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Professional product shots can make or break an ecommerce site. Poor images instill a lack of confidence in the company as a whole and can dramatically increase a site’s bounce rate.

Despite the fact that online sales are responsible for upwards of 80% of a brand’s sales, e-commerce photography has been dealt some of the smallest budgets in the field of photography. Often teams of freelancers are used creating a mish-mash of lighting and styling that can be a huge detriment to the site overall.

Add to this the fact that clients set a fast turnaround for images so they can get them online and generate sales. What clients don’t realize is the amount of time to edit, color correct, crop, retouch and name the files. 

Shooting at the Client’s Space

Many clients require “face time” despite their lack of a professional studio space. You’ll need to account for set up, break down, travel time and rental costs when estimating the job. 

If you’re lucky enough to get a budget for a team of assistants and stylists, here’s a good recap of price estimates:

  • Photographer fee: $600-$2,500
  • Usage fees/unlimited e-commerce: $0-$4,000 
  • Assistant rates: $150-$350
  • Digitech: $500
  • Digital capture station (laptop, iMac or tower and monitor) $250-$750
  • Camera and lenses: $350
  • Lighting: $250-$750
  • Seamless paper backgrounds: $30 for 4ft, $50 for 9ft, $150 for 12 ft.
  • Retouching: $20-25 per image for clean up and knock-out to white only 
  • $150 per hour for high end advertising quality work.

spa products

Ideally you’ll want to convince the client to shoot at your studio so you have more control over the project. Look for spaces with easy load-in and out, high ceilings and natural light for fashion shots.


  • Camera – Unless you plan on doing a billboard in Times Square, a 16 megapixel plus camera (my personal favorite is the Nikon D7000) should do just fine. You can snag a good camera in this range for anywhere from $800 (used) to $2,500 for a full kit including lenses.
  • Video – Be sure the camera shoots video as well. Since Google’s acquisition of YouTube™ a few years back, online videos can help a website’s ranking rise up to the top of the SERPs (search engine page results).
  • Lenses – A good close up lens is a must for products such as jewelry and details of fashion items like buttons, zippers and fabric. 
  • Lights – Get a versatile lighting kit such as Savage’s 1000 Watt Quartz Light Kit. It contains three variable-power light heads with a 1000-watt 3200k continuous quartz light bulb in each fan-cooled head, three 24” x 36” softboxes with silver inner reflectors and detachable inner diffusers, three 4-section light stands and a soft-padded carry case. As you build your business be sure to invest at least 20% back into equipment so you can grow your arsenal. 
  • Backdrop – You’ll need a seamless paper that provides a high-quality, non-reflecting surface with an exquisite, fine-tooth feel that’s ideal for creating smooth and even backgrounds. Savage’s Pure White, Studio Gray and Black should do the job. All come in a wide range of sizes: Five sizes: 26” x 36’, 53” x 36’, 107” x 36’, 107” x 150’, and 140″ x 105′. 

model on Pure White Paper BackdropPhoto Courtesy of Ryan Walsh, Featuring Pure White Seamless Paper

Productivity Tips

Time is money as the old saying goes and nowhere is this more evident than in hi-volume jobs such as eCommerce. Here are some things to keep in mind to increase your volume:

– A dedicated wardrobe stylist and hair and makeup artists for on-figure shoots. Product shoots should have a product stylist.

– Be flexible – be able to switch quickly between on-figure and product.

– A seamstress who can help adjust garments for models.

– A naming/cropping system so you can organize images and ensure the files will fit your client’s site.

– A hosting site, such as DropBox, to help edit and share images makes getting approvals easier.

Get creative as you shoot to develop new styles for shooting categories of products. This will be a huge selling point when pitching your services to clients. Above all, be okay with the mistakes you make along the way. 

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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