How to Get Gorgeous Photos of Your Products on a Tight Budget
I'd like to introduce you to a major source of inspiration for me and my business on the daily: Betsy Jorgensen, founder of Unlike Juliet, a custom wedding magazine design and production service. Betsy is also a brand photographer and stylist, in addition to having a full-time job in the corporate world and being a wonderful mother and wife. She's a superhero, that's for sure. Betsy has been an incredible creative influence to me over the past several years and today she's sharing some of her wisdom with us. Keep reading below to hear her favorite tips and suggestions for getting some really nice, high-quality imagery for your small business if you feel that you're not quite ready financially to commit to hiring a professional product photographer.
I remember starting out and feeling like every dollar in my business bank account was worth ten times that. Spending money on one thing for my business felt like I was sacrificing so many other things — and what if those other things could have brought in more money for my business than this one thing I was spending on today?
I constantly felt like I was gambling. Will $10 here go farther than $10 there? Should I agree to this collaboration, or will saying “no” be better for me in the long run?
I wish there were simple answers for those early days, but even a seasoned business owner would have only been able to provide me with limited wisdom. As we all know, there is a lot of trial and error in running a small creative business.
That being said, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the brands that had the most success were often the best at presenting themselves online. I saw small business owners like myself investing in professional brand photography and wondered how on earth they could afford it. They would pop up on my Instagram and Facebook feeds, their products thoughtfully photographed against perfectly white backdrops — no ugly shadows, no pixelation. I also saw the images from gorgeously curated weddings or styled photoshoots.
I wanted so badly to emulate their photos but didn’t have the budget. At the time, I spent $500 and invested in my first DSLR camera. I knew nothing about settings, lenses, or lighting. So, despite having an “expensive” camera, I had very little to show for it.
That’s when it hit me.
Photographers and wedding planners all around me were constantly putting on styled shoots with intricate florals, table settings, models, and more. And I knew that none of those elements were cheap.
I saw a photographer looking in a Facebook group for vendors that wanted to contribute to her shoot. My products don’t make a lot of sense for a shoot like this (because they have photographs on their covers that never match the models involved), so I’ve always felt like I couldn’t volunteer.
Psssst — Some of you might have products PERFECTLY SUITED for styled shoots. If that’s the case, be sure to take advantage! But if the hosts of styled shoots aren’t drawn to your products, or you find yourself volunteering and no one taking advantage of your offer, continue reading on.
However, I figured she must be looking to save as much as possible on this shoot, so I reached out and asked her if she would throw my wedding magazines onto the table set up at the end, just before they cleaned everything up. I mentioned that styled shoots aren’t cheap, and that I could pay her to help offset the costs.
She agreed and asked that I pay $40. Now $40 was something I could afford! If any of those photos convinced someone to buy with me, I’d make my money back and then some.
I’ve had my magazines photographed at styled shoots a few times now and they are by far my favorite images. While I love receiving actual photos from my clients’ wedding day, there’s just something about a perfectly coordinated photoshoot that gets me in the feels.
I found a really simple way for me to get the photos I needed and it didn't cost me an arm an a leg. If you're in the same boat, consider some of these tips to help you get those beautiful photos:
Do some research or ask to see someone’s work before choosing to approach them with payment. Anyone can put together a beautiful mood board, but not anyone can successfully execute a beautiful styled shoot and take high-quality photos.
If a wedding planner/designer/etc., instead of a photographer, is putting the shoot together, don’t simply take their word for it that you will have rights to photos afterward or that the photographer would be willing to take those photos in the first place.
Come to an agreement on approximately how many photos you will receive from the photographer, i.e. 5-10 photos, 10-20 photos, etc.
Confirm that you will have the rights to use the images however you’d like — social media, website, printed materials, etc. If they won’t agree to this, come to a compromise you are both comfortable with, i.e. you are allowed to use them on social media with all vendors tagged.
Ask lots of questions about the shoot. What colors will be there? What will the models look like? What other vendors are involved? Not all of your products are likely to pair or photograph well with every shoot. I chose to send specific magazines based on the answers to my questions. I was told the models will both be thin and fair-skinned, so I sent in magazines with two thin fair-skinned people. I was told the theme of the shoot will be rich and moody, so I sent magazines with a rich and moody vibe.
Do not forget that there are usually a wide variety of vendors involved. When appropriate, and unless you’ve signed a contract with the photographer/planner that says you can do otherwise, give those vendors the credit they deserve!
Betsy Jorgensen | @betsyjorg
queen of eclectic pursuits • circus peanut afficianado
Between Betsy's commercial cotton candy machine, the unicycle she still can’t figure out how to ride, and the Nikon D750 she takes everywhere she goes, she’s no stranger to trying new things simply because they sound interesting. She also makes really cute babies.