Ask a Product Photographer & Blog by
Toronto Video Production

Who is this page for?
I dedicate this page to Photographers and Business Professionals who take an interest in commercial photography.  Here, I write content on product photography, headshots, graphic design and the business of photography.

If you have a related question, email me and I may respond and post your comment here.

Why not use a Blog page like Wordpress or Blogger?
After years of blogging elsewhere, it occurred to me that I was giving other blog sites valuable content. Sure, I was getting backlinks to my site, but Google prefers fresh content, so I decided to keep the new good stuff here. In addition, my content is now easier for my indented audience to find.


May 1 2017
Managing Extra Cost, Special Requests and Difficult Photography Customers

Difficult customers are inevitable. Sniff them out early in the sales process. Make your agreement terms clear and understood. Service the customer well or don't take on the job.

As a commercial product photographer, I like to offer my customers a satisfaction guarantee.  I cannot do that if I have misaligned my service with the client’s expectations. 

The best way to manage a customer fight is to avoid it.  You cannot win a fight with a customer.  This is because before the sales process, your customer had a vision on the project’s net result; it was your job to understand that vision and to deliver on it.  If you can’t, better to walk away or develop the resources to do service the customer.

If you want to keep the customer happy, you need to deliver your service smoothly and competitively.  Anticipate where things can go wrong in your photography service process and pre-emptively mitigate to avoid those problems. 

Here are three types of issues that typically arise from most problematic photography projects.

  1. Service Creep
    When the customer asks for extra things were not included in the original quote

  2. Misalignment of the project scope
    When the customer has a different understanding on what you are committing to deliver

  3. Low balling
    When the customer changes the terms of the agreement after the agreement was made.

The Best Defense- A Good Clear Quote and Contract
A good clear contract saves many problems.  Make sure both parties clearly understand the scope of the photography project in written form.  Include terms in the agreement.  Terms help the customer understand the rules of the project.  The terms should be in simple English and I like to review my terms often to make sure they are clear, practical and enforceable.  It is smart to get a legal mind to review your terms.  Tell your customers to read the terms, as it will help avoid problems; especially do this with potentially “high-maintenance” customers. 

Include terms regarding the project scope.  For example, if the project mandate drastically changes (such as volume), you should reserve the right to revise the contract.  Allowing yourself the opportunity to revise the quote if the customer changes the project’s direction is a fair and reasonable clause.  For example, if you gave the client a price for1000 product photographs and she shrinks it down to 20, obviously you should renegotiate your pricing. 

To simplify the agreement process, I put my terms on my quote.  Should the Client accept my offer, the quote acts as the binding contract.

Misalignment
Get a good idea of what the Client wants.  Spends lots of time asking many questions.  If the Client comes off as very nit-picky, ask more questions to make sure they get what they want.  If the customer is unwilling to be clear, and there is a risk of dissatisfaction, better to walk away.  It can be frustrating and impossible to make a high-maintenance customer happy if they are demanding and elusive with their respective needs.

If the customer is unhappy, and you collected a deposit, it may secure the work you did, but they can still bite back with a bad online review.  Make sure you can give the customer what they want or don’t take their money.
I am quick to tell a potentially difficult customer that I may not be a suitable photographer for them if they come off as hostile, cheap or ambiguous.  I am ok with ambiguous if the Client pays up front and is clearly willing to accepts my creative approach and the final deliverable.

Service Creep
Service creep is when the customer keeps asking for ever more outside the original agreed offer.  Service creep if not managed can erode the profitability of a project. 

For example, the customer gives you horrific merchandises to photograph and they expect you to Photoshop out all the imperfection at no extra cost.  I don’t mind offering a little extra work on any given assignment, but if it is excessive, you need to put the brakes on that project.   It is best to advise the client verbally and on your terms that any extra work outside the project scope is subject to additional cost.

Stand your ground, this is important.  A good photography sales cycle should be mutually rewarding to your photography business and your customers.  Indeed, little extras are nice to provide the Client if it helps customer acquisition or retention, but generally, it is not fair to you to work for free. 

Lawyers, accountants and other professionals do not work for free, so why should you?  They charge by the hour.  If new significant aspects are added to the agreed project’s scope, I will offer to service the additional work by the hour.

In the interest of transparency, always advise the Client and seek permission before you start to charge the extra expenses.  Better still, get it in writing; people tend to have fussy memory when it comes to extra costs.   
Relative to the paragraph above, I like to send a simple email to the customer as an addendum to my quote:

Dear Customer,
Per our conversation, I will be adding a cleaning fee to your project cost.  This is to make your product photographs presentable for publishing.  The rate will be $50 per hour.  I estimate it will take me 3 hours; therefore, the estimated surcharge (more or less) will be $150 plus tax.  I will advise you if more time is required.

If you must advise to the client that the project will cost more money, be brave; this is not always easy to do as the customer may freak out or ask you to include this service in your price.  Be ready for that.  Be ready to respond to that reaction.

Be honest; most extra jobs are more complex than you might think- so price the extra work conservatively. 

Be detached; the customer may tell you to abort the job.  That maybe the best option, as the job may not be feasible and or the extra work is not worth doing at no charge. 

Sometimes, I need extra things for a special photography job; sometimes I purchase these at my own expense.  I justify that as a cost of doing business.  If the client request is specific, I tell the customer they need to pay for that.  If I have to buy the item on my own time, I charge the shopping cost at my shop rate of $100 (CAD) per hour.  If I can get an assistant to do the work, I may half the rate at $50 per hour.  It is a good idea to get payment for that item from the Client in advance; if you don’t, proceed at your own risk.  They may not pay you.

My contract has this ever-evolving term to cover extra costs:

Projects requiring additional services or expenses not described in this quotation may be subject a surcharge(s). Additional services may include courier costs, parking, props, file delivery, complex staging, product cleaning, major studio cleanup, garbage removal, managing product reflections, significant Photoshop editing, rush fees, graphic design services, stock video, stock graphics, stock music or fonts, steaming, USB keys, etc. Should the Client request or expect additional services exceeding what is described in this document, Jules Design reserves the right, free of any penalty to revise this quote, hold or cancel this project. Additional services are billable at $100 + HST per hour in addition to any other purchased items required for this project.

The end goal of a business is to sustain itself while making a profit.   To do so, price to cover your expense and profit margins.  As a rule, you should not work for free; regrettably many photographers eager to earn business do.  This is not a sustainable business model even if you are learning or trying to carve your space out in a market. 

Take the time to figure out what your customers want; if you cannot give them that, be comfortable to walk away.  Angry customers can hurt your business. 

August 17 2015
Product photography is graphic design stupid

I am a photographer but I also consider myself an equal part graphic artist. I view myself this way because my Clients use nearly all of my images as part of some graphic layout. Regardless if I am shooting people or merchandise, seldom an image goes by that I do not edit or add some component.  A large part of my photography business is image editing and graphic design.

As a graphic designer producing product photographs, my responsibilities exceed that of a mere photographer.  Indeed, lighting and imaging are very important, but so is preparing the image in a manner that my customer can use.

As a commercial photographer and graphic designer, I speak both languages. Ironically, many in my field speak only one or neither.  This observation extends to students and graduates from post secondary photography schools. I have met enough “photography professionals” lacking these skills to shake my head. 

If you are a photographer, not knowing how to use a camera in manual mode or Photoshop is quite sad; you need it to do your job.  The information is out there and it is quite available. 

Considering I taught myself photography and graphic design via YouTube, books and practice, many graduates or “seasoned professional” should be teaching me a thing or two; unfortunately this is seldom the case.  Like many trades, photography and graphic design is not complex, but you need to put in the time to learn it.

If one is to become a commercial product photographer, you need to have a complete and thorough knowledge of the Adobe Creative Suite and graphic design. Not having these core skills will undermine your ability to service your customers. 

Photography is and has always been a craft. New technology has simplified the process but it is not mindless yet; you still need to know what you are doing. As businesses and individuals need practical photographs they can use, having graphic design skills is a fundamental ability required to service your customers.   Since many of my colleagues lack this know how, it’s no wonder that many price in desperation and eventually go away.

 

Toronto Cellphone Case Product Photography
The product photographs above are composite image created with two or more images. Building an image like this convincingly requires graphic design expertise. 


Toronto-Food-Photographer-Photography
Even images requiring seemingly little editing may feature a vignette or adjusted colour temperature.

August 1 2015
Keep your photography costs low with bulk product shots
We shoot models and people. Prices average $5 to $15 per image- usually about $5.75 +/-

Customers have a preference to vendors with the largest selection. One-stop shopping is the preferred default for most buyers. Smart merchants will respond to this need by listing more items for a competitive advantage.

Yet listing items costs money. As a result, vendors need a way to minimize their marketing contributions to maximize profitability. In response, Jules Design offers cost-effective bulk product photography. Our product shots are highly colour accurate, attractive, clean and the item is featured on a near to perfect white background. Objects can be as small as jewellery or as large as a human.

Bulk product shots differ from conventional product shots. Whereas conventional product shots are staged and highly edited in Photoshop, bulk product shots feature simple staging and minimal editing requirements.

Bulk product photography is not well suited to group product shots or for Clients who require perfect images; they are best suited for large catalog applications when many clean images are required but perfection is not mandatory.

Depending on the project, prices per image may range from $5 to $15 relative to volume and customer requests. On average most bulk product shots cost about $5.70 +/- per image plus applicable taxes. These types of projects are best suited for initiatives with 75 or more images.

For more information on bulk product shots, contact Jules Design 647.997.2793 or email us at jules@julesdesign.ca

Toronto Commercial Photo Studio
Above: Clients may participate in the Photoshoot at Jules Design to provide creative direction.
Toronto Bulk Product Photographer

Above: Bulk product shots can feature people or products.  Colours are accurate, detailed and the pricing is exceptional.


Toronto Bulk Rate
Above: Bulk product photography is a cost effective solutions for large quantities of product shots


July 29 2015

Reflection-Free Product Photography

A light source reflection on a product shot can be a distraction from the product's design. I would imagine that most designers do not create merchandise to feature a glare spot. Considering this, when taking a product shot, most photographers should work a little harder to produce images with minimal to no reflections on the item. 

The circumference of the product should offer contrast to make it pop out of the page. Managing desirable and undesirable reflections can be achieved with geometry, colour cards and basic principles in photometry. A great native image an be made right out of the camera. Product shots requiring little Photoshop always look better. Heavily edited or composite images tend to look fake.

Jules Design produces product photography of bottles with little to no light source reflections. Our service is well suited for product shots with foil, cellophane, glass or plastic wrapping.  We produce product shots that see though reflective substrates.

For more information on reflection-free product photographs contact Jules Design:
T: 647.997 2793
E: jules@julesdesign.ca

 

Toronto Bottle Photography without reflections or glare spots Managing desirable and undesirable reflections with light, geometry and coloured cards can make a great native image right out of the camera. 

April 27 2015
Succeeding as a realtor with a good headshots for branding

Being a successful realtor is a tough gig. In a cluttered market of customer choice, a real-estate agent must have exceptional talent at setting him or herself apart from the rest.  One sure-fire way to drive your personal brand is with great-one-of-a-kind photos.

Getting great photos is now as easy as it sounds. Attractive pictures that are properly exposed and correctly colour-balanced is a given.  Yet, as there are few barriers for photographers to enter the photography field, getting a quality headshot is not always easy.

As most photographers are not very good, buyer beware. Most Realtors will be fortunate if they can get get a good headshot.

Few photographers measure the light when taking a picture. Many dont even know how to shoot in manual mode. Usually they have limited gear and Photoshop skills. I've hired enough professionals to see this recoccuring theme. Now, like any responsible company, we scrutinize our vendors when we subcontract.

Jules Design creates photos for social media profiles, business cards, billboards, web design, newspaper print and much more.

Our headshots often include a clipping path for image overlays; we do this to integrate your photos into various graphic design programs like InDesign or Illustrator. This is to expedite your go to market speed when you are promoting your marketing message.  We prepare your headshots for immediate graphic design use. 

Toronto Realtor Photographer
Using any old photographer to produce your
portraits is sure-fire way to waste your time and money. 

In addition to preparing your headshots for graphic design work, we incorporate drama into your images to communicate your value proposition.  We use props and distinct poses to communicating your message.  Being a successful Real-Estate agent is not always about competency, it is about getting the listing. Using showmanship in your portraits can be a competitive advantage to get you the business. We will present to you some useful poses to incorporate into your portrait session that will inevitably leverage the visuals for your marketing program(s).

For your next Realtor photography session, contact Jules Design.  Our Toronto in-studio or on-location headshots photography service is aptly equipped to deliver better headshots for more marketing applications.  We integrate graphic design, props, drama and photography to produce better headshots that will grow your realtor business.

For more information on Toronto Realtor Photography, contact Jules Design. 
T: 647-997-2793 E: jules@julesdesign.ca

October 28 2014
The hair light; the forgotten headshot illumination

The hair light is a flattering but often omitted aspect of a good head shot.  A hair light separates hair and blacks from the background, gives it dimension and adds a beautiful highlight. 

Photographers often overlook the hair light as they don't know how to do it or they exclusively focus on front illumination. 

Images right:
Jules Design offers headshots with advanced hair lighting to accentuate beautiful hair.

Overdoing the hair light may cause the hair to illuminate and get blown out; this may be an undesirable look.

Toronto headshots
T: 647.997.279
E: jules@julesdesign.ca

Hair lighting Toronto Headshot Photographer Hair Light Toronto Headshot Photographer



October 25 2014

Different kinds of product shots for different kinds of customers

When Henry Ford first created the Model T, he said you can have any colour as long as it is black. Eventually though, due to a call for greater selection, he succumbed to a wider offering.

In the same vein, a business should never force a customer into a single option. We understand that not all clients require perfect and manicured images. Some clients just want a clean image at a low price.

To meet this need, Jules Design offers a wide array of customizable product photography solutions such as:

  • Conventional Product Shots
  • Extra (or Less) Photoshop Editing
  • Masking or no Masking
  • Imposed Shadows & Reflections
  • 360° Rotating Product Shots
  • Bulk Product Photography (Low or No Editing)
  • Mannequin & Model Fashion photography
  • Ghost Mannequin product shots, etc...


Image Top Left and Right
These images feature less Photoshop editing and consequently lower production costs. For most catalogue applications, a clean image is sufficient to sell the item.
Toronto Fashion Photographer
Toronto Shoe Photographer
    Image Left:
    Some Clients require advanced editing.  Options may include natural shadows, reflections, masking, healing, etc.

    Jules Design offers advanced Photoshop editing to service these Client needs.  

    For more information on our various commercial photography solutions, contact us:

    T: 647.997.279

    E: jules@julesdesign.ca




October 21 2014
My Philosophy About Shooting Jewelry… And how I shoot it.

From an economic point of view, consider that Jewelry product photography is usually for a limited number of inventory items.  To maximize your profit margins, your marketing contributions or dollar spend per item should be limited unless you have many if the same items to sell.

Should the item have a significant profit margin built into the selling price, then it may make sense to invest the money in great image editing.

To produce flawless jewelry photography, you need to do significant editing in Photoshop. This may include painting the item with a gradient to cover all the tarnish marks, dirt and scratches. This work can be very time consuming.

To reduce your production cost, take good product shots in the onset. Take images with a clean background and limit the maximum resolution your customers can see. The customer does not need to see all of the product's imperfection to make a buying decision.

To shoot, I recommend using a ton of light. This is to increase your depth of field. I also shoot at a high F-stop like 16 or more. Don't use ambient light with a long exposure as you will get issues with camera shake or chromatic aberration. Use strobes for a quick powerful burst of light. My strobes are 600 watts +.

If you want LOTS of depth where the focus is sharp from front to back, you may need to consider focus stacking in Photoshop.

As time is often in short supply, I don’t focus stack most jewelry product shots.  Instead, I prefer a little diffraction to a short depth of field; as a result, I will shoot as high as F25.

I use a light meter to measure the light to adjust my camera accordingly. I also use a grey card to adjust my white balance to insure accurate product colour. 

Finally, I use a 105 mm macro lens. This is the same glass I use to shoot insects. A good macro lens will help you catch incredible product detail.

Economical jewelry photography Toronto

Above:Jules Design offers economical solutions to present your jewelry starting at $15 per item.  Contact us for details.   


Editing jewelry photography Toronto


October 2
1 2014
Different kinds of headshots for different kinds of professionals

Actors, lawyers, real estate agents and business professionals have distinct portrait photography requirements. A one-size-fits-all approach to headshots may lead to images that are not well suited to the customers' needs. At Jules Design, we customize the image to match the Client's professional objectives.

Actor headshots should be clear to help the casting director make a casting decision. Dramatic shadows are out; flattering lightning is in. When I create compcards for actors, I create a montage. This compilation includes at least a face and body shot. The objective is to provide the Casting Agent with a big picture of the Actor's appearance.

In addition to great photos, we include text overlays such as your contact info, date of the image, phone number, URL, skills, credentials, etc. The idea behind this content is to save your time and to sell you.

Including a date is always a good practice; the Casting Director may not want to call you if your photo is five years old. Conversely, if the Casting Director loves your look and or credentials, you want them to reach you! Include your name and phone number with your headshot!

We create business portraits for marketing collateral 
Lawyers and real estate agents often need headshots modified for print and web design.  As a best practice, I like to offer masking for these professionals.

Masking is the removal of the background so you can overlay or superimpose the image onto other graphics.

As lawyers and realtors often use their portraits for billboard, we often produce headshots for large format applications.  In general, our goal is to produce your portrait for a wide array of business applications from LinkedIn profile pics to print advertisements.

Headshot Pet Peeves
Today, everybody who owns a camera seems to be a portrait photographer. Often these "professionals" have little notion in exposure, lighting, editing colour or skin. Colours often appear washed out and inaccurate, skin looks like plastic, lighting is uneven, weird looking, too bright or dark.

At Jules Design we have a colour managed workflow. We measure the light colour and intensity to insure graceful hues. We calibrate our cameras and monitors to produce flattering skin tones.

We believe that good lighting and correct exposure alleviates the need for heavy Photoshop editing. Proper illumination will soften skin naturally and make the subject look good. 


Toronto Real Estate Agent Photographer
Above & Below: Jules Design integrates graphic design with our headshot photography to produce distinctive images that will set you apart from your competition.
Acting Kids Headshot Photographer Toronto. In-studio photography headshots for children actors. Serving Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Oakville, Markham, Oshawa, GTA