Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Business school: on professional photographs

Last week I had a photo shoot for new items in my shop, and it got me thinking about the value of using a professional photographer. When I first started my business, I thought I would learn to take the photographs myself, bought an SLR camera with that intention, and took a photography course. I soon changed my mind!

It is a significant expense, one which hasn't varied that much between the photographers I've used. I currently use Polly, and pay for her assistant, who does the post-production for me on the day, which is an arrangement which works well for us. I love going home with my photographs ready to upload immediately!

{Photo: Polly Eltes}

{Photo: @teaforjoy on Instagram}

My thoughts on paying for a photographer:
*Outsource what you're not good at. I find taking photographs quite challenging, and it would take me all day to get a few decent photos... and, I'm already doing everything else; PR, bookkeeping, marketing etc etc... Yes, it is expensive, but I'm aiming to be a business which can afford that level of cost. We take a lot of photos in one day, so calculating the average cost per photograph helps ease the pain.

*Why take the risk? My photographs must be good enough for magazine use. We also take high-res cut out images {on white backgrounds}, which magazines use for their shopping pages. Sometimes I can get these images from my suppliers {and it is hugely appreciated if I can save time this way} and occasionally I have sent items to a cut out studio, such as this one. Even for this blog, if I find something I like on Etsy and the photos are not good, I won't use them, so why would I risk that with a magazine? I've found Pinterest useful for my business - the better the photos, the more likely they'll be pinned.

*The effect of professional lighting is very difficult to achieve by yourself, especially for the plain white product shots. It's the shadows....  My photographers have all spent ages moving bits of paper + lights around.

*You can benefit from an experienced opinion. I like to 'play stylist', but I'm no expert, so with all of the photographers I've used, they've given great advice on how to place the items, and moved them around to achieve the best photograph.

*I can use Photoshop - but the professionals can do things I could never dream of! The difference between the original photograph and the final version is really quite startling {mainly because I started with the blue background and now I'm stuck with it, and need to make it look consistent.}

This is just my experience, but if this kind of blog post is of interest, let me know! If you've got a small business, and you could outsource one thing, what would it be?


Connie {the beauty nerd} said...

Such a great post - thank you! I've been considering taking my own photos as well but it's definitely not easy!

YONKS said...

Great post. I actually enjoy the photography and editing exercise. It's the packaging bit I would outsource given a chance. I think I'm so fussy about making my packages look perfect I waste so much time on it.

Lynne said...

@Yonks, Oh! I agree - I hope to get some help soon. Packaging is really not fun x

Dawn M said...

What I struggle with is promoting myself, how to get noticed on for me I would like outsource that, also when asked how much I charge for my photographic services, I struggle with charging people! Dxx

Anonymous said...

It's funny but when you're creative - you and everyone else has an expectation that you can take good photos. For me, I don't think it's really my skill set either, so I'm with you on this one. However, I'm in that tricky position of starting up and not having any budget for outsourcing jobs just yet! But yep... definitely down the line I'd like to outsource photography.

katie said...

This is a really interesting post - thanks for sharing.

Bristol Parenting Cafe said...

Really interesting post! I think there's a leap all small business owners make when they realise that instead of doing everything themselves it's actually cost-effective to pay for others expertise, even if the initial cost seems high. For me, it's PR and marketing - I just waste hours doing something a pro can do with much more impact!

Decorator's Notebook said...

This is a really interesting, useful post. Thanks for sharing your experience and insight Lynne.

Emma Majury said...

This is a great post - really helpful advice for small business owners!