September 02, 2014, 06:38:27 PM

Author Topic: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography  (Read 1464 times)

Pag

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Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« on: February 08, 2014, 05:21:10 PM »
I've been doing photography as a hobby for many years, developing my skills and artistic sense along the way. I've won a few contests, had photos published on a few websites and a magazine. My pictures regularly reach the "Popular" category on 500px, for what that's worth.

I'm particularly interested in product photography. I love taking pictures of unique and interesting objects, showing their shape and texture, and putting them in an interesting context that makes them stand out from how we may see them as everyday objects -- each object is a fascinating challenge.

I would now like to start making money off that skill. It seems to me like the ability to make ordinary objects stand out would be useful for advertising. For example, many of my friends thought this watch was worth $2000 when in fact it's a $20 Russian watch I bought online:



I don't think I'm unrealistic. I expect to start doing this part-time, getting contracts once in a while and building a reputation from there. I don't think I'll start by taking pictures for Mont Blanc and Tiffany's (although I'd like to get to that level one day) -- taking pictures of ordinary objects for local companies is fine by me.

But even doing that is remarkably hard. It seems that to get the time of day from anybody willing to pay for advertising photos, you must have a referral from somebody else who you've done commercial work for. It's a catch-22: you must have experience and a reputation to get a contract to gain experience and a reputation. I figure I may just suck at selling myself -- which is probably true -- but the solution would be to get an agent, who appear to only be interested in representing well-established photographers.

I've read and watched a lot of resources online, but most of it is about how to go from being a moderately successful photographer to becoming a very successful one. Stuff talking about "getting started" always focuses on portrait and wedding photography for the general public and not commercial work. I've actually had more success finding wedding jobs even though I'm not really looking for them, but I'm skeptical a portfolio of smiling brides will help me find still life work.

So what should I do? I'm motivated to succeed at this, but I don't know what to do. I've tried contacting a number of local marketing and advertising firms and artisans (who I figure would gain a lot from better marketing material) but heard very little back. Does anybody have advice?

Here's my simple (maybe too simple?) website: http://www.pagarneau.com/en/

And here are a few of my pictures, to show the kind of work I do:










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Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« on: February 08, 2014, 05:21:10 PM »

Pag

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2014, 08:10:51 PM »
Alright, so this is obviously the wrong forum to ask about this considering the complete lack of replies ;)

Anybody know a better forum where I could get help about this?

Sella174

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2014, 07:30:55 AM »
I'd say you have to go out there and grab the business by the throat. Easiest would be to look for local manufacturers of something, then look at their websites and then go sell yourself by offering to photograph one of their products for free. Then offer to do the rest for a reasonably low fee. I would also not really bother with complicated contracts at this stage and just allow them to do whatever with the images. Primarily you want to build a client list and a reputation right now.
Happily ignoring the laws of physics and the rules of photography to create better pictures.

Logan

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2014, 08:19:30 AM »
my two cents: make up a pamphlet and have some business cards or something, maybe some 4x6 prints as contact cards? take them to local businesses, even ones you don't think manufacture anything. Lots of businesses advertise in industry or trade magazines, and lots of businesses dont have the first clue where to find a photographer or how much it should cost. i work at a machine shop and they dont really have any kind of strategy as far as promotion or product photography, if someone like you came in the door with some flashy pictures like you posted, and a half decent sales pitch, you could probably make some money.

Giving them something like a neat picture with your contact info means its more likely they will keep it around, even if just on the fridge in the staff room, so when they DO need a photographer, they call you.

Edit: can you give us some info on how you acheived your backgrounds? the purple bokeh in the first one and the blue background on the anime figure specifically.

Pag

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2014, 09:39:05 AM »
Thanks for the good feedback, it's much appreciated!

The purple background behind the watch was made by crumbling tin foil then uncrumbling it and sticking it to some board, then shooting a gelled flash at it. It creates lots of small out of focus highlights.

The background behind the figure was made by using a pruple laser pointer on an out of focus white background. The laser's light is so close to ultra-violet that the camera's sensor can't sense it properly and it comes off as blue. The pattern comes from a special lens that came with the laser pointer.

Logan

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2014, 09:42:02 AM »
wow i will try the tinfoil trick today. i was suprised by your answer i was expecting something a little more technical! now that you mention it the repeating laser pointer pattern does look a bit like a kaleidoscope. thanks.

Pag

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2014, 10:05:13 AM »
I you want technical, this shot's bokeh was created by sending a flash's light through some fiber optics and placing the strands of fiber where I wanted them. Great control, but a lot of work -- the tinfoil is much easier.


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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2014, 10:05:13 AM »

Logan

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2014, 10:49:39 AM »
I you want technical, this shot's bokeh was created by sending a flash's light through some fiber optics and placing the strands of fiber where I wanted them. Great control, but a lot of work -- the tinfoil is much easier.

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 :o wow you are the background king! do you have a thread of ingenious backgrounds or a book or something?

AlexB

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2014, 10:51:21 AM »
It seems that to get the time of day from anybody willing to pay for advertising photos, you must have a referral from somebody else who you've done commercial work for. It's a catch-22: you must have experience and a reputation to get a contract to gain experience and a reputation.

You have to do a job, or two, or three, for free.

Even pitching jobs for free may not be easy, and some may be sceptical. Be honest with your client, explain to them that you have years of experience by doing this as a hobby, but now you're working on turning it into a full time job and need to build a reputation/portfolio and that's the reason you're doing it for free. Most will understand this. Try to select your "free clients" by finding someone who may use your images several places like magazines, flyers, posters etc, and not just online.

Then when you later sit down with clients discussing paying jobs, you can say "Here's an example of a job I did recently..." and show them the website/poster/flyer/whatever where your pictures were used. Just don't mention to them that you've done things for free...

unfocused

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2014, 11:31:12 AM »
I'm speaking pretty much out of ignorance regarding product photography, but with some knowledge of businesses.

If it were me, I'd first try to identify local companies that actually make something, rather than companies that just sell things made by others.

These aren't very glamorous businesses, but virtually every community of any size has them. You just have to locate them. The local Chamber of Commerce may offer some clues. These companies tend to be small (sometimes as small as a single owner working out of a garage or a converted warehouse.) They can't possibly afford a "real" photographer, so as others have pointed out, if you offer to do some work free in exchange for building your portfolio, I can't imagine them turning you down.

Of course, instead of watches and anime figurines, you'll likely be shooting vacuum wrapped food products, plastic wall panels, irrigation pipe fittings, latex coatings on tools, etc. (all real local products by the way.) And, you'll likely find the owners more concerned about showing off a particular feature that distinguishes their product from the competition, rather than just making it look pretty. But, you'll get a chance to improve your technique, build your portfolio and most important of all, test out the market.
pictures sharp. life not so much. www.unfocusedmg.com

Logan

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2014, 11:46:27 AM »
if you are a willing to do the much maligned "work for free to get your name in the game", fancy restaurants are a good try. especially those with old soon to be replaced menus or shutting down for renos or a change of ownership. Managers HATE paying for food shots, but are willing to part with a few sheckles for good menu or advertising shots. a super trendy or fancy restaurant in your area might carry some weight with other businesses, as their reputation usually far outweighs their photo budget.

imo the examples you posted are so good they pretty much speak for themselves, and that plus a discount rate for new customers or something might be enough to get you some business. dont forget that for some businesses 1000$ is an insane amount to pay for some photos, but their business might mean alot to another company that has a huge advertising budget. photographers scoff at people charging 500$ or less for photo shoots like they are selling out, but reality is there are a HUGE number of businesses that havent even considered professional photography because of that price barrier. if you need to put in 15 days of work for 1 photoshoot and charge accordingly thats your business, but if someone else can do it in 2 you have a bit of a problem.

Pag

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2014, 06:13:40 PM »
Thanks for the good comments! Interesting stuff, but it makes me realize that selling myself would be a full-time job, especially to start, which is hard to combine with my current full-time job. That's especially challenging when I might have to work for free or very cheap initially to get my name out there.

Oh well, I guess nobody said it would be easy.

Quote
:o wow you are the background king! do you have a thread of ingenious backgrounds or a book or something?

Haha! I've spent a lot of time figuring out ways to create interesting backgrounds and artificial bokeh. Even though white backgrounds are appropriate for some uses (like catalogs), I think they're overused and boring. So I try to make my pictures more interesting by putting objects in a more interesting context.

But no, I don't have a thread, or blog, or book about my background methods. If I start writing a blog, it might be a good subject to talk about actually.

tolusina

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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2014, 12:15:21 AM »
.......... it makes me realize that selling myself would be a full-time job, especially to start, which is hard to combine with my current full-time job. That's especially challenging when I might have to work for free or very cheap initially to get my name out there.

Oh well, I guess nobody said it would be easy........
Marketing. Yup, it's necessary.
NEVER EVER WORK CHEAP. Once you start cheap, clients expect cheap, you're done before you start.
Free work to build a portfolio is another matter. But, for product work, there's no reason to go begging to potentially paying clients to work for them for free or cheap.
Instead, hit up friends, relatives, co-workers with offers of free, pro quality photos of their eBay items. Tell them in advance that you will be working the shoot in a totally professional manner so they won't be expecting a quicky cell phone shoot, then do it.
A few freebee eBay shoots should give you enough product variety to build a portfolio you can show on a tablet or laptop, then go sell yourself and services.



Haha! I've spent a lot of time figuring out ways to create interesting backgrounds and artificial bokeh. Even though white backgrounds are appropriate for some uses (like catalogs), I think they're overused and boring. So I try to make my pictures more interesting by putting objects in a more interesting context.......
The examples you've posted above are absolutely stunning, compelling, beautiful; technically and artistically brilliant.
Now comes the 'But'.....
But, the artistry you are clearly capable of isn't really what a commercial buyer is looking for, methinks.
It's catalogs, advertising and packaging where your photos should be aimed, that means dull, boring, white backgrounds or backgrounds/settings directly relevant to the product's use(s) and/or applications, or settings intended to create the illusion of elegance, glamor, style, image, hipness, sexy, sporty or whatever. See car ads for example, most all push at least one of those illusions, yet there's nothing sexy or glamorous about a car in traffic, driving a sports car in a sporty manner is often hazardous and dumb.
 
Your second watch photo above of the Fossil watch looks to me like a good product photo, the gears in the setting make everything relevant. Your first and third watch photos, not so much, the third appears too manipulated.
The clock photo would be fine if aimed at Steam Punks, not sure if it would be a better sell of the clock or the goggles though. Not trying to say Steam Punks aren't a market, they likely are, and quite possibly a very interesting niche to work.

 
 
 
 
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Re: Getting Started in Commercial Product Photography
« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2014, 12:15:21 AM »