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No nonsense advice from a life long product photographer

I have been providing professional product photography to my clients for over 30 years!! I established Armstrong Studios Associates, Ltd. in 1988. However, this does not mean you can't afford to work with me. Before you decide if I am a good fit please read this and keep it in mind even if you go elsewhere.

Along the way I have learned a few things about giving my customers the most value for their dollar. I have also seen a lot of clients make costly mistakes before they finally realize how much value I have to offer. If you are going to shop, and I encourage you to do so, then here are a few tips for getting the most value for your photo dollar:


• First realize that low pricing may not include all the usage rights you need so be sure to ask what length of time and in how many places or types of media an image can be used.
• Copyright laws are real and can cause big headaches, not knowing the law will not protect you. In this day of free stock don't be lulled into thinking using photos without express permission is cool, it isn't.
• Lower pricing is also a sign that your photographer may lack experience or is simply underbidding to get you in the door. Often they will have other ways to charge for "minor" services necessary to complete the job - services that you may not even know you need at the beginning.
• Standardized and package pricing may mean that you have to "get in line". You'll have less one-on-one control over your project and may have to wait long periods of time for final delivery. Package guidelines may be too rigid for your project, opening the door for those upcharges.
• Have a reasonable budget going in the door when talking to a pro. If you have a friend or a relative or a student who will do the job for next to nothing, don't use their pricing as a yardstick and please don't take advantage of them.
• Ask if there is a minimum price. If your project can easily be done for the minimum, see if you can find other shots to combine with your primary project. 
• Share examples of what you like and what you don't like about your competitor's images. A visual point of reference takes a lot of the guess work out of the process. Build a Pinterest board, it's way easy.
• Don't assume that just because you have hired a pro the shoot will go quickly. Pros want to get it right, you haven't hired them to rush.
• The latest, greatest equipment does not necessarily make the photographer's work better. Beware of studios that tout their equipment as a driving factor in the quality of their work. My experience has always been that it's what the photographer sees and how they convey that vision that counts the most.
• Allow reasonable time for editing and touch up, find out if it's included in the price you were quoted.
• Ask if payment terms can affect the price. Will paying a deposit get you a discount?
• If you want to compare the work of a few photographers, ask them to provide you with an on line gallery of images similar to the assignment you have in mind.
• See if outside services, such as models, hair & makeup artists, location rentals and so forth can be managed and paid directly. If the photographer doesn't need to manage those services you can avoid marked up charges.
• Don't expect the photographer to “art direct” if there is no clear layout, unless you are completely willing to accept what they deliver and make it work graphically.
• Don't opt to retouch something you can easily address in camera. It adds unnecessary cost and time to your project delivery.
• Make sure you know how the photographer intends to edit any shoots you do that involve models. This can be very time consuming and sometimes there are additional costs involved.
• Offer to bring your own lunch and snacks if you'll be working in the photographer's studio and no other staff is involved.
• Make sure that you not only like the work, you like the photographer and feel comfortable with their style of communication.
• If you are shopping for photo services and the photographer is making a lot of assumptions then you are at serious risk of loosing money.
• Lastly, ask yourself if you want to work with a photographer who is low cost or low risk. If you have to pay to reshoot what are the (not so hidden) costs of a do-over?

Here again is what I tell new clients about how I price my work:

When I begin any relationship with a client I work to understand their project as thoroughly as possible. This includes not only photography pricing but deadlines, usage, re-purposing, pre and post production, location scouting, logistics, staffing concerns, scheduling, weather, propping, file management...the list goes on.

Once I understand as much as possible, possibly do a test shoot and then consider all the variables for every project, I arrive at a price to fit the known uses for that job. Then - I STICK TO MY PRICE.

In almost all cases I deliver images for the unlimited exclusive use of the client, restrictions apply to third party use. "Buyouts" are available but almost always unnecessary.

I strongly urge anyone planning to put their products in front of the buying public to consider working with a professional, it's well worth the investment and can save you countless hours of trial and error.

I can't tell you how often I have heard - "Wow! these photos have made ALL the difference in my sales."

So now can you see why I like to say I “Shoot later and ask questions first"?