Product photography is a crucial part of any business that relies on attracting audiences to their products. Professional product photographers can present products in a way that captures the customers’ attention, encouraging them to check your products.
But do you hire an in-house photographer, or should you look into outsourcing?
The quick answer is: it depends on your requirements. Let’s dig into the benefits and advantages of hiring in-house and outsourcing product photography services. I’ll also offer some tips on how you can make the right choice.
What is Product Photography?
Product photography is all about presenting products in the best possible way, highlighting their features through visual presentations.
As with other forms of commercial photography, product photography requires professionals who know how to make the products stand out through images.
Product photographers are important in the promotion and dissemination of a product or brand. They play a crucial role in engaging your customers through images.
Given that, finding the right product photographers is essential for any product-heavy business.
So should you hire an in-house product photographer? Or is it better to outsource your needs? Let’s talk about their pros and cons.
Hiring In-House Photographers
Using in-house product photography services means everything — from planning, shooting, editing, and management — is done by your business.
You hire a photographer and invest in the equipment and other manpower necessary to build your internal studio.
Pros of Hiring In-House Photographers
Hiring an in-house photographer gives you the following benefits:
Easier Management and Engagement
Hiring an in-house team is great if you take a hands-on approach to your projects. You can manage everything from the equipment you use to the style of photography you apply.
Simply put, you are the showrunner.
A Team That Knows Your Needs
Hiring an in-house photography team means you’ll have people who know exactly what you want every time you start a project.
Since they’ll be working for you most of the time, they’ll have a good grasp of your requirements, preferences, and tastes. They’ll also know your projects in and out, allowing them to provide better insights and outputs than someone who’s working with you for the first time.
Consistency and Predictability
An internal product photography team can produce more consistent outputs faster. They understand not just your needs but also the nuances of your brand and products.
They can keep the tone and voice of your brand the same across projects, which helps your customers recognize your brand more easily.
Plus, there’s a degree of predictability — you can expect them to adhere to specific standards, and you can manage them with ease because of their predictable workflows.
Cons of Hiring In-House Product Photographers
On the flip side, hiring an in-house product photography team also has downsides, such as the following:
High Levels of Investment
Creating an in-house product photography team means high upfront costs. Running a photography studio is expensive.
Not only are you paying the photography team their compensation, but you’re also investing in equipment and real estate.
Cameras, lenses, tripods, and photography props are just some of the items you should secure. Editing software is another requirement — plus the specific expenses unique to every project.
Training and Time
Hiring an in-house photographer requires you to train people for them to truly understand your unique requirements.
That doesn’t even include the time and resources you’ll spend finding truly top-tier talent. Retaining them also requires investment.
Outsourced Product Photography
Outsourcing your photography needs is a great alternative if you don’t want to shoulder the downsides of maintaining an in-house photography studio. Here are some of its pros and cons.
Pros of Outsourced Product Photography
Outsourcing your product photography needs leads to the following benefits:
Low Upfront Investment
If you have limited time and budget, outsourcing your professional product photography needs is the answer.
The product photographer you’ll hire will likely have his/her own team prepared to take on your project. They have the equipment and resources to deliver your needs. And all you have to do is provide the project brief and iron out the contract’s details.
Access to Experience and Expertise
While it takes time for an in-house photography team to build up experience in your niche, an outsourced product photography team will likely have the experience necessary for your project.
Of course, you’ll have to vet teams and photographers thoroughly, selecting only those who have done similar projects to yours in the past.
Value for Money
An outsourced product photography agency can offer great value for your money — their experience allows them to take little time to do projects perfectly. Again, that’s assuming you hire someone who has experience in a similar project to yours.
Cons of Outsourcing Your Product Photography Needs
On the other hand, outsourcing your photography needs also comes with some downsides:
If you like managing the project yourself, most product photography agencies will accommodate you.
However, you won’t have the same level of control over the project as with an internal team. You can’t micromanage every detail of an outsourced photographer’s work.
The product photography agency may set their deadlines or have requirements and workflows that don’t match your preferences. Communicating about these things upfront usually resolves this problem.
Longer Lead Time
An outsourced photographer may not have the same response times as an internal team.
While you can assign tasks immediately to an internal team, an outsourced product photographer may require some lead time before they can work on your project.
You may also experience logistical problems. Not every product is okay to ship. Also, not all product photographers are available to travel to your location. Shipping costs can easily add up, especially for bulky or heavy items.
Deciding to hire an in-house or outsourced product photographer can be tricky. However, the following questions might help you:
How many photos do you need per year?
How frequently do you need new product photographs? How many images do you need? These are the most important factors you should consider.
Generally, if you regularly release new products, or if you need thousands of images per year, it’s wiser to hire an in-house team.
But if you only need a photographer for specific projects at specific times of the year, having a go-to product photography agency is much more practical.
How much control do you want?
Again, the biggest benefit of having an in-house team is the hands-on approach you can take on every project. However, many product photographers also let you take the lead to a certain extent.
If, on the other hand, you want a turnkey solution that doesn’t require too much hand holding, then hiring a professional product photography agency is better.
Are you ready to travel or ship products?
Shipping your products to a different studio can be challenging logistically. Hiring a local product photographer who can meet you halfway usually fixes this.
But if your products are large and cannot be shipped in bulk, having an in-house photographer might be better. Consider how much you’re willing to spend on shipping and logistics when deciding.
How To Find Great Outsourced Product Photographers
If you decide to outsource your product photography needs, the next step is to find experienced talent. You can generally find photographers from your personal and professional networks. Online searches also help. Here are other places you can try:
Referrals from your network: ask around and seek referrals from fellow professionals.
Referrals from brands you like: even if you don’t have a connection with the brand you like, reach out and ask them about their product photographer.
Browse social media and hashtags: hashtags may reveal who creates awesome product photographs. Instagram and Behance are great places to start.
When vetting your options, use the following tips:
Check their professionalism: when interviewing candidates or agencies, check how they communicate and ask about the processes they have in place. Having the ability to communicate effectively with you is a must. Their workflow must also match your preferences.
Check their technical expertise: investigate the product photographer or agency’s experience and expertise. What projects are in their product photography portfolio? They should have projects similar to yours and should be able to present the results of their work. Having experience in your niche means they already know your industry’s intricacies, and it will be easier for them to deliver your needs.
Clarify everything: when discussing the contract, clarify everything. Ask about their rates, deliverables, and copyright. The product photographer should have transparency over what’s included in their service package, turnaround time, and costs. Also, ask about how much input you can give — be clear about revisions and feedback.
Ask for a test shot: some product photography agencies offer test shots. Take advantage of these to know whether or not you want to invest in their full services.
Overall, hiring an in-house team or outsourcing your product photography needs depends on your specific requirements. If you need thousands of images and immediate services, building an internal photography team is a good move. Meanwhile, if you wan turnkey solutions for a limited number of projects, outsourcing is more practical.
How much do outsourced product photographers charge?
Product photography services can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands depending on project size and requirements. If you need large volumes of photographs, expect to spend upwards of $600 per image for specialized services.
How much do in-house product photographers cost?
Setting up an in-house product photography studio requires a huge upfront investment. The cost will include the real estate (office space), personnel salary (photographer/s and other teammates), and equipment costs. Storage, software, and other expenses should also be considered. In-house photographer salaries, at the time of writing, range from $50-90,000 per year plus benefits.
Why is professional product photography important?
Professional product photography helps elevate your brand through high-quality images. You can highlight your products’ features and benefits through professional images while also gaining the loyalty and confidence of your customers.