3 Reasons Why Do-It-Yourself Product Photography Doesn’t Work
So, you’re launching your new brand and want to save money wherever you can, because launching a company and product is expensive. There are trademarks, prototypes to build, websites to build, marketing to do, and on and on. One area where brands often look to cut or eliminate costs is on product photography.
Often brands turn to do-it-yourself product photography – which would be fine if they knew what they were doing. Sometimes, they might hire a low-cost photographer. And often, this results in finding a second photographer to re-do the shoot. There is a reason for the phrase, “buy once, cry once.” Arguably, getting professional product photography done is where you shouldn’t cut corners and here are three reasons why.
Commercial Photography Requires Strong Technical Expertise
Today more than ever, one might think to get a basic DSLR, set it to auto mode and click the button. Or, even worse, you might do this on your smartphone. After all, some smartphone makers would have you believe they produce tier-one commercial-grade photos.
You then set the product on a background and when done, the pictures look nowhere near as nice as the big brands you’re looking to compete against. The background isn’t as white as you want, or as dark, or as bright. The shadows are too dark, or the highlights are too bright. The colors are off. Zooming in looks awful. You see flaws in your product that needs post-production work, and on and on.
Achieving commercial-grade product photography requires an understanding that it is a science and an art. The scientific (or technical) aspects include having a thorough knowledge of taking your camera out of auto mode and manipulating multiple technical settings. It requires an understanding of lighting on subjects and how to not just control lighting but transform it too.
You also need to balance the two, your camera and lighting settings. Once you have an understanding of this it then takes study, practice, trial, error, more practice, trial and error to get good at it. Another factor is that not all products are equal. They require different approaches. Some are shiny, some are dull. Some are big, and some are tiny. Some are flat, and some have significant shape – these all impact lighting, setups and more. Once you’ve gotten good at these elements, you can turn to the art part – getting creative with how you shoot your products.
All this and we’ve barely discussed post-production of photos – running them through complex photo editing software that can be as complicated as a DSLR and using it with strobes. Sometimes, you can find yourself spending as much or more time in Photoshop, on one photo, than doing the actual shoot.
A Commercial Photographer Will Have Good Gear
Bottom line, there is no device that can create commercial-grade product photography with a single click. The truth is it takes a lot of good gear, and good software. High-end studio setups for commercial photography are expensive: $3,000 for a camera body, $1,000-$2,000 or more for your lens of choice, $4,000 for high quality studio strobes, $2,000 for various other items, such as product tents or seamless, grids, barndoors, reflectors, c-stands, soft boxes, tripods, and various other goodies photographers have on hand to use as needed.
Yes, $10,000+ to start out with high-end commercial photography. It gets crazy more costly than this. There are some brands that work with photographers where the camera body alone is more than $20,000. Of course, it can be done for less. But, you should also expect far less in results – if that kind of thing is okay with you for the product(s) you’re trying to sell to make a living from.
Because Your Income Might Depend on It
Okay, maybe that sub-headline is a bit dramatic. Or is it? So, you’re launching your new brand or product, of which you want to sell a lot of. It’s undeniable the primary thing people are influenced by to decide whether or not to purchase your product are the photographs. How many times have you yourself bought a product that had poor pictures? It’s rare if not ever. So, why would you ever risk doing that with products you’re looking to create an income from?
Product photography is not where you cut corners. Image is everything. Make sure you have it done right, with a commercial photographer that has a portfolio to prove it. You’ll make a great first impression that keeps them coming back.