October 29, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

Product Photography, Part 5: Outsourcing

 

We’ve finally reached the 5th and final tutorial in our Product Photography blog post series – Outsourcing.

In the previous four articles I covered these topics:

1) Cameras

2) Background & Lighting

3) Taking Pictures

4) Picture Editing

So the above four tutorials are suitable for anyone who wants to learn to take pro quality photos themselves, but…

What if you don’t want to learn product photography?

What if you don’t have money to invest in equipment?

What if you’re selling highly complicated products and just can’t get decent pictures on your own?

What if you have just 2 or 3 products and don’t want all the hassle?

There’s a solution! We all know that nowadays everything can be outsourced and product photography is not an exception – you can pay a professional to take high quality product pictures for you and not have to worry about doing it on your own.

There are several advantages to outsourcing product pictures:

  • Better quality. No matter how good your DIY set-up is, chances are you won’t be able to compete with a professional photographer. The difference will be even bigger if you sell stuff like glass products, jewellery or expensive watches. A professional photographer in a studio will be able to achieve that “magazine look” with ease while you could spend days and weeks not even coming close to achieving that.
  • Constant quality. Again, professionals will make sure all product pictures are equally good and look identical, something you’ll have to learn and work very hard to achieve. This may not be that much of an issue if you sell all kinds of different products BUT if you sell one product in various settings/colours/sizes, you’ll want all your images to look the same, in both style and quality.
  • Volume. If you have hundreds of products and not enough time on hand, it will take you months to get all your pictures done. Whereas a professional photographer, with their experience and set-up, will probably only need a few days.

In a perfect world, we would be all stick to what we know best – we sell our products and photographers take product pictures. But in reality the situation is different and there are some disadvantages to outsourcing product pictures:

  • Cost. Depending on which outsourcing channel you choose, getting your product pictures done by a professional can get expensive. Especially if you want top quality and have dozens or hundreds of products. So you always want to calculate costs before you do this as often for that money you could buy your own equipment and take product pictures in house for years to come.
  • Time. If you have your own set-up, you can get a picture set done for a new product in a matter of minutes which is incredibly important if you receive new products on a regular basis and want to add them to your eBay/online shop as soon as possible.
  • Limited flexibility. If you send off your products to a remote location, you’ll have little to no control over how the products will be positioned and what type of pictures you’ll receive. In your own studio; you can play with angles, positions, lighting etc. until you achieve that perfect look you had envisioned.

So you really have to look at the pros AND cons of outsourcing this process and decide which model is more suitable for your business and financial situation. If you do decide to go down the route of outsourcing, here are some tips on how to get going:

Finding a Photographer

Start locally!

Don’t underestimate your amateur photographer friend! If you know someone who’s seen in parties or trips wearing something that looks like a DSLR camera, get in touch and ask whether they would be interested in a DIY project!

In most cases you’ll get a super positive response as let’s be honest – no one really appreciates the work we do. I say we because I’m a keen photographer myself and often spend the majority of my party time taking pictures and shooting those annoying home videos!

So any extra ‘work’ will most likely be taken with open arms!

Look and ask around to see if anyone you know could be interested in working with you to help take some awesome product pictures for your business.

If you don’t have any friends who are good enough in photography, the next step would be to look for a local photographer/studio.

Photographers are usually quite flexible on pricing so don’t be afraid to negotiate, especially if you have a fair amount of products to cover. This way not only will you get your pictures done quickly, but you will also be present in the process and can work 1 on 1 with your photographer to get the best shots possible.

If you can’t find a local photographer or their prices are simply too high, go online! Just search on Google for “Product Photography” and dozens of companies will pop up.

But that’s not all! Sometimes you don’t even have to PAY to get high quality product pictures:

Borrowing Product Pictures

If you can’t take your own pictures or can’t afford to outsource this process, use stock pictures. By stock pictures I mean the manufacturer’s official pictures. These can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website as well as any major online retailer such as Amazon.

You can easily recognise these images – they look somewhat standardised – with a pure white background and perfect exposure.

Stock pictures will never carry any water marks either.

In some niches stock pictures are actually all you need, like with Blu Rays for example – there’s little to no point in taking your own (usually worse looking) pictures for Blu Rays. Same would apply to any branded electronics such as digital cameras – stock pictures for these products will be of a much higher quality than you’ll ever be able to take, so definitely use them instead!

You can also use stock pictures in conjunction with your own. This can work very well in many niches. In fact Amazon themselves use this tactic by allowing customers to upload their own product photos to go alongside the stock ones.

If you can’t find any stock pictures online, you can actually ask your SUPPLIER whether they can’t help you out with them.

When you place an order, simply ask your supplier whether they can provide any pictures you could use in your eBay/online shop – this is a very handy tactic if you’re selling more complicated items such as jewellery or very large items like furniture or garden sheds. Most large suppliers will have at least a small selection of product photos available so it never hurts to ask!

Also remember to actually ask permission on whether you’ll be able to use these pictures on your online shop and for other marketing activities.

Conclusions

To sum it up, ideally – you’ll want to take your own pictures, but if that’s not possible, there are other options available. Whatever you do, DO NOT just put this somewhere on your life long to-do list! You have to be proactive and work on this product picture issue. That is if you want to build a serious business.

Half effort brings half results so don’t take any short-cuts here.

If you’re wondering about the number of pictures you need to display for each product on your eBay listing or shop’s product page, well again this varies highly based on the niche you’re working in. For anything simple, such as a can of coconut milk, one pic is enough.

On the other hand, if you’re selling digital cameras, you’ll want to get as many pictures as you can as people spend way more time considering everything before clicking that Buy It Now button when expensive and complex items are involved.

I’d say that in most cases, all you need is 2-3 pictures. Just so you have one standard picture, then one in a different angle and one macro shot. But don’t take my word for this and use common sense – after all you’ll know best how many pictures you need of your product to increase sales.

IMPORTANT!!! If you do outsource product pictures, always ask for ALL files that are taken. These will include RAW image files straight from the camera as well as the final, edited JPEG files. And make sure you store these on your HDD with an online back-up, as covered in the previous product photography tutorial.

Another thing you want to consider is Watermarking. Yes, there are people who will steal your product images in the blink of an eye – just take eBay, where product pictures and descriptions are routinely ripped off, as real life proof of that. So you better prepare in advance and watermark your images to make life more difficult for these thieves.

The easiest (and free) way to do this is by applying a graphical watermark. You can do this quickly via Photoshop or any other graphics program by simply adding your logo or text and making it almost transparent – just enough to be seen but not enough to detract from the product.

If you don’t use any photo editing software at all, get someone on Fiverr to do this for you for just $5! For that money you can probably get 10 or 20 pictures watermarked. Also, you can add text, logo or further graphical elements to your product pictures, if you want to.

The problem with these traditional watermarks is that they can often be simply removed using the same programs that you used to insert them!

If you’re a more advanced user or simply want to protect your product pictures 100%, use digital watermarking. DigiMarc.com provides this service and they are actually the leading company in the industry. Digital watermarking means that digital/invisible changes are made to your image files that can be traced EVEN if these images are cropped or edited in any way and then re-saved several times.

If you’re using DigiMarc’s service, you’ll easily be able to track down any of your product pictures that are being used by someone else and will have full legal rights to enforce their removal. Usually though it never goes that far, as once you send proof that you own the images they’re using, they’ll be taken down immediately.

OK, that’s about it for now for product photography! Remember, knowledge and experience are key here! Don’t be afraid to learn a new skill if that’s what’s necessary for your business.

I personally got involved in photography mainly for business reasons and started from scratch – with the absolute basics! With modern technology it’s actually not that difficult to get decent product pictures, if you know a little bit about what you’re doing!

Don’t settle for anything less than perfect! If a local photographer or a friend of yours can’t deliver decent quality images, you’ll have to be harsh but say – “Sorry; this is not the quality I’m looking for”. And just move on and look for another, more professional studio.

Do whatever it takes to get high quality product pictures that make you proud of what you’re selling.

If you need any advice regarding product photography, feel free to leave your questions below, in the comments box.

Good Luck – I know you CAN do it!

 

Leave a Reply