Product Photographer Job Description

Product photographers play a key role in marketing goods to consumers by providing quality images of a wide variety of products. Digital photography now dominates the profession, but many of the skills involved in taking good photos remain the same. With the rise of online sales, product photography has become more important than ever before as many prospective customers cannot examine the product or its packaging in person. While some product photographers work full time for an employer, others own their own businesses or work on a more flexible freelance basis.

 

Product Photographer Duties and Responsibilities

Different employers entrust this role with varying degrees of responsibility in the photography process. Typical duties include:

Stage Photographs

The photographer obtains the product and any necessary ancillary elements (such as mannequins or a backdrop) and sets up lighting for a photo shoot. Depending on the products involved, the shoot could be outdoors or indoors and take place in a studio or in the field.

Shoot Photographs

Once the necessary elements are in place, the product photographer takes a large volume of photos, seeking to present the product in an accurate and appealing way. This process can be quite static or involve models or changes to the staging.

Manage Post-Production

Photographers are often responsible for post-shoot procedures, including selecting the best photos and editing or cleaning up images. Photos also need to be cropped and prepared for use in a variety of marketing channels, such as magazines or catalogs, e-commerce websites, and mobile apps. The photographer may be responsible for supplying tags, captions, or metadata in some cases.

 

Product Photographer Skills and Qualifications

Obtaining good product photos requires a keen eye and the ability to handle a variety of aspects of the photography process. Employers and clients prefer the following skills in particular:

  • Staging – many product photos are not taken against a blank backdrop. Placement of models, mannequins, props, and other elements can help present products well to prospective customers
  • Lighting – proper lighting is key to obtaining good photos, so photographers need to know where to place their lighting or position the subject to take advantage of natural light
  • Camera expertise – product photographers don’t simply snap a bunch of pictures with the auto settings on their cameras. They manually optimize their equipment to produce the best possible shots
  • Photography – building on their prep work, product photographers take carefully composed shots that present products in an appealing way and provide useful information to prospective buyers
  • Photo editing – photographers often edit their own work using digital tools that can compensate for less than ideal conditions (such as imperfect lighting or distractions)
  • Business management – while some product photographers work as in-house staff, many are also independent contractors or business owners. Learning to manage the finances and operations of a small business is a key skill for these individuals

 

Tools of the Trade

Photographers regularly use the following tools:

  • Digital SLR cameras and tripods
  • Lighting equipment
  • Backdrops, mannequins, and other staging equipment
  • Image editing software (Photoshop, GIMP)

 

Product Photographer Education and Training

Candidates for product photography positions should put forward a good portfolio above all else. However, a degree in photography or fine art can help build such a portfolio and provide valuable skills and experience along the way. There are also many nondegree programs teaching photography or editing with Photoshop and the Adobe Creative Suite. It is unusual for product photographer positions to require extensive credentials.

 

Product Photographer Salary and Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that photographers earn a median wage of $32,000 per year, or about $16 per hour. However, product photographers with niche experience and skills may earn significantly more. The BLS expects employment of photographers to drop about 6 percent through 2026, as more companies shift workloads to freelancers rather than in-house personnel. However, this does not necessarily mean that overall demand for photography services will diminish.

 

Helpful Resources

While there are plenty of “quick” guides to product photography out there, here are some more substantial resources to help get aspiring photographers up and running:

The Art and Style of Product Photography – written by photographers for major magazines, this book provides a wealth of information to product photographers and covers a wide range of potential subjects, including clothing, accessories, electronics, and food. Topics discussed include equipment selection, lighting, props, and career building

Product Photography Tips for eBay and Ecommerce – this affordable Kindle book covers staging, shooting, and editing, as well as industry best practices. A notable feature of this book is the large number of diagrams and photos that showcase proven techniques for creating good product photos

Commercial Photography Handbook: Business Techniques for Professional Digital Photographers – photographers operating as business owners will appreciate the tips offered in this book, which covers a variety of industry topics including negotiation, profitability, ethics, and other important considerations

American Society of Media Photographers – the ASMP is a leading trade group promoting photographers’ interests and providing education and networking opportunities. It also helps clients find photographers for their projects

The Ultimate Guide to Product Photography – although written for Etsy sellers, this guide provides an excellent overview of product photography for anyone looking to break into the field. Topics covered include equipment, lightboxing, camera features, shooting, special product types, and editing

“50 Ecommerce Sites with Beautiful Product Photography” – this collection of sites shows you how product photography is done in the real world, with high-quality product photos from successful companies

 

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