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  • Katelin Kinney

Breaking In To E-commerce Photography

Creative control, remote work, quick turn around, diverse tasks, and fair pay. There are tons of positives that come with shooting in the genre of e-commerce photography. You can easily make a 6 figure income in this industry and I've had a few people ask me how they begin the process of getting in to the e-commerce genre. Some of these things will be more common knowledge and some of them are aspects you may not have thought of. So let's go!



Have Existing Examples

This may be a no-brainer, but ESPECIALLY in the e-commerce world clients won't trust their money with you unless they see you have experience shooting a product genre similar to their product. So, if you're brand new and haven't shot products yet, go out and get some. Head to your local store and grab a variety of affordable products to shoot. I suggest getting at least one from each of these genres: Kitchenware, Vitamin/Supplements, Beauty/Skincare, Children Toys, Baby/Infant products, Pet products, Home Decor.


Amazon is the main player in the e-commerce world so get familiar with the parameters and requirements for Amazon listing images. The hero image (first main image) needs to be on a pure white background (not just shot on a white backdrop, but actually edited afterwards to have a 100% pure white pixel background). Amazon is built to favor square images and their dimensions ideally should be 2000px by 2000px. Any larger than that, Amazon will compress them and they'll look fuzzy. Any smaller than that and you may not have the roll-over zoom in feature. Infographics are common, so either offer that as an add on service or at least leave some empty room around your composition to allow your client to have infographics added in later if they prefer. In short search around Amazon listings for a while to study up and get used to what works on first page listings.


Once you've created a small portfolio of examples be sure to have a website that is dedicated to just the e-commerce. Clients don't want to see family portraits, weddings, or real estate on your page as well. They want to know they're sending their product off to a professional product photographer. You'd be surprised how specific of examples e-commerce sellers want to see. It's not enough to just have beautiful photos sometimes- if they're selling a shelf they want to see that you have shot a shelf before. So the more variety of products you shoot the better.



Look on Job Posting Sites

E-commerce sellers are often not large brands with huge commercial budgets. They are individuals, mom and pop operations, or a small company of a few people. They look for freelancers online and will post in job listing sites. Upwork is my personal favorite and I was able to make $50k last year on Upwork alone. If you want to start smaller check out things like Fiverr. You can also look for Facebook groups dedicated to Amazon sellers.


Offer Referral Discounts

In the world of e-commerce a lot of sellers know each other. If you really wow a client they will likely pass on your name to someone else they know. Encourage that word of mouth by offering referral discounts. Tell your client that if they send anyone new to you that new client will get a discount and your existing client will get a discount on the next photo package they buy from you. You want to look for opportunities to get recurring work without you having to constantly spend time looking for leads.


Give Kick-Backs to Seller Gurus

For the Amazon platform in particular there are a lot of teachers out there coaching new sellers on how to set up online Amazon stores and get sales. Search for these Amazon Gurus. Youtube is a great place to find them. Contact as many of them as you can and offer a kick-back. If they mention you in their videos and direct their students to you then they get a commission off of each photo package one of their students buys.



Things to Keep in Mind

Be very clear with your client on the expectations. How many photos total are they purchasing? How many models do they need and of what demographics? How many scenes? Do they have a specific shot list or are they leaving that up to you? Let them know if they are allowed any revisions or if that is an extra charge. Let them know your turn around time. Sellers often need those photos fast, so I make sure to give them a timeline of 3-5 days once I've received their product. Do they want their product returned after you're done? Who is paying for that shipping? I let my clients know they need to include a prepaid return shipping label if they want their product back. It's about 50/50 whether clients want it shipped back or not. So I end up with a lot of cool products that I either keep or donate. Also once you start to gain traction and have a lot of clients you'll need to keep track of them all on a calendar so that when a new client e-mails you wanting to get photos done, you can look on your calendar and let them know your next available start date for a project.


Pricing

The all important question that every photographer wants to know in every genre. My prices are below. These are pretty typical for this genre of photography. In e-commerce photography we don't sell usage licenses. We price our photos around $50-$150 per image. Price per image tends to get lower the more photos they purchase. That's because once a scene is set up, shooting and editing 5 more photos after already shooting 10 isn't nearly as time consuming as just setting up an entire scene to shoot 5 total images. I personally do not create contracts. Sellers have never once asked me for a contract and they often don't want to deal with time consuming aspects like that. This is a conveyer belt structure, and they want to ship a product out and get photos back asap with very little obstacles.


This next aspect of my pricing may be a big no-no to most people. Not only do I not create contracts, but I don't ask for any payment until after my clients already have their photo files from me. I do this because I was at a photo conference once listening to a successful commercial photographer from Europe give a talk on pricing. He said he was surprised to learn that in America most people want some portion of payment prior to the photoshoot. He said this isn't typical in Europe because they trust their clients. That resonated with me, so I decided to trust my clients and take on that risk myself. Turns out clients very much appreciate that, especially if they've never worked with me before. I've had clients tell me that they've had horrible experiences with photographers in the past and me showing that I trust them to pay after they receive their files really calmed them down and convinced them that they should trust me too. I've never had a client not pay.


Quotes, Invoices, and Receipts

These are important files to have ready to go so that you are clearly a professional business. Create a template for each one so you can just plug in new numbers and line items when creating a quote, invoice, or receipt for a client. There are also programs you can pay a subscription to that will automatically take care of billing clients, but I prefer to save that money and just use my own templates. It takes very little time to plug in new numbers to a template. Whatever system works best for you, just make sure you stay on top of outstanding invoices!



You Can Do This

Overall the e-commerce genre of photography is the fast short-cut version of high priced commercial photography. The benefits that come with it include a ton of creative control on what you're shooting, way less pressure than an expensive commercial shoot, the comfort of working from home or anywhere you want, quick project turn arounds so you're always working on something new and different, great hourly pricing for the time it takes to complete a project, and the comparative ease of breaking in to this genre as opposed to making the right connections to shoot for big brands. If you want to get into this industry you absolutely can. How many listings are published every day? A TON. How many sellers are out there? A TON. And how many do you need coming back to you for photos in order to make a good living? Not that many!

You can do this.

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