Looking for a photographer to shoot your product - but not sure who you should hire?

Finding a photographer can be extraordinarily hard. Unnecessarily so, we believe.

It’s okay if you work in the photo business and have a Rolodex of options; or if you’re looking for something very specific, like wedding, landscape, or underwater photographers.

But sometimes it’s all a little confusing. This is particularly the case if you’re looking for someone to shoot a product for you. So we figured it might be helpful to give a little guidance...

Suppose you are a small business owner that manufactures jeans, and you want to shoot your new line to upload and sell on your website. What type of photographer do you hire? Product? Fashion? Still-life? Ecommerce?

Unsurprisingly, it comes down to the type of image you want...

Fashion Editorial Shot for Zara

Fashion Editorial Shot for Zara

The differences between Fashion, Product, Still-Life & Ecommerce photography:

Fashion photography tells a story.

Traditionally, fashion photography is on trend. It is imagery being shot in a fashionable way, and follows a narrative. It is sometimes referred to as "editorial" photography because it creates a story or mood around the product. The purpose of fashion photography is to create an aspirational rapport between the brand and the people looking at the photo. There is usually a lot of preparation required for fashion imagery, with multiple elements being stylized - including hair, makeup, accessories and location. The most clear example is in a magazine like Vogue, where almost all the advertising imagery is part of a broader lifestyle story. A further, more extreme example would be the editorial section in the same magazine, with multiple-page spreads showing the publication's distinct vision for the most important trends of the season.

When to hire a Fashion Photographer?

You should look into using a fashion photographer if you are shooting clothes on a model, and want imagery that has a unique creative point-of-view. So in our jeans example, we would use the imagery on our website's homepage with the hope it will entice people to click through to the product page, where they can purchase the new line of jeans.

How many shots can a Fashion Photographer get in a day?

Because of the set-up time between each shot, you can probably get 5 or 6 shots in a day if it’s a big set, or if there are lots of hair and makeup changes. Otherwise, you can capture up to 20.

Editorialized Still-Life shot for Guts & Glory, by Marshall Troy Photography

Editorialized Still-Life shot for Guts & Glory, by Marshall Troy Photography

Still-life or Table-Top is for shooting product that doesn’t require models.

As the name suggests, the imagery being shot is static. If you wish the images to be more on the enticing side ( / less product-focused) then you want a photographer who can shoot editorialized table-top.

When to use a Table-Top photographer?

Still-life photographers usually shoot items that do not require a model, e.g. food, watches, handbags, etc.

How many shots can a Still-Life Photographer get in a day?

Depending on the product you are trying to shoot you can aim to get around 35 different looks (i.e. handbags), with 3 shots for each look. Editorialized shots are significantly less (about a handful) and contingent upon what you are looking to capture.

(NOTE: shots are different to ‘looks’. A look would be a pair of jeans, which could be shot three times: e.g. from the front, from the back and up-close)

Product photography is more functional

If Fashion and Still-Life editorial Photography are used for getting people’s attention, then Product Photography is about showcasing the product, providing visual explanations and guidance. It tends to be shot as generically as possible, sometimes showing a model from the nose down (known as “unrecognizable”) or on a white background. The reason for the limited creative expression is that you don’t want people looking at the image and saying: “hmm, I don’t like her hairstyle / the color of the belt- I don’t think these jeans are for me after all...”

(Unrecognizable will also cut your model rate in half, so a good potential option if you are budget-conscious)

When to use a Product Photographer?

It’s about giving the customer enough information to make a purchase - so you might see the same pair of jeans shot in multiple ways from various angles.

If you decide to show the jeans on a model, then you may want to look into a product photographer with some fashion experience - since they will know how to get the model to adopt the right poses. On the other hand, it might make more financial sense not to hire a model and to use a mannequin instead. It comes down to what you’re looking for, and what your budget allows.

Sometimes a brand will hire a fashion photographer who has product experience (or vice versa), with an eye to getting a couple of fashion shots in the morning, and then capturing some product imagery later on in the day.

Or, if you are shooting a static product (i.e. not clothing being shot a model), then you might use a Still-Life photographer with product experience (or vice versa) to get the enticing “narrative” images, before having them take the product shots.

How many shots can a Product Photographer get in a day?

Efficiency is the name of the game here: you can probably get around 40-60 shots in a day.

Unrecognizable on-figure Product shot

Unrecognizable on-figure Product shot

Explaining Ecommerce photography

Ecommerce photographers are essentially any photographer who shoots imagery with the designed purpose of being used to sell online.

So where does that leave us?

Ultimately you need to think about what imagery you need.

- Is it to tell a story like in an ad campaign? = Editorial Fashion or Still Life Photographer

- Or are you looking to list the product i.e. in a lookbook or on a website product page? = Product Photographer

- Or perhaps you’re want some story images, as well as some more hard-working, descriptive pictures? = Fashion / Still Life Photographer, who can also shoot Product. Or vice-versa.

Remember, the more story you tell the more dollars you are spending….

Once you answered these questions, and with the product in-mind, you should be able to pick between a straight fashion or still-life photographer vs. one that has some product experience.

And make sure you review the photographer’s website or portfolio to check to see whether or not they shot what you are looking for. It’s a surefire way to minimize the chances of being disappointed.

Still-Life Product Shot

Still-Life Product Shot

TL;DR

If you want to tell a story, you need an editorial Fashion or Still-Life photographer. For straight product shots, it's a Product photographer you're after.