How much do you have to pay for photography and e-commerce? – Convenient e-commerce | Ad On Picture

What is a picture worth in dollars and cents? Online retailers need product photography, relevant product lifestyle images and even stock photos (for blog posts and social media). All those images come at a price, but how much should an ecommerce business pay?

The answer to this question — how much do you have to pay for a photo? is surprisingly complex. This depends on things like the subject, the difficulty of the shot, the cost of models and crew, the exclusivity of the image, how the image will be used, and more.

In the end, a photo is only worth what your company is willing to pay for it. Below are suggestions on how to think about the value of a photo.

product photography

For an online retailer, product photography is money. Product photos sell your items. Without them, most buyers will not make a purchase. Ecommerce businesses typically have a few options for backing up product photos:

  • Get pictures from a supplier;
  • Photograph internally;
  • Hire a Photographer;
  • Hire an agency.

Get images from one provider: Free. If your online store sells products that someone else makes, you may be able to get product photos from your supplier for free. Typically, vendor-supplied product photos are of good quality, but they often do not show a model’s face (which costs more) and are the same product images that appear on other sites.

Product images provided by the provider are usually free of charge.  They are also free for your competitors.

Product images provided by the provider are usually free of charge. They are also free for your competitors.

Take photos in-house: Less than $500 plus time. If your company sells unique products or your suppliers cannot provide satisfactory product images, you can take photos yourself.

With surprisingly little equipment – digital camera, lights, tripod and the like – almost anyone can learn to take good product photos. It’s not easy, but it’s manageable. Once you’ve paid for the equipment, the only incremental costs are time and materials. You can usually get the basic equipment for less than $500.

Hire a Photographer: $10 per product image. One of the best options for a small or medium-sized ecommerce business can be to hire a freelance photographer to take product photos. Depending on your location, the photographer’s experience, and whether or not you provide the studio space and lighting, a freelance photographer can cost as little as $25 an hour and as high as $250 an hour.

If you’re going to charge $50 an hour for a photographer working at your location, it’s not unreasonable to shoot and process five product images an hour. Thus, the average cost per product image would be $10. That’s a pretty good deal for pictures that make you money.

Hire an Agency: $25 per product image. There are many agencies and service providers that will take product images for your business. These agencies work from their own studios, use high-end lighting systems, and take amazing product photos.

A professional looking product image is often worth the investment.

A professional looking product image is often worth the investment.

Often these services are charged per image, with additional fees for a transparent background, “ghost figures” for clothing images, and hand modeling — yes, hand modeling is a real thing.

If you buy many 100 or more product photos, expect to pay around $25 per shot. Smaller batches cost more per image. So if you only have 10 pictures, it might cost you $50 each.

You also need to transport the products to and from your agency.

lifestyle photography

A “lifestyle” photo shows people using your products in a real-life situation, or at least a real-life marketer’s version. In e-commerce, these images are often used as page headers, category graphics, supplemental product images, or promotional content.

Unsurprisingly, online retailers have the same four options for capturing product lifestyle images.

  • Get images from one provider: Free.
  • Photographing internally: time and equipment.
  • Freelance Photographer: $150 per image.
  • Photo Agency: $500 per image.

Many manufacturers and distributors have lifestyle images for their business that are free to use. You can also take your own lifestyle pictures, again an investment of your time. Lifestyle images are relatively more difficult to capture than isolated product images. Don’t be surprised if your first attempts fail.

Professional photographers will get much better results, but remember that photographers aren’t your only expenses. There will be models, make-up specialists, hairdressers and crew members. You or your agency may also need to secure the location and props.

This lifestyle image shows Best Made products in a "true life" Location.  To capture this shot, Best Made needed more than just a photographer—it took a horse.

This lifestyle image shows Best Made products in a “real” situation. To capture this shot, Best Made needed more than just a photographer—it took a horse.

On a recent photo shoot with a photographer, makeup and hair stylist in one, and a crew of five, I was able to capture 33 lifestyle images for $5,000 – about $150 per finished image.

If you add an agency that includes creative direction, you’ll likely pay more.

Stock photography

There will be many instances where an ecommerce business needs to use stock photos, whether it’s for a blog post, social media post, or an ad. It is possible to obtain commercially licensed stock photos for free for many purposes. Contributing Editor Sig Ueland has compiled a list of “14 Free Stock Photo Sites” here on Practical Ecommerce. These pages are certainly a good place to start.

If you need to purchase a stock image, expect to pay anywhere from $12 to $40 for a high-resolution, professional-looking, royalty-free image. It can be a lot cheaper to subscribe to a service, which can bring the average cost of a stock image down to just a dollar or two.

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