How Do I Get Started in Product Photography?

Starting a product photography business is no more difficult, even if you start from scratch.

You can make a full-time career out of it, or you may do it as a side business. No matter, for what reason you start? If you take the proper steps, it can be very profitable. 

If you have a knack for lighting and the technical side of photography, shooting products are for you.

This is a great way to enter the photography industry and start making money from your skills with a product photography business.

There’s no need for models or a stylist in product photography. You can often do this kind of tabletop photography in the comfort of your own home.

Product photography is one of the most lucrative genres of photography, but it usually requires a good selection of equipment and a thorough understanding of light.

Here is how to get started with your own product photography business or side hustle.

Why Product Photography

Product photography’s challenge and variety were appealing, and although product photography can be a challenging genre, there are different perks.

Besides being one of the highest-earning types of photography, product photography allows you to work on exciting campaigns with highly creative people.

It’s a genre that tests your problem-solving abilities on a day-to-day basis, which means there’s never a dull moment!

Whether it’s figuring out how to create an invisible man or simply working towards the best lighting on a problematic product, the challenge of product photography is really what appeals to me.

If creative freedom and flexibility are what you’re after, then product photography may not necessarily be the best fit for you.

More often than not, product photography involves working to a very strict brief. It’s more about the client’s vision than your creativity. The work available for product photographers varies in complexity. 

How to Get Started With Product Photography

How Do I Get Started in Product Photography?

One of the biggest mistakes many photographers make when it comes to photography is focusing too much on gear.

Now I’m not saying that equipment isn’t essential, but that’s not the only important thing.

If you want to master product photography truly, the critical thing is not the best camera, latest lens, or top of the range studio lights.

The most important thing you can have is a good understanding of light. This will serve you better than any piece of equipment you can buy.

Now that might not have been precisely what you were expecting to hear, but it’s the best advice for those who want to make a career as a photographer.

Once you understand light and how it works, you’ll be able to control it to create almost any desired result.

Learn The Craft Thoroughly

The first and foremost thing is to learn quickly and apply quickly.

Product photography is a patience game; you have to persistently work on an image until it’s catching up to your expectation. Even minute details are essential.

“learning” has many variations; as I said, it’s not only about “photography” but more than it; here are some fundamentals to get you started.

Learn The Basics Of Image-making

Automatic modes are over; learn to shoot in manual. Learn about the exposure triangle and how an aperture, shutter speed and iso impact an image.

Learn to expose an image properly. You cannot depend on any automatic modes.

Learn about composition and what makes an image more exciting and pleasing to the eyes. Especially as you’re working with a non-living object, your motivation is to give it life. 

Understand Lighting Fundamentals

Lighting is the ultimate significant aspect of product photography. It’s the lighting that defines your product photo as professional or amateur.

Do you have to have fundamental knowledge about how light works? How it falls and reacts to an object.

And most importantly, how can you make a product exciting with the help of lighting.

Learn to light so that you know where not to light. This is a crucial thing that differentiates a top product photographer from an average product photographer.

Learn How To Edit Product Photos Efficiently.

As your photography is important, so does your ninja editing skills.

You should master the pen tool in photoshop, through which you can cut the product from the background when needed.

Learn about colour management and keep the colours consistent in all of the images in their respective series.

For some of the product photos, you need to do compositing, so learn that too.

Get The Right Set Of People Skills

Doing decent product photography is ok, but if you don’t have the right people skills, then it will be tough for you in the long run.

You won’t be able to communicate and build rapport with your client, especially if you are a shy person.

In the product photography business, you need to have the ability to solve client needs and their problems or else how good you may be, but if you cannot build rapport with your clients, you’ll sometimes lose the project.

Or if they are not satisfied, they will not come back again.

Learn To Handle Everything Professionally

You’ll be doing product photography professionally and so.

Therefore, you’ve to maintain that everywhere- in your work and in your communication too. You cannot be goofy all the time, or else your clients will not take you seriously.

Fun is essential. It relaxes us and relieves a lot of stress but being overly funny and crossing professionalism can cause massive harm in your business. So, be professional with your clients, and if any problem arises, then solve it professionally.

Invest In Gear And Equipment

As you’re starting the business of product photography, you’ll require equipment.

You certainly do not need the highest expensive ones from the start. You can start with inexpensive and minimal equipment. But you’ve to invest money in buying them.

Camera

Some of the top professional photographers in the world use the phase one camera, which costs upwards of USD 48,990. Most of them rent it on their project basis. You don’t need to have a high-end camera.

It would help if you stood apart from others who are doing “me-too” business. Your work should differentiate you from other photographers. But it would help if you had a camera which has some essential features that I discussed in the post linked above.

Lens

You may have an excellent camera, but it will ruin all your photos if you make the wrong choice with your lens. Sometimes with just one lens, you could do the job, but other times you’ll require different types of lenses. You’ll work in different focal lengths.

Tripod

Most of the product photos that you’ll take where your camera will be mounted on a tripod. As the reason to do that is product photos need a lot of tweaking in terms of lighting.

So as your camera is in the still position, you can quickly move around and tweak your light sources, and your framing will stay as it is.

Again you do not need the most expensive tripod. Choose the budget one, but it should be stable enough to hold your camera system. Keep in mind aluminium is cheaper than carbon fibre.

Backdrops

The third most important thing you will require is a product background. A product photoshoot cannot be started without a good experience. It would help if you had at least a single backdrop. So if you are beginning your business, it’s easier if you start with a white background. 

Lighting Gear

At the beginning of this blog post, I said that lighting is a vital part of your photography. It’s the lighting that tells about your picture that it is professional or amateurish?

Most professional product photographers use high-end lighting setups. They use multiple modifiers with them, which cost thousands of dollars. But if you are a beginner, you don’t need them.

Grip Equipment

With all these types of equipment, you’ll need grip equipment too. They serve you as a helping hand in gripping your product photos. Such as a 5 in 1 reflector to bounce light into the dark areas of the product. Or to diffuse the light even more.

Another critical piece of necessary equipment is a c-stand (a light stand with an extended arm).

When you take a top-down shot of the product, it is sometimes impossible to hold the camera in that position, so you use a c-stand to support the camera on the top.

How to Create a Home Product Photography Studio

The great thing about product photography is that it usually requires very little space.

You can take your photos on your dining room table. If you’re lucky, you may have a spare room that you can set aside for your photography.

In addition to lighting, you’ll need some reflectors and diffusers, some white and black foam core to bounce and block light, and some backgrounds. You can purchase these or DIY them.

Keep in mind that everything in the room will be reflected in the glass when you shoot glass objects.

This can look messy and unprofessional. Make sure you have materials to diffuse those reflections.

If you have a separate room for your photography, paint the walls white or grey. This will prevent unwanted colour casts from showing up in your images.

If you plan on doing a lot of shooting on a white or seamless background, invest in a shooting tent or table. The more expensive ones are of better quality. These will give the cleanest, most professional results.

Depending on your subject, you may need to invest in a collection of basic props. If you shoot cosmetics and toiletries, some makeup brushes and empty plastic containers can be essential props to have on hand.

Why Photoshop Skills Are Essential for Product Images

When shooting product photography, lightroom is not always enough. You need a program like photoshop. This will allow you to make composites and edit the pixels in individual parts of the image.

Making money in product photography means that you have to be prepared to take on all sorts of jobs. You’ll be shooting all kinds of objects. To deliver high-quality results, you need good photoshop skills.

Jewellery and other highly reflective products are often composed of several images. Each one is lit in a specific way to reduce reflections and highlight the product’s best qualities.

Even if you’re not producing these kinds of complicated images, photoshop can still improve your pictures. The healing brush, spot removal, and clone stamp tools can help you deliver a clean-looking photo, which is crucial. 

Put up a Simple Website

To start making money with your photography, you should have a website to showcase your work.

If you haven’t started working with clients, you can do personal projects at home. Feature a wide variety of products and post them on your website.

These days, there is no excuse for not having a website. There are so many affordable options out there. And they’re easy to use.

They also come with a variety of templates that you can customize to your preferences. If you want to make money with your photography, you need to look like a professional.

Target Buyers of Product Photography

There is a misperception with a website that “if you build it, they will come.” This is not true.

Some clients might come to you, but most likely, you will need to do some marketing to get clients. Even established photographers market on an ongoing basis. The same can be said about any successful business out there.

So How Do You Market Product Photography?

How Do I Get Started in Product Photography?

Start with some research.

  • Use social media and the internet to find companies that sell the types of products you would like to shoot.
  • Once you have the information, contact the companies and introduce yourself and your work.
  • Cold calling can be nerve-wracking. But making connections is vital if you want to get your product photography business off the ground.
  • Selling your photography is based on relationships.
  • Product shot of a hand holding cosmetics on a white background 

Create a Promo Piece

When contacting potential clients, you should have something to show them beside your website. Photographers market continually. They do this by sending postcards or other types of promotional pieces to the clients they want to work with.

You don’t need to hire a designer for these kinds of pieces when you’re starting. Look on sites like the creative market for magazine layout templates.

You can purchase and design these in canvas to feature your images. You can email these to your contacts or send them by snail mail.

When marketing yourself as a photographer, have printed pieces of your work. Whether this means promos or a professional portfolio, it is precious.

Clients love to feel something tangible, and it shows them how your photos look in print. If you send out a round of promos and hear nothing, don’t get disheartened.

Most clients need several touchpoints before they contact you. This is why pro photographers send out a new promo 3-4 times a year.

Use Social Media to Your Advantage

Today, there are over 1 billion active monthly users on Instagram. This means the potential for getting your work seen is enormous.

But again, the build it and they will come mentality will not serve you here. Social media is a long game if you want organic growth and to connect with your ideal clients.

To grow an engaged following, you need to post daily (preferably) and make comments on other feeds. Many photographers make the mistake of putting a lot of energy into engaging with other photographers instead of focusing on brands.

Sure, it’s essential to be connected to a community of like-minded folk. But if you want to leverage social media to your advantage, it’s necessary to engage with the companies that can give you work.

Follow them and comment on their posts.

You can also do a shot featuring one of their products and write a caption about how you love it. It can get their attention, and they might eventually approach you. 

Don’t Forget Stock Photography.

Stock photography can be a viable way for new photographers to get their foot in the door. That is if you are willing to shoot often and with consistency.

When you’re starting, you need to practice a lot and take a lot of images. Why not license these images through stock agencies? You’ll make a little money instead of allowing them to gather dust on your hard drive.

Some stock agencies pay better than others. Companies like Shutterstock have a lot of eyeballs on them every day. It can lead to your getting noticed.

In general, you need to have thousands of images to make a good income from stock. But some photographers have had their product shots downloaded thousands of times.

If you feel your product photography is at a high level, you can apply to a premium stock agency like offset, the premium division of Shutterstock. It can be challenging to get accepted. But if you are, the payouts are much higher than most stock agencies. 

Studio lighting setup for a product photography business shoot

Sell Product Photos on Your Site

An alternative to selling stock is to license images on your site.

This will take considerably more marketing, as well as time and effort. You’re not just sending your photos to a third party to sell for you. But with your site, you get to keep all the profits. Stock agencies take a large chunk of the sale for themselves for their efforts.

Photoshelter has tools for selling your work through your site. The SmugMug “Pro” package is a good alternative.

The platform enables you to showcase your work on a customizable storefront. And you can manage your orders while retaining 85% of your revenue.

You’re also able to offer prints, books, and greeting cards created from your images. There are several additional features, such as built-in analytics and the ability to upload unlimited photographs.

Conclusion

Product photography is a broad niche that encompasses so many different subjects. It can be a very lucrative field to get into. After all, most companies have some product that they are selling.

And they have websites where they need to display images of these products. Hopefully, this article has given you some ideas on how you can get started with a product photography business of your own.