have at product photography, and photography in general?

    Your suggestion of articulated table lamps from Office Works suggests you want to try and produce a professional photographer result with the cheapest possible costs. Sorry, but if you want a quality result, you need to use quality products to achieve it.

    We need a lot more information from you before we can suggest anything.

    Also, welcome to AP. I hope we see you join in on the forums, not just join up for business advice, and when you get the answer, we don't hear from you again.
    Last edited by ricktas; 04-10-2011 at 6:19am.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post
    Hello all,

    I am a designer and have been asked by a client to do some product photography for them, downlights, dimmers, power supplies, etc. I have also been asked to photograph some of their current on site installations also like shop fronts (I will be driven around for this). This is all new to me and I have no idea what to charge so I am looking for some guidance from some veterans.

    I have decided to go down the route of buying a medium sized lighting tent and 3 articulating table lamps from say officeworks for the setup with some daylight bulbs. I like the idea of easily controlling lighting placement with those articulating lamps vs lamp stands and boom stands. Is this setup adequate?

    Thanks in advance.
    First thing I'll note is that you're looking for advice from some veterans - and by veterans, I'm assuming that you mean professional photographers ?


    No offence to many here, as I believe this is a hugely helpful site, and many of the members, I enjoy communicating with and supporting the site, but its worth pointing out that if you've had a look around the site in a recent survey here, the amount of professionals on this site are in a clear minority.

    So ensure that you take advice from those who have real experience in this field and not be distracted from what some think, some have heard, or have read elsewhere on the web, or generally have an opinion based on Zero involvement in this photographic genre.

    OK, other than a welcome to the site; that over with, I believe you require an honest, and I hope helpful response.

    So this is just that - honest.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post
    I am a designer.
    OK, no offence intended, and I have no doubt I will be flamed - but your first comment is the only one that appears to make any sense.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post
    this is all new to me
    If its new to you, then that should be telling you something.

    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post
    3 articulating lights from office works
    yep - to answer your question of "would this be adequate" - yep you could get away with it, and I would estimate the results would be poor, so honestly, No it would not.



    You're a designer.

    Now thats not stopping anyone being multi-talented. But I'd concentrate on the design and make a partnership with someone who has some experience in what you're suggesting. And again, yes definitely expand your skills, but dont practice expanding your knowledge on a client, because even if you're a top shot designer, they are going to hate you if you produce crappy marketing images of their products. Basically, if the shots dont perform, nor will the very best of the design of their marketing material. And from an economic point of view, as the major cost of this type of exercise is likely to be the design and printing if going to hard copy, this type of cost saving is essentially short sighted.

    Getting clients is one of the hardest parts of this business - losing them is also the easiest. They've come to you for good advice.

    I'm afraid that the very nature of your question clearly demonstrates that you dont have much of an insight into whats involved in producing photographic images. And you're clearly believing the hype of most photographic and printer manufacturers, which is based on "buy this and you'll produce 'professional' images" - which of course is total rubbish.

    Simply, you're completely and utterly underestimating what is involved.


    How much to charge, doesnt even come into the equation in my view. Just a simple dont do it, and why do it, when there are so many people out there who are capable ? Does it just mean extra income for you ?


    So what type of professional would consider undertaking a professional job on an amateur basis ?

    And by amateur basis, I mean your clear lack of knowledge about this very issue of product photography.

    Have you thought about:

    1) how you will need to mix ambient light emitting from some of the products (ie downlights - backlit light switches) ?

    2) how you will produce enough light to give yourself a large depth of field which you will need when you are so close to each product ( ie 3 lights from Office Works wont hack it) ?

    3) how you will faithfully reproduce the exact colour of white/cream or whatever the plastic is in the switches - again ambient light will be tricky to control exactly.

    4) how will you set up each light, it may need power - there will be an electrical wiring in some cases - will you do this yourself ?

    5) when they drive you around - how will you shoot the shop fronts ? Will it be at the right time when the inside light is balanced with the outside light ? How many of those do you think you can do in one day ?

    6) have you any idea of the heat build up in a light tent thats being lit by ambient lights ? Did someone say fire risk ?

    7) does you business insurance cover you for something like this type of activity ? and if so does it also cover you for the cost of products in your care ? and if you do go and shoot shop fronts, if any of them are in shopping centres do you have the minimum of $20 million (or in Westfields situation $30 million) public liability cover ?

    When there is a surplus of photographers out there with the knowledge, skills, experience, and very importantly a high level of investment in professional photographic lighting (ie strobes, light modifiers, stands etc) that would cost to buy about the same price as a medium sized car - it seems both ridiculous and delusional to consider going out with a DLSR, and 3 lights from Office Works, and trying to compete with them.


    I dont think you would be doing yourself or your client any favours by choosing to tackle something that would appear to be well out of your depth I'm afraid.

    And PS, I would suggest that if you're seriously interested in photography that you contribute a little to this community. 1st post, and immediately asking for significant advice seems a little off to me.
    Last edited by Longshots; 04-10-2011 at 1:10pm.
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    thanks ricktas, straight to the point I must say.

    i have been a dslr hobyist photographer since 2009 as well as serious hobbyist dslr videographer. No formal training and I have never done any paid pro photography work.

    My equipment list is as follows;

    lumix gh2
    variety of lumix lenses
    contax zeiss 28,35,50,85
    tamron 90mm macro
    olympus fl50-r strobe
    comer 1800 led light

    reason for chosing desk lamps is from my point of view all it does is light the lightbox? I can understand if i were to shoot open, which i may have to, then i would maybe need another setup with modifiers. But coming from a DIY video background any light is good light to me (obviously it has to be relative to use), so long as you know how to control and maniuplate it.

    You are correct, my budget for this is small, but I am always open to other suggestions for a "pro" setup to see how it should be done. I am going by diy examples online where people have managed to create decent images from used styrofoam boards and diffusers held up by empty beer bottles =)

    Also to note, images are only intended for web use. not for print as far as I know.

    Not looking to overvalue my skills at all, just after a fair price for the learning experience.

    Thanks again.

  6. #6
    It's all about the Light!
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    William (Longshots) is spot on!
    regards, Kym Gallery Honest & Direct Constructive Critique Appreciated! ©
    Digital & film, Bits of glass covering 10mm to 500mm, and other stuff



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    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post

    Not looking to overvalue my skills at all, just after a fair price for the learning experience.
    Maybe things have changed in the past few years, but there is nothing fair in considering charging for your learning experience ?

    Go ahead and teach yourself - thats what I did. Just dont use a professional client to learn on. Go and try it first, teach yourself first before you accept the job.

    And no - its not true that any light is a good light - video and stills - are still different. That statement alone demonstrates that you clearly dont understand what you're proposing. The amount of light you will need on close ups, which is what you're shooting, will required a considerable depth of field. So that means a considerable amount of light. And just because its going to web, doesnt detract from it still potentially being poor.

    Can I remind you that you asked for opinions. No point at all in defending your position as you yourself said, "you're new to this".


    And I hate to say this, but trust me as a "veteran", this line is one I've heard repeated so many times - normally preceeded with a wail from a colleague/friend/forum member: "arrrggghhhh !!!! but they said :

    Quote Originally Posted by Iammuc View Post
    images are only intended for web use. not for print as far as I know.
    "

    And when they do go to print you will of course be rooted.

    When you say your budget is small - and how did you produce a budget when you dont know what it will cost to do ? Producing a budget relies on some knowledge, as opposed to pulling a figure out of the air and stating that this is what you have to spend. Budgets are also produced once you know what you will be able to charge for something. Which brings us back to you asking the very first question of what should you charge for this. Does any of this sound logical to you ?


    Why do people ask for advice and then always seem to respond with an "I know better" attitude ?
    Last edited by Longshots; 04-10-2011 at 1:08pm.

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    thanking you Longshot for your honest reply.

    a real eye opener thats for sure and alot of food for thought. Appologies for starting a thread like this on my first post, but I needed some advice pronto. It looks like I have really jumped into the deep end on this one.

    the client just coincidentally happens to be a friends business, yes the good old working for "friends". I figured it would be a good stepping stone but didn't think it would turn into a mountain..ha. Ah well, I'll let them know and if they are still stubborn enough to insist on me doing it, what's a ballpark minimum wage figure? Maybe just by the hrly mates rate I'm already charging.

    Things learnt:
    - Will it be at the right time when the inside light is balanced with the outside light ?
    - if you do go and shoot shop fronts, if any of them are in shopping centres do you have the minimum of $20 million (or in Westfields situation $30 million) public liability cover ?

    Could never get my head around posting mulitple quotes on a forum.

    And, for the record, even I am not daft enough to bring along 3 wall socket desktop lamps for a shoot...ha well maybe for a personal project =)


    thanks again gentlemen for your sound advice. I may post up another thread looking for advice on proper equipment setup unless someone can be kind enough to list it here for refference.

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    my previous reply had no malice intent of an "i know better" attitude and if you were offended by that I appologise.

    i guess this thread has lived its lifespan. a good day to all and thanks for the eye opener.

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    Ausphotography Regular junqbox's Avatar
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    I do the product photography (shoes) for the company I work for and through their tightfistedness, they only popped for the work lights on yellow stands from bunnings. What a waste of time having to colour correct for every shot, etc. Also, they don't ptrovide anywhere enough light, especially if you've something with dark colours and need to bring the detail out. Eventually convinced them to buy a chinese 3 head kit, much better now thank you.
    I've had people phone me and offer shots done, deep etched for $40 each. Honestly, they have to be working out of their parents garage to be able to charge that much. Just add up these- your time @$X ph to set-up shoot and PP each shot, equipment, etc., as per above.
    As LongShots said above, it's not really fair on your client for you to do your training on their time, the least you can do is be ready to shoot with something close to actual settings (may not take long depending on product). We prepare all of our images for print, although most only end up on the web. The quality process is the same.
    Don't know enough about your existing equipment to comment, other than 'are you able to use a remote release? use external flash set-ups? etc. I can only imagine how much of PITA it would be to use the 2sec timer for every single shot.

    Hope this helps

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    haha theres that word deep etched, I just finished a gruelling 6 days of product shoot last month for big Australian fashion label. The company is now smart enough to outsource to India for the deep etching at a cost of only 80 cents per photo, even times that by 800 or so photos I submitted it is still quite a substantial saving in costs and hours put in were I or the web design girl to do it locally.

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    what is deep etched actually ? Is it cutting ourt the object and replaceing background with transparent layer basically ?

    answering the OP, if your "client" is happy with poor results costing next to nothing, by all means use poor experience and poor equipment. You can't stop people parting with their money.
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    what is deep etched actually ? Is it cutting ourt the object and replaceing background with transparent layer basically ?

    answering the OP, if your "client" is happy with poor results costing next to nothing, by all means use poor experience and poor equipment. You can't stop people parting with their money.
    yeah pretty much Darren, not THAT hard to do, but very very time consuming to get things perfectly and not jagged or not smooth line etc. I'd charge a new Ferrari if I had to sit there and deep etch 800+ photos!

    http://www.innervisions.com.au/deep-etching.html

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    god yeah, i couldnt do it, im painfully inadequate at masking etc, though I did use one of OnOne's software tools tools called mask pro for awhile and it made it bearable

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    Ausphotography Regular junqbox's Avatar
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    try doing it on shoes/clothing with cutout or crochet type patterns, sends you cross-eyed ;-)

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    Quote Originally Posted by junqbox View Post
    try doing it on shoes/clothing with cutout or crochet type patterns, sends you cross-eyed ;-)
    I might give that a go, if I am cross eyed I might end up getting the focus points right...
    Andrew
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    Quote Originally Posted by junqbox View Post
    I do the product photography (shoes) for the company I work for and through their tightfistedness, they only popped for the work lights on yellow stands from bunnings. What a waste of time having to colour correct for every shot, etc. Also, they don't ptrovide anywhere enough light, especially if you've something with dark colours and need to bring the detail out. Eventually convinced them to buy a chinese 3 head kit, much better now thank you.
    I've had people phone me and offer shots done, deep etched for $40 each. Honestly, they have to be working out of their parents garage to be able to charge that much. Just add up these- your time @$X ph to set-up shoot and PP each shot, equipment, etc., as per above.
    As LongShots said above, it's not really fair on your client for you to do your training on their time, the least you can do is be ready to shoot with something close to actual settings (may not take long depending on product). We prepare all of our images for print, although most only end up on the web. The quality process is the same.
    Don't know enough about your existing equipment to comment, other than 'are you able to use a remote release? use external flash set-ups? etc. I can only imagine how much of PITA it would be to use the 2sec timer for every single shot.

    Hope this helps

    Thanks, very helpful. I have a bunch of those bunning 500w flood lights at home and the thought did go through my mind..ha And you still needed more light? What do you think of these kits? they have 3 and 5 heads in soft boxes:
    http://www.fotogenic.com.au/Studio_S...x_Boom_Package
    and a single bulb setup:
    http://www.fotogenic.com.au/Tent_Cub...age_Boom_Light

    They are by no means pro gear, but affordable.

    Do you shoot in a tent or open? prefference?continuous or flash?

    Yep i have those cactus v5 wireless flash/remote triggers and an Olympus FL50-R flash with modifiers plus a comer 1800 led light.

    What you suggested for pricing is logical. If ends up costing them almost as much as a pro because I'm inefficient, they can make the call to cull my services. I have pre-warned them of the possibility. $40 etched each is peanuts you say, not knowing what I know now I honestly would have charged less. Then again it may very well be relative to the quality that I may be producing lol.

    Thanks again

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    Quote Originally Posted by kiwi View Post
    answering the OP, if your "client" is happy with poor results costing next to nothing, by all means use poor experience and poor equipment. You can't stop people parting with their money.
    They seem to be content even after my debriefing, we will see how it all turns out.

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    Oh, and I wouldn't charge either. That's my decision if I have no idea.

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