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Plan Your Budget: Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Costs Of Product Photography

Typically, when you think about costs of product photography and try to put together the provisionary budget, you think of rates charged by photographers and of the number of products to photograph. Yet, these budget lines are not the only figures you need to take care of. Some costs can surface only when you face troubles or additional steps to accomplish before the photo session happens. That’s why the expected budget can grow exponentially and you end up in a deep overdraw.

For you to avoid this regretful experience, we’ve decided to compile a list of the most widespread unbudgeted expenses you may encounter. When you know what glitches may happen, you can prepare ahead, and so the problem will not arise at all.

Definitely, we will tackle the question of how photographers charge for their services. But sometimes, these unexpected costs under discussion can far outweigh the appetites of the poshest photographers. So know your onions not to shed tears over the bill later.

Packaging and shipping to and from the studio

Do you need to deliver products to the shooting location far from your headquarters and warehouses? Congratulations, you have to pay for shipping both ways, and if you have no one to pack items for you for free, packaging will also cost money. Explore the rates, include them in your budget, and do not forget to ensure your products properly.

Handling of bulky/heavy goods

If you sell sneakers or bags, it’s one thing. If you deal in couches or marble kitchen countertops, it’s another one. Renting special lifting equipment or hiring movers increases the costs. Consider inviting a photographer to your location instead.

Preparation and styling costs

The average time allowed for product preparation is 5 minutes. Anything that extends beyond this time, like ironing, polishing, or cleaning, is paid for as extra service. So prepare everything at your place or be ready to pay for the efforts of the studio team.

Creation of custom backdrop set and styling of the multi-parts product

Shooting products in simple neutral settings like a white backdrop is the cheapest option. It works well and costs nothing. But if you want a whole room constructed to showcase your furniture, it will cost like a private jet.

If you sell something very complex that features dozens of parts that need to be highlighted, it’s also a problem. You’ll have to pay for the proper arrangement of details on per part or hour rates. You can send your employee to do the arranging job, but the downtime will have to be compensated to the studio.

Lifestyle, storytelling, model recruitment

As you can imagine, lifestyle shoots that require renting new locations, creating and enacting a story, and hiring models will cost the most. Add the costs of rent, models’ fees, and scriptwriters’ work and you’ll get the estimate. So think twice if you really need that one glam shot and how you can reduce costs.

What are typical methods of charging fees for photography? 

Now as promised, we’ll explain the basics – how the photographer’s work is priced. The rates can be per hour, per product, and per image. Of all options, per image is the most transparent and efficient one in most cases (there are exceptions to every rule, of course).

Reasonable pricing per image can vary between $20 and $50. The exact amount will depend on the experience of photographers and the variety of settings and additional services they can offer.

For example, if a product photo studio in Chicago charges between $30 and $50 and offers subscription plans that reduce costs a bit, you know you’ve found a decent location that won’t rob its customers.

It means you can safely pack your products for shipping and get the shooting process started! Give your online business a boost!


Jeff Campbell