4 Tips You May Not Know (or don't want to know), That Made Me a Better Photographer.
Now that I have your attention… I’ll start by saying, there are some truths I have learned doing product photography and some of them have been learned the hard way.
COMMUNITY OVER COMPETITION
This is the second most important tip I can give you as a fellow photographer, ‘Not all photographers are your enemies’. Honestly… I don’t know where I’d be in my career if I didn’t have photographers that I look up to, photographers/friends that I can bounce ideas off of or even photographers that I can learn from.
Not all photographers are secretive with their ideas or how they achieved a certain look. There is enough work for everyone. I may not have always believed that, but in my years of experience I have FOUND that to be true. When my schedule is full, I have a list of photographers that I recommend to a potential client. I’ve also obtained a couple clients because other photographers have referred me.
Being a part of this community is such an honor and I look forward to cheering on my photographer friend’s wins as much as if it were me winning!
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
Unpopular opinion here… you don’t have to have a niche. I fully believe that a photographer could (and can) have many strengths. Whether that be working with a model, creating stellar white background images, and or uses light (artificial or otherwise) to enhance an image. However, that doesn’t mean that you should ONLY know how to do that 1 thing.
Experimenting with props and light has led me to find what I LOVE to do vs what I don’t. I LOVE to stage a flatlay. I LOVE to use color in my photos. I LOVE to use shadows (soft and harsh) in my images. Yes, I’d prefer to stage a flatlay than work with a model - but that doesn't mean I don’t work with models. I’d prefer to use a color background for e-commerce photos, but that doesn’t mean I won’t do Amazon ready images.
I practice things almost every day, even things I am really good at. It never gets old and I never get worse. I don’t think anything can go wrong by practicing and trying new things. You never know what you might fall in love with, until you try it!
KNOW YOUR WORTH, THEN CHARGE IT
I say this with love (because we all have been there)... Gone should be the days of $50 photo sessions. Granted this can be said to every photographer no matter their genre. Portrait, Wedding, Commercial, etc. However, because I’m a product photographer - I’m just going to touch on that.
There is SO much more to photography than “pushing a button” and don’t let anyone belittle what we do by saying that. If there is anything I have learned in this past month, as a full time photographer, it is that!
This month, I have built a couple pieces/props to use in my photos for clients. I have also spent full days gathering props, styling scenes, and editing images. I have spent a minimum of 20 hours lighting, photographing and editing e-commerce images for 1 client.
I’m grateful that I have learned to charge what I am worth, but there are others that either don’t know better or think that is what they have to do (for whatever reason) - and they are working for pennies. This is only going to create burnout for themselves.
So, if that is you.. STOP IT! Charge for your time. Charge for your talent. Charge for the license usage. Stop being afraid that you’ll have no clients if you raise your prices. The right client for you will always be there and not bat an eye when they hear your rates.
CULL YOUR IMAGES AND LIMIT YOUR DELIVERABLES
This is the most important tip I could ever provide... it is a 2 part tip but they go hand in hand…
1. CULL the images in the gallery before delivering to your client. Providing a ton of photos leads the client to having to make the tough decisions (“Which angle is best?”, “Which one is better for marketing?”, etc) and giving duplicate or similar images in a gallery can overwhelm your client… and NOT in a good way. Honestly, this could reflect poorly on you since these are the answers that you said you would provide your clients with.
You have to get into the mindset that you are not deleting good images, but that you are providing only the BEST images that will enhance your client’s brand/tell the story. If you can’t decide between 2 similar images, how can you expect the client to? YOU are the professional, don’t forget that.
2. Limit Your Deliverables. Let me say this loud and clear… your client does not need 100+ images each month of their subscription.
I can understand if you may want to provide 1 image per day of the month for their social media platforms. However, If you are offering monthly subscriptions - limit how many products you can take on each month and in turn the number of images they can download.
It becomes wasteful for a photographer as that puts strain on your gear for shooting so much and then wasteful for a client because they won’t need to post every image you provide.
Culling your galleries and limiting your deliverables will be a lot more efficient for you and your client!
I'm not sure if these tips were hard to hear or not... I am saying that I have only come by them because of my own experiences.
I have been on the receiving end of the competition between photographers. It’s rough and honestly not necessary. I’m not here to “steal” your clients.
Practicing just makes sense to me. I will never tell a client I can do something if I can’t.
I have been a new photographer. I know, now, that I can build a portfolio and not give away everything for free. Nothing is really free. You still put wear and tear on your gear for doing “free” shoots.
Yes, I definitely needed to hear the advice on culling. I will never unhear it. It has helped me shoot way more efficiently.
All of these things that I have learned, has helped me grow. I've become the professional photographer that my clients expect me to be and that has made the experience I provide them - wonderful!
Kelli is a product photographer located in South Carolina. Her specialty is creative flatlays and artful lighting that brings products up close and in focus for various brands.