Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Maybe you are nervous, you just landed that first client and you don’t really know what to do other than go in and take the pictures. Or maybe you, like me, have been at it a long time and you are now aiming to be the best product photography studio. Either way following these easy steps can really see you ahead of some other local product photographers.
So I am going to make some assumptions, you have already contacted the client got the address and agreed terms? Good! Well I like bullet points, we all like bullet points, so I am going to try and walk you through the best practises using them:
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0. (triggered that isn’t a bullet point) Create New File
I know I just started at 0. But I feel I shouldn’t have to say this, organise all of your resources into a new file for each client or project on your computer or Filofax for you film photographers.
The first thing that you need to get down before storming in there with your Canon, 50mm lens and wonky tripod is concepting. This is your creative value here, this is what sets you apart from me, the SEO’s best Manchester Photographer. Concepting is what it sounds like. It is simply coming up with your photo concepts.
The more detail you go into the better, first, you need to think about who your client is selling to, where these photos are going to be distributed and what the products key values. All of these should be reflected in the photographs that you are going to shoot. I am not gonna go full Aristotle here, but a real image needs some philosophy behind it, what is the story you are telling? Now use all of the elements you have learnt in product photography to tell this.
A great way to do this is literally draw out the photographs, it is always helpful to find inspiration online first, maybe some textures you want to play with, or your interpretation of an idea (don’t be hacky and copy though, the client is paying for your spin on things).
You can then send this back to your client for their review, now you are on your way to being real professional product photography in Manchester.
Maybe this could be in number 1, but more stages will allow you to breakdown the approach a little more. So, you have your banging concepts down. Like me, you are a Manchester E-Commerce photographer? There probably isn’t going to be too many helicopters and explosions involved, but I am sure, as there always is, somethings outside that camera, tripod and lens that will be needed. This is why we plan.
I was always horrible at planning to be perfectly frank, if the cane still existed while I was at school, I would have had some sore legs as I never managed to get any homework in on time. Maybe that is why it took me so long to learn this lesson.
You need to look at each one of your concepts, think about every single possible thing that you need, create a list document, add any links or notes for things that you need to buy. If there are models needed, add that in, if you need to be at a location, that too. Golden hour shot? You need the time of day down. Once you have this done for all of your concepts, well, you go right ahead and acquire all the things you need. When you pack all your gear for the shoot, make sure to go through and tick off everything in this plan.
3. The shoot.
Now the day has come, you are finally gonna start taking some pictures, that thing that you find yourself spending so little time doing as a photographer.
We are talking about a product photography shoot here, chances are that you are going to be spending the day in studio, or in the hallway of your house, maybe the Garage if you are lucky. All the lights are set up, the propping is ready, you think you are good to go. Well, I have some things that you need to be doing every single time that you are shooting to ensure the quality of your images.
WHITE BALANCE, I know that you can do it in post, and you can, but why, why waste your time, I recently shot 50 artificial flower arrangements, If I had to go in and rebalance 50 photos it would have taken me hours to get it right.
HISTOGRAM, always be making sure that you are exposing for the highlights, if you don’t know what I am talking about please read up. There is no recovering clipped highlights.
CLEAN, cleaning the item and the set is crucial to saving time in photoshop and making sure you have clinical shots. Another one worth cleaning is the sensor, especially with mirrorless sensors, this stops any smudges on your images.
TETHERED, this one is a little of a stretch as it requires capture one for most photographers, but tethered capture is such a great way to check the finer details of your images.
BACKUP, I have a dual-slot camera, but you can also backup on a shoot using a gnarbox or other external hard drive.
DOCUMENT, this includes writing up your setup for the shoot, light positions, distance etc. Documenting your setup is a great way to ensure consistency if you are going to be doing a similar shoot for a client again.
ISO, You should be shooting at ISO 100 whenever you can, when you control the light, and the camera is on a tripod, there is no reason to be using any other ISO.
EXPOSURE, make sure that your exposure settings (aperture, ISO, shutter speed) remain the same for every image.
Following these steps should ensure the quality of your work.
CUSTOMER SERVICE. If you are shooting at your client’s location, then you should do your best to clean up after yourself, there is nothing worse than a messy tradesman, it leaves a bad taste in your clients mouth. If your client is at your studio, remember to treat them like a guest in your home. Honestly establishing a good relationship with clients is as important as your quality of work. They don’t want to work with someone they don’t like again.
4. The edit.
Now we are getting there baby, local product photographers in Manchester look out, this is my speciality. So you are at the desk, everything loaded successfully into your workstation. There are 3 main steps here: Review, Develop & Export.
Review, I, like most photographers, use lightroom so my workflow is going to be based in there. First off, I go through each image and star all the images that I think I am going to use. Then I label the images into groups (based on their concepts)
Develop, I filter for stared images into their groups. Then edit in this order: profile corrections, crop, spot removal, highlights, shadows (try and leave exposure alone) whites, blacks, tone curve. If your edit requires: selective edits, HSL any other creative adjustments. Make sure that you are always referring your concepts to keep focussed. Once you are done, flag all the images you intend to export. Filter for flagged images and cross-reference the images with one another making sure that they are uniform in appearance.
Export, now it has come time to export, if your client is going to distribute on Instagram you need to research the best optimisations for Instagram and export into a folder labelled Instagram. Then maybe you need to create another one for web and maybe print. You must export each image, optimised for the different places that it will be distributed.
This is the scary bit, what are they going to think of your work, well if you followed these steps then you ought not to be scared as you are now operating as the best product photography studios do.
Don’t just send across the files, I like to create a presentation that demonstrates the images where they will be distributed. This adds a layer of professionalism and value to your work. Include a note explaining the images that you have included and why you have sent them different batches of the same image (the ones you export optimised).
Now here is where you look after yourself, make sure you get a review out of every project, send them links to all the important places that they can review you, be it google, yelp or Bidvine. Then to top it all off add in a digital coupon, maybe a discount for referrals or repeat purchases.
Well done, if you followed all of these steps used by the best local product photographers in Manchester you will be sure to please your clients.
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