Info to have before calling a photographer for a quote

I frequently receive emails from potential clients that read something like: “Hello Andrea, we have some products that need to be photographed. How much do you charge?” Unfortunately, to provide you with an accurate quote, commercial product photographers need a lot more information.

Professional photographers very rarely give out generic price lists. This is because all shoots are different. Your quote will vary depending on the length of the shoot and the Photoshop work after.

Providing your photographer more details in the first email will save you valuable time, as it will eliminate numerous subsequent emails. To make it easy for my clients, I have put together a list of questions, which you can use to help me accurately understand the type of photography shoot you are after. The questions below will also help you identify exactly what you need from a commercial photographer.

Question 1. What is your product?  

Setting up a studio to shoot a gold watch is very different to the set up for a wrap sandwich or some industrial cables. A photographer will need to know what they are dealing with so they can estimate the time it will take to set up, light, capture, process and digitally finalise the images. You can say something like: “We sell colourful cane woven baskets that are about 40cm high x 30cm in diameter.” If product is too big to be shot in my studio, for example, I will include in my quote the on-location photography rates.

Question 2. How many final images do you need photographed?

A shoot list is very useful. If you don’t know an exact answer, giving an estimate like: “5-10 rings, 15-20 earrings and 30-40 pendants” is great. Because it takes time to set up for each different product type, you will find the price per image for a shoot is less expensive when there is just one product type. For example, 10 rings, 15 bracelets and 20 earrings will be more than if you were shooting 45 rings because there are three different product types.

Question 3. Will all images be simple ‘one product per image’ shots or do you require any group or hero shots?

Often, clients just need what I call ‘simple images’ of their products. They are usually shot on white background and used for their online shop. Sometimes, however, they also require group images where two or more products are photographed together. These images can be used in advertising brochures or as ‘home’ header or banner images on their websites. They are a bit more special and do take longer to set up, shoot and work on digitally afterwards.

There are also hero images, which feature different coloured or styled backdrops and props. These are often used on billboards, in magazine adverts and on banners for industry conventions. Before you ask for a quote, it’s best to think about the type of images you would like so you can give a detailed list to your photographer.

Question 4. What style or look do you require the images to portray?

Sometimes clients have a particular ‘look’ they are after in their product images. You may need your new photos to match the lighting of the existing images on your website or the angle at which each product was shot. It may be that all images need to be shot on a dark background or that a shadow needs to be visible under each product.

Whatever your needs, it’s important your photographer knows exactly what you are after. Providing some sample images in your email will be very useful.

Question 5. How will the images be used?

Do you require images that can be printed to magazine, banner or billboard size or will they be used only for the web?

Question 6. Do you have any other requests for digital work or the files?

It’s a good idea to specify to your photographer the final files you require. For example, this might be 72dpi, max length 720px jpg images. You may need large tiff files that have a product selected away from the background and saved on a separate selection layer. Your product may also be silver and you may need it to be shown in gold as well as rose colour. Your photographer will be able to tell you how long extra digital work will take and their rates for this.

Question 7. How will you deliver the product to the studio and will you be staying to approve images as they are shot?

My clients are from across Australia. They post product to me in the mail, I shoot it, post it back and deliver final images via a downloadable link in an email. If they are in Perth, clients often like to come to the studio to meet me, and show me the product so we can discuss any further details and then they leave me to it.

My clients very rarely stay to style and approve every image while I shoot. This is because my clients have hired a professional product photographer, so they know they can trust the final images will be of a professional standard.

Whatever your plan is, it is best to tell your photographer so they can provide you with the rates to match. Depending on the photographer, you will either receive ‘per hour’ or ‘per shot’ rates.

Question 8. When do you hope to do the shoot and have the finished photos?

It’s important to discuss the timeframe for the job before you do anything else. You may need something shot urgently and your photographer could be already booked out. They may be able to help you by shooting your product in between other jobs then doing the digital work a week or so later. If they cannot help you at all, they may be able to recommend another photographer who could help you out.

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