• Martin Kristiansen

What does photography cost?

If you are hoping for a simple answer like R500 I am afraid you are going to be disappointed. I am however going to give guidlines to help you determine with a high degree of accuracy what you will be paying to do a commercial photographic shoot with me.

Photography is a service industry with a very low costs of sale. This leads some buyers of photography to think that everything a photographer charges is essentially profit. That is simply wrong. A photographer needs to cover fixed overheads such as their own salary, insurance, rental of studio, vehicle costs and amortisation of equipment. There can also be cost of equipment hire for specific shoots, photographic assistants and some consumables such as backdrop paper and so on. In other words it is a normal business.

For some reason, despite commercial photography being a normal business, many photographers are reluctant to publish a price list. I believe that is a mistake. Photographic costing is not as simple as marking up a packet of rice, but its not as complex as a restaurant for example. Imagine going to a restaurant where every item on the menu required you to ask for a quote in order to determine the price. How annoying would that be?

Pack Shots.

Do you require photography of items you sell photographed on a plain white background? If you do you have come to the right person. In the 1990's and early 2000's I photographed literally tens of thousands of items for Makro, Pick 'n Pay, Trade Centre, Right Value and many other retailers when they digitised all their imagery. Pack shot photography is actually defined as an item photographed in its packaging as it appears on a shelf in a retail environment. After photography the product is deep etched and the background removed so the product appears on a plain white background. So what does that cost? A single item that is small enough to place on a table top costs R250 to photograph, deep etch and deliver to a client. That is R250 per final image.

Commercial product photography
R250 for this pack shot image

Larger Product Photography

So how about larger items? It takes larger lights, more studio space and more effort to photograph larger items and so more time. That results in lower productivity for the photographer than with small items. Logical when you think about it. Obviously it takes more time to set up, light, and photograph a large cupboard than it does a small cardboard box. Bigger items such as a piece of furniture can cost as much as R800 an item. Below is a medium sized product that costs R450 to photograph.

Commercial product photography of an office chair
R450 for this furniture photograph

Complex Photographic Shoots

Obviously a lot of photography is not simply products on a white background. You may wish to style the image and direct a more artistic feel than simply placing the item on a white background. As an example you may want to photograph a fridge with the door open and the inside dressed, i.e. filled with tasty looking food. Once we get to this type of photography I charge by the hour. An experienced commercial photographer should be able to work quite quickly and this can be much more productive and cost effective than you would imagine. Being prepared, knowing what you need and having items for photography in good condition can save a lot of time and money. Costs for these shoots is R1000 an hour. You will need to contact me in order to determine how much time will be required for the shoot. Added to this would be a post production cost to get the image ready for print or web use and that cost can vary between R50 and R200 per image depending on how much is required to be done.

Pearls in an oyster
Just under 2 hours to set up and shoot this image resulting in a cost of R2000

Saving money on photoshoots

There are ways to cut down on the cost of photographic shoots. Getting multiple items photographed at one time makes my day more efficient and I am always happy to pass the savings on to my clients. Having products that are in top condition saves time on retouching resulting in savings and also gives higher quality photographs. Not taking unnecessary extra images is an obvious saving. When you commission commercial product photography it should be to assist you in making sales. That is the bottom line. Photography needs to result in sales. If it doesn't it is money wasted. Almost every sale made begins on the internet. In 70% of sales the decision to purchase is made before the purchaser makes contact with the supplier of the item. The decision to purchase is hardly ever made in the absence of an image.

In Summary

While the above may not be as simple as a price list of tinned food I hope it does give some kind of indication as to the cost of commercial product photography. Obviously I would be delighted if you requested a quote and will get back to you as quickly as I can should you click on this LINK


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