How to Find a Commercial Photographer
If you are in business selling a product, and perhaps even a service, it is likely you will benefit from using commercial photography assets. These can include basic professional product photographs to branded lifestyle photographs. There is a significant difference between professionally made commercial photography compared to do-it-yourself work, and the difference is also usually paramount to the success of a product.
Now more than ever, people consider themselves photographers. This somewhat stems from smartphone advertising campaigns attempting to qualify smartphone cameras as professional grade. However, top marketing executives and creative directors know better.
For those settling for using amateur equipment and amateur people to create digital assets, it provides executives at the top of their game an easy opportunity to differentiate and reposition those vendors in an inferior corner.
What is a Commercial Photographer?
Working with a commercial photographer creates a foundational high-quality benchmark for all other marketing efforts. Almost all marketing campaigns are anchored in the multimedia assets they use – photography and video. So are basic eCommerce or website product or service listings.
It is rare to see a product page online without it being dominated by multimedia. If the visuals are poor, the written element that is alongside will also be judged as poor. Poor visuals alongside good writing is like attempting to put lipstick on a pig. But a strong visual element can be forgiving of not-so-strong writing – to a point, of course.
The creation of such photos for the most successful brands are almost always – if not always – done by a commercial photographer. A commercial photographer is a professional that is highly skilled at using high-end cameras, lenses, strobe or continuous lighting, and post-production applications.
They understand how to use this equipment and applications in concert to produce imagery that stands out against competition. They can produce images that are desired by the marketing or creative director that hired them.
For the trained eye, the difference in commercial photography work is highly evident. Even for the untrained eye, commercial photography work will subconsciously be instantly favored. This is why marketing and creative directors enlist the services of commercial photographers.
So, a commercial photographer is a person hired for their high skill in producing photographs, using specialized equipment and applications, to be used for marketing and sales purposes.
Why Use a Commercial Photographer?
According to research by Meero, 90 percent of online buyers say that photo quality is the most important factor in an online sale and using larger product photo sizes can increase sales by nearly 10 percent. There are many other reasons to use a commercial photographer but this one alone is enough reason, particularly if competition is also doing so.
With a commercial photographer, the images created will be able to match the real-life colors and details of the product most closely. When creating basic product photographs against basic backgrounds, such as for sale on Amazon, these details are essential.
Nowadays, most brands realize they also need to stand out by using lifestyle photography. At each phase, vendors are looking to stand apart in the images they use. But by not enlisting the help of a commercial photographer to create these photos, one risks turning what would be assets into liabilities. In competitive online sales platforms, often the results are poor sales.
Researching a Commercial Photographer
The creation of commercial photographs to use in a brand’s sales and marketing is not the place to be cheap about things. But it is also not that commercial photographers always have to be expensive either. Brands can find balance.
However, brand managers should be realistic. Since the imagery one needs to be created is so vital to the success of sales and marketing campaigns, it is unrealistic to expect to pay minimum wage or close to it.
Most comprehensive commercial photography studios have between $25,000-$100,000 or more in invested equipment to produce commercial photography. This is not inclusive of on-going monthly costs such as studio leases, insurances, business services such as accounting and licenses, and more. Charging minimum wage fees alone does not begin to recover such costs for most studios. A basic understanding of this can go a long way to understanding why commercial photography is not as cheap as mall portraits.
However, once you have this understanding and have accounted for it in budgeting, finding a commercial photographer to closely fit your budget is possible. If you are looking for renowned international commercial photographers, you will likely want to find a talent agency. If you are looking for local commercial photographers, start with a basic online search.
This can include searching for basic key phrases like “product photography near me” or “lifestyle photographer near me.” Of course, you will want to consider any online reviews a photographer might have. But you will also want to review their portfolio and a good commercial photographer will have a ready website for you to do so.
Next, get on the phone with them or send an inquiry email. Start a conversation about the project you are looking to have done. Uncover if there is a fit, not just in if they can deliver what you need but also in personality for a working relationship. You might find that the commercial photographer is looking to evaluate you in the same way. After all, a symbiotic relationship is ideal.
Working with a Commercial Photographer
Once you have found a photographer you want to work with, it is important to be clear about expectations. In this way, provide as much detail about what you need from a shoot. This includes how many products you have, how many shots per product you want, any specific angles or looks for shots, and so on.
It can be a good idea to sometimes find existing real-world examples that you want to use as benchmarks. So, creating a mood board for such examples is a good way to ensure you and the photographer or on the same page.
To this end, be very specific about end results and any specifications you need to meet. Let us use three pairs of shoes as an example. You need basic product photography shots and you also want some modeled shots. So, here you might say you want one side shot of both sides of each pair of shoes. Then you want a top shot looking into the insole and a bottom shot of the sole. That is four shots total per pair of shoes, and you want these against an all-white background to comply with Amazon.com requirements.
For the lifestyle shots, you specify you want a female model dressed in fitness gear. You might specify you want darker colored fitness pants down to the ankle with no visible logos and a basic solid-colored t-shirt. You might then specify you want the setting to be a hiking trail at sunset. You want full body shots from low angles to highlight the shoes and you need six final shots of the model actively hiking.
You will also want to specify if you will attend the shoot or expect the photographer to fully manage the shoot. This includes whether you will provide the model or expect the photographer to provide a model. It also includes details on how you will get products to the photographer and any expectations for getting products returned to you or not.
With such details, you can expect the photographer to provide a good estimate for the shoot. Once the estimate is made, it is not a good idea to change or add items. When you receive the estimate, find out what it includes in terms of deliverables. This includes whether any retouching work is included, in what format files will be provided and in what size. Also, by what day should you expect to receive the photos and by when does the photographer expect payment. What forms of payments are accepted too?
Finding a commercial photographer to work with can be a one-time deal. If you take the time to do your homework, you are likely to find one you can work with for many shoots to come. More importantly, you will find one that produces images that help you sell your products or services.