When asked to quote for product photographs for e-commerce websites and catalogues, like all commercial photographers, we calculate the cost by taking into account these four factors:
- the MVNP studio’s running costs,
- production costs,
- post-production time including basic editing to e-commerce industry standards and
- planned photo use that is what the images are intended for and where it will be used..
However, what we don’t do is base our estimate on the time we spend photographing and editing products.
Instead of a fee per hour quote, we present our clients with a price-per-photograph estimate, the formula that has become the industry standard for product photography (as well as other services such as portrait photography).
The final cost of a product photography session will depend on the number of images the client buys and not the number of hours we spent on the assignment.
- Neither the client nor the photographer is pushed for time and
- It leads to a win-win situation for both parties.
NO-PRESSURE PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
Let’s say we were asked to photograph bottles with labels front and back, the process might look like this.
The client arrives and unpacks the products while we discuss any changes to the initial brief I quoted on. Although I would have set up a standard lighting configuration beforehand, tweaking the lighting to best show off the product might be required. This can take a few minutes to get it just so.
However, this is probably not the last time I will be making changes. As all the objects might not be the same size, shape or colour the lighting might have to be adjusted every now and then
Then the client asks for front and back images of the product and although it is the same object being photographed, it still amounts to photographing two sets of images.
Besides single shots, the client also requires the products to be grouped together to show the whole range or aspects of it. Still another set of images and most probably another adjustment to the lighting.
Still another request might have been to combine products and props. This requires more time to style and fine-tune so that both the photographer and the client are happy.
Once the photography session is over, post-production starts. Editing and deep-etching to perfect the product image, even to basic industry standards, is a time-consuming process crucial to presenting your product in the best possible light.
MANAGING BOTH TIME AND CREATIVITY
Trying to contain this process in an allocated time frame while still being flexible enough to leave room for the creative process and solving practical problems that may crop up, make calculating a fair fee a tricky business.
If we don’t get it right, the process becomes rushed resulting in a techy photographer, substandard images or a disgruntled client ... or all of the above.
It may be that the photographer completes the assignment in a shorter time.
Now the question is, does he adjust the quote and charge less and feel resentful or does he charge the full fee and take the risk of the client feeling disgruntled at having to pay for time not used?
Again, in the end neither party is happy.
VALUE THE IMAGE ...
Instead of emphasising the time spent in the studio, charging per image places the value on the image itself.
Price-per-image makes me, in the words of US photographer, Rosh Sillars, a low risk photographer – if you don’t like what you see, you don’t have to pay for the image and we continue working on it until you are happy.
It allows us to play around with styling and lighting in the studio and to get the creative juices flowing. Together we may come up with more interesting or imaginative photographs than what the client had expected and he may decide it is worth buying those in addition to the other images.
AND LOWER THE RISK
Having said that, adopting the price-per-photograph fee structure doesn’t mean we end up wasting everyone’s precious time. I know that I am experienced enough that the process will not drag out indefinitely and you won’t be camping in the studio overnight.
On the contrary it is a very efficient system thanks to modern technology.
Most photographers use a techniques referred to as ‘shooting tethered’, that is the image is displayed on the computer screen which allows the client to accept or reject an image on the spot.
So although it is difficult to predict exactly how long a session will take, when the client leaves the studio he has selected all the images he needs and which he is willing to pay for.
Also if sometime down the line, you require additional images or your budget allows you to invest in more photographs, you are welcome to call us and purchase them.
The beauty of price per image is that the client is in control. You do not have to spend more than your budget allows.