The barriers to enter the photography business are extremely low these days, mainly due to the transition to digital capture. For editorial photography, which needs to be around 300dpi, successful print resolution can be had with only an eight megapixel camera. Most consumer point and shoots are there already (although they lack many of the other features necessary to provide quality commercial/editorial images). The lower cost of very capable workstations, software, and the spread of industry knowledge through online forums make photography a pretty easy side job to get into. According to our keyword analysis, a decent percentage of visitors to our whiteproductphotography.com site are actually people looking for tutorials on how to shoot their products on white backgrounds.
Unfortunately, the ease of entry also deceives these hobby photogs that they can produce professional work with a point-and-shoot camera, pre-installed photo editing software, and a tripod. I see this frequently with smaller businesses, who decide to handle their photography needs in-house instead of hiring a professional photographer. Occasionally it works out, depending on the product or service being photographed. Most of the time, however, I see these images and can instantly figure out more effective imagery for selling the product or service. I’ve seen restauranteurs shoot interiors with an on-camera flash that reaches the first row of tables then fades to complete darkness. Most menu photography handled in-house leaves much to be desired and rarely does the pictorial menu look half as tasty as the dish does in-person. Shooting products or people under warehouse fluorescent or vapor lighting will usually have a strong color cast and little detail in the shadows. Furthermore, fluorescent lighting is a discontinuous light source, rapidly flickering too fast for the eye to see, which will turn out different color temperatures and intensities depending on the shutter speed used. On camera flash is daylight balanced, tungsten lights are around 2700 Kelvin (very yellowish), so unless the in-house photog can filter one or the other to correct the color casts, they’ll end up with substandard color rendering in the final images. Professionals know this stuff and can get it done right the first time.
That said, businesses should account for professional photography in their marketing budgets. It’s a cost of doing business that shouldn’t be ignored. I recently had a returning client ask about a discounted rate for some photography. I realize the economy is tight, but I’m also aware of my bottom line and what my knowledge and efficiency is worth. Also, doing the math, they would make back their money after ONE sale! This is a multi-national company who will probably recover their costs within minutes, and have no reason to sacrifice quality photography by taking things in-house with a white bed sheet and a point-and-shoot camera.
On the other hand, if a prospective client’s margins and volume are too low, I’d advise them that they may be better off shooting their product themselves because honestly their clients looking for a penny product probably don’t care much about quality imagery. But even then, having a solid image can only serve to improve their brand, and put them ahead of competitors by inspiring confidence in the product and the company that doesn’t cut corners. Most of the time, marketing material and photographs are the first points of contact with customers, and there are other places to cut budgets which the customer won’t immediately see.
When a picture speaks a thousand words, and you don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, the images of your product or service need to capture the customer’s attention immediately! Professional photographers are here to help other businesses capture their customer’s attention and their customer’s dollars.