Product photographers advice needed
/forum/topic/1165610/0



tvmann
Registered: Feb 09, 2004
Total Posts: 153
Country: Canada

Hi there. I have a small question for those of you out there who have sold product photography. I shoot mainly weddings and headshots on a part time basis, however a neighbour of mine approached me about shooting some jewellery that he makes. I bought some seamless and some small props to place the items on. Anyway he really liked the outcome and has about 4000 pieces to shoot for his online catalog. My question to you who have and continue to do this is, do you charge a per image price, an hourly rate, or a complete package price? It is a neighbour and my first time doing it so I am a little hesitant however it is a biggish type project. Just looking for a little advice.

My job in this roll is to shoot, slightly edit and then output a Jpeg file that his web guy will then take over for from there and build a catalog.

Thanks in advance

Mario



JBPhotog
Registered: Oct 10, 2007
Total Posts: 532
Country: Canada

4000 items is a lot to shoot but if you can, gang a few together and then slice it up in post.

As far as pricing, I'd pass on the each method. Figure out how many you can shoot edit and process in a hour, be realistic not optimistic. Then you can do the math for a project price. Clients prefer project prices when there is a defined number of items to shoot, they prefer an hourly rate when they don't know how many items will be shot.

I'm not going to advise you on rates, you already know that based on your wedding shoots. But have a contract either way stating number of items and final pricing. That way you both are clear what the terms are before you proceed. The client may decide to short list the items if the fee is high, but don't compromise, stick to your per shot/edit fee.



cwebster
Registered: Oct 03, 2005
Total Posts: 3394
Country: United States

A large part of the challenge of shooting 4,000 objects will be tracking the progress of the object and it's resulting file(s).

When you bid, be sure to allow for a full time assistant so you can concentrate on shooting. If you shoot 10 objects an hour (very unlikely), you have 10 work weeks of work ahead of you just shooting. Not counting post processing.

Strive to get everything right in the camera, because with that many objects, even 10 minutes per object in post processing will add up to weeks of work.

Don't underestimate the demands that the logistics will put on you.

<Chas>




nolaguy
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 684
Country: United States

Wow.

4,000 unique items is a huge product line for a small business. My first question would be about that. For example, if it’s 500 styles in 8 variations each (such as metals, gemstones), there could be shot/angle consistency implications (e.g. a Gap sweater in 8 different colors). That aside:

cwebster is dead-on regarding the logistics, handling, documentation, etc… and if there are precious metals/stones involved, there are security and insurance considerations.

You mention a seamless and props – most jewelry is shot in a lightbox or similar environment. You don’t say what type of jewelry it is but much of the time, metal-intensive jewelry is essentially a mirror that reflects the environment around it. This may be something to consider. Have a look at Tiffany’s site and study the reflections in the metal.

You mention “…slightly edit…” do you and he agree on what that means and will that task vary across his product line? For the sake of mentioning it, many jewelry companies silhouette the product so they can drop it into any composition and add a bit of shadow or surface reflection in post (there are companies overseas that will silhouette for a song).

I’d suggest you templatize your angles, lighting and set-up for the various formats: rings, earrings, pendants and so on to speed workflow.

Cleaning is another issue. If you’re only shooting for web resolution, dirt, dust, skin oil, etc may not show but you may want to encourage your friend to shoot for high res as well. This is a lot of work and he/she may want to be able to use the images for print. If so, having an ultrasonic and steamer available may be important (some education may be required as not all jewelry should be cleaned that way).

It’s also common to use disposable cotton gloves or finger cots when handling the jewelry for photography. Note that the cotton may leave strands that catch on prongs or other parts.

Again, depending upon the resolution needs, you may want to consider a dedicated macro lens. I shoot Nikon and get good results with the 105 2.8 – I can’t recall Canon’s equivalent.

I would definitely avoid the project fee approach only because this is a BIG job between neighbors that is seemingly unfamiliar ground for both of you. If I were you, I’d contract for a test project of perhaps 100 to 200 pieces, then evaluate things after that. Neither you nor your neighbor want to be burned and I suspect you’ll both have a much better idea what to expect after a meaningful test run.

Even then, I suggest hourly billing with small commitments along the way so either of you can opt out if things aren’t going well. There will be many surprises with a project of this scope and I strongly suggest relief valves for the pressure it’s likely to involve.

None of that really answers your question, but hopefully it helps frame in the magnitude of the project. From there, what's your time worth to you? Charge accordingly. I personally wouldn't do it for less than $125 an hour (US) plus the assistant's fee and once the project was lined out and all the gears were greased, I'd be able to move through 6 to 10 products an hour (again, with a good assistant).

Any unique requirements such as the angles mentioned at the beginning would slow things and that doesn't include post work.


Good luck with it all.

Chuck



gilead
Registered: Jul 27, 2009
Total Posts: 413
Country: Canada

Wow as right that is a big project for sure.
nolaguy , it's great to see such good advice and very sensible approach with your suggestion's. I'm sure op and neighbor would both benefit from following your guide.
It's people like you with your time and knowledge is what makes this a wikipedia of photography.



tvmann
Registered: Feb 09, 2004
Total Posts: 153
Country: Canada

Thank you all for such tremendous advice. There is a part of me that thinks I may be slightly over my head on this one but that's why we rise to challenges. Chuck, that is a wealth of information. Thank you. I think I will take gilead's suggestion and have both my neighbour and I read your post and formulate a plan from there. Again thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread.


Mario



BluesWest
Registered: Nov 02, 2009
Total Posts: 749
Country: United States

Nolaguy, great post! It's a mini-tutorial on small product photography -- I've bookmarked it for future reference.

John



JBPhotog
Registered: Oct 10, 2007
Total Posts: 532
Country: Canada

The caveat with the 'test' method mentioned is, if I am a paying client why would I test with a photographer who by the nature of a test is not confident he/she can do the job? So I go ahead and do a test, I'm not happy with the job so now I have to pay again to have those reshot, nope not me, I'd find someone who can do it right the first time.

There is no question this is a big time commitment, that is why you want to be crystal clear as to how much time it will take to complete the job. Sure you are going to have to do some background work to know the variables, I think you already know that if you shoot wedding professionally, that's part of the biz.



nolaguy
Registered: Mar 09, 2011
Total Posts: 684
Country: United States

JB, we’ve all been there with a new opportunity for growth but a lack of full experience in the “next step” and I would hope photographers entering a new niche would be comfortable acknowledging the simple truths (as Mario has). That said…

Reply Option 1 (take your pick)
JBPhotog wrote:
The caveat with the 'test' method mentioned is, if I am a paying client why would I test with a photographer who by the nature of a test is not confident he/she can do the job? So I go ahead and do a test, I'm not happy with the job so now I have to pay again to have those reshot, nope not me, I'd find someone who can do it right the first time.

Please reread Mario’s initial post. The neighbor knows this is test work. So far, he appears to be happy with the results. Cool. Next prudent phase of the project is set for discussion.

JBPhotog wrote:
There is no question this is a big time commitment, that is why you want to be crystal clear as to how much time it will take to complete the job. Sure you are going to have to do some background work to know the variables…


Umm, yes, background work. In the scheme of a 4,000 product shoot in a genre I’m not entirely experienced in, doing a hundred or so shots to get the lay of the land would be useful to me. You call it “background work”, I call it “test”. I love it when we agree.

As for being “crystal clear” on the time it will take to complete the job… you’re kidding, right?

C’mon JB. Between product positioning, shooting and post we could easily be talking about 1000 to 2000 hours of work – not to mention the coordination and documentation of all the product across the production line. At this point there is absolutely nothing crystal clear about this project.

And while I’m rambling, ganging the products and slicing up in post will actually take longer. It’s the positioning of the product, the light and the camera angle that take the time. Clicking another shutter release is comparatively quick. Worse, at the macro level, far easier to arrange one product at a time than try to place several in the same focus plane and angle.


Reply Option 2

Hi JB,

Thanks for your input. I appreciate your perspective and if this were a typical job I might agree with you. But my impression is that Mario isn’t out there marketing himself as a product or catalog shooter – this opportunity for him (and his neighbor) appears to have just come about via his neighbor’s awareness that he’s a photographer (I know I’m just guessing). And it seems Mario is being completely transparent with his neighbor about what he’s experienced with and what less so – certainly a good thing particularly considering the scope of the project.

I don’t at all think the approach we’re discussing says anything about a lack of confidence on Mario’s part. I think of it more as “I know I can do this – but it’s a big project and I can’t give you a precise quote or timeline until we go through a few rounds of this. To achieve the best results, I may have to invest in a bit more gear, and so on. Let’s get this all nailed down before we commit to the entire scope. I want to make sure you’re entirely satisfied with the results – and the value” etc, etc, etc.

I’m not trying to put words in his mouth, just trying to assist with my best guess at the likely scenario.

In any case, this strikes me as a pretty interesting chance to broaden his skills and experience (and enjoy some income) but the potential commitment is tremendous – this could easily be a year-long project. Given that, color me wimp but I’d… 1) want to better understand what I was getting into, 2) have an exit strategy that both parties were comfortable with and certainly not least, 3) protect my relationship with my neighbor.

Personally, I think Mario can pull it off no sweat (well, lots of sweat, actually). With appropriate equipment, this isn’t a difficult job. But even once he’s got things lined out it’s A LOT of production.

I hope it goes well and that he shares some shots with us.

Just my five cents.
(It used to be two cents but given the nice comments from gilead, BluesWest and Mario, I’ve raised my rates.)

Thanks guys.

Chuck



JBPhotog
Registered: Oct 10, 2007
Total Posts: 532
Country: Canada

Not to argue a point nolaguy but the poster has already tested for this client, and the client likes the work. I shoot product for a living and have done so for nearly 30 years and have shot lots of jewellery and shiny things so I speak from experience, not assumptions. I have also done big jobs like this and estimating it is time consuming but the more you detail things the better off you are in knowing how much time and equipment is required.

The client is asking for web resolution, so ganging is easily possible with a pro quality sensor. Background work is all part of quoting a job. Here is what I would recommend the shooter do before offering a price(BTW these are typical steps in assessing any job):
1. meet the client and discuss their expectations, do they want high end catalogue photography with props and varying backgrounds or web resolution well lit on white for close cutting. Get them to show examples of what they expect.
2. see the product, assess its challenges from a lighting and set perspective, are they small or large, etc.
3. assess if you need to purchase or rent equipment to meet the clients expectations.
4. assess how many you can shoot with the same set up and how many set changes are required. Such as shoot all the rings using the same set, earrings together, pendants etc. Set changes take time, this is a factor of the quote. Materials needed is also added.
5. processing, with this number of shots your workflow can kill your estimate, stream line it for efficiency and get it right in camera. Assess how long this step will take, add to the estimate.

Your estimate should include and not be limited to one line item, separate these:
- your shooting fee, what you charge as a photographer for the time you think will be needed to complete the job.
- your pre and post processing fee. Pay yourself for your time.
- set fees, any materials need for the job, backgrounds, gels, tape etc.
- rentals, if special equipment is needed for the job. If you plan on purchasing equipment, make sure it has a future use and if so, a small amount can be included in your shooting fee. If not and this is a one time use, the client is expected to pay the residual value which you can reduce by estimating the used value once the job is completed, then sell it to recoup the loss.
- media storage costs, whether it is hard drives or DVD's the client pays for your secure storage.
- miscellaneous, is the client going to attend any of the shoots, will they need to be fed or watered. Add any charges you anticipate that don't fit one of the above categories.