If you have a knack for lighting and the technical side of photography, shooting products is 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.
Here is how to get started with your own product photography business or side hustle.
Basic Gear You’ll Need for a Product Photography Business
When shooting product photography, you will need to work with artificial lights.
Try to get a couple of monolights. But if your budget is tight, start with speedlites until you start making money and have some extra to invest in gear.
The kind of lighting you need depends on the subject you’re shooting.
We see a lot of these kinds of shots on Instagram, taken by influencers who do a fine job using natural light.
If you want to photograph a bottle of wine or perfume, you will need a powerful artificial light source.
When I started shooting still life photography, I bought an affordable lighting kit from Godox.
Each strobe had 300 watts of power. This is not enough for many lighting situations, but it’s enough for tabletop photography.
Another good option at an affordable price point is the Alien Bees unit from Paul C. Buff.
How to Create a Home Studio
The great thing about product photography is that it usually requires very little space. You can make 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.
Keep in mind that when you shoot glass objects, everything in the room will be reflected in the glass. 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 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 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 important 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 sort 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 images.
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.
Squarespace is one website builder I recommend. The templates are very clean and modern. They’re perfect for photographers to share their work with maximum impact.
Another great site for photographers is Photoshelter. They also offer tools to sell, deliver, and organize your images.
If you want to make money with your photography, you need to look like a professional.
Put up a website.
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?
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.
Create a Promo Piece
When contacting potential clients, you should have something to show them beside your website.
I mentioned that photographers market continually. One way they do this is 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 out.
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 highly valuable.
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 touch points 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 huge.
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.
A lot of photographers make the mistake of putting a lot of energy in engaging with other photographers instead of focusing on brands.
Sure, it’s important to be connected to a community of like-minded folk. But if you want to leverage social media to your advantage, it’s important 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 out, 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.
Sell Photos on Your Own Site
An alternative to selling stock is to license images on your own site.
This will take considerably more marketing, as well as time and effort. You’re not just sending your images to a third-party to sell for you.
But with your own site, you get to keep all the profits. Stock agencies take a large chunk of the sale for themselves for their efforts.
As I mentioned, 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.
Product photography is a wide niche that encompasses so many different subjects.
It can be a very lucrative field to get into. After all, most companies have some sort of 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.