The Entrepreneur Forum | Startups | Entrepreneurship | Starting a Business | Motivation | Success

EXECUTION Building a Product Photography Portfolio

Remove ads while supporting the Unscripted philosophy...become an INSIDER.

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
I've been reading the forum for some time now, and I'm terrified of posting this, but I'm at a point where I'm almost ready to show it to the world and I got a groove going on in terms of productivity and keeping focused. It also doesn't hurt to bounce ideas off of you guys in case my mind goes to 500 places at once.

Since the COVID outbreak, I've been studying nonstop on how to shoot commercial product photography. My background is in photojournalism, but aside from only using speedlites for fill, I almost know nothing about how artificial light works. My usual outlets went radio silent on me after the outbreak, so I'm SOL. I do have another job working at a hardware store so I do have consistent income coming in to pay the bare minimum. Plus, I'm able to use the employee discount to buy equipment I need to build my photo studio.

Another thing to add: you know that your occupation is becoming obsolete when you go to networking events and the speakers are heavily implying to get out of the field. I'm upset that I spent 7 years chasing after a dream of working for an outlet with benefits, only to come up with nothing, but hey, lesson learned. I'm not saying that photojournalism is dead, but the industry has failed to adapt.

Progress thus far:

  • I created 5 out of 8 product photos. I've been using @Lex DeVille's Upwork courses and they've been a godsend for me. However, it's a lot of work and it's been trial and error in getting the shots I want. They're all heroic shots, but I'm not sure if I should add more regular product with white background ones. Either way, whoever said that product photography is easy, is lying. I keep saying to myself: "If it's hard, then the pay off will be great." (Though if this is a fool's folly, please let me know)
  • I've been reading books and posts on the forum and Reddit on productivity. My favorites are:
I've read a bunch of others, but ultimately, all these books say the same thing. There are no shortcuts, you just got to do the work. I have a horrible habit of not staying focused and I tend to action fake frequently. Meditation, journaling, and my therapist are very helpful in keeping me focused, accountable, and to be thankful for what I have.

  • I've also been studying tutorials and reading books on lighting. My favorites are:
  • I've been active on Facebook group-related subjects and the feedback I get is very helpful as well.
  • Getting up at 4:30 am every day since the outbreak has been a game-changer. I workout in the morning before I drop my sister off to the bus for work, I make my coffee, breakfast, and get right to work.

My Next Steps:

  • Continue the course of finishing the last 3 pieces of my work.
  • Write captions for them to appease the SEO on Upwork.
  • Start sending out proposals
  • Make my first $1000 by August.

This might be ambitious, but I got this far to start backing down. I do plan to learn copy and marketing, but I haven't figured out how to incorporate them without getting overwhelmed yet. For now, I want to do one at a time. Every time I do multiple things at once, it never goes well.

If you guys have any questions or you want to throw ideas and criticisms out there, feel free! I'm sure I'm missing things and I'll be happy to clarify.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Last edited:

Kid

Silver Contributor
Speedway Pass
Mar 1, 2016
989
875
321
You learn to write better proposals to get gigs on professional products photos.. seems clear.

Thing to consider is that many people now turn to some kind of side hustle and i bet they are reading about product sourcing too.
So some of them will need pro photographer.
 
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
You learn to write better proposals to get gigs on professional products photos.. seems clear.

Thing to consider is that many people now turn to some kind of side hustle and i bet they are reading about product sourcing too.
So some of them will need pro photographer.
That's very true! I think depending on what kind of photography people are going for, especially if they have zero experience with it, they'll get a shock on how time-consuming it is. I spend at least 3-6 hours editing composites. Little imperfections like dust, glares, or scratches can make or break your sale.
 

Rinzler

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
May 21, 2014
119
116
83
28
Northern California
Great job on getting the ball rolling!
From a logistics point of view, how does this work? You offer the service online then as part of the service your client would have to ship their product to you for you to take the shots, then you send the product back?
 
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
Great job on getting the ball rolling!
From a logistics point of view, how does this work? You offer the service online then as part of the service your client would have to ship their product to you for you to take the shots, then you send the product back?
Thank you very much! And yup, that's the plan! For now, I want to focus on small to medium-sized items. My studio right now is a clown car unless I can incorporate rental prices in the cost. But I guess that's the beauty of product photography. The setup for the most part is portable!
 

Andy Black

Dad, husband, entrepreneur.
Staff member
EPIC CONTRIBUTOR
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Speedway Pass
May 20, 2014
10,716
43,773
4,306
Ireland
Welcome.

I do plan to learn copy and marketing, but I haven't figured out how to incorporate them without getting overwhelmed yet.
Don’t make it a goal to *learn*? Have a goal to make sales and then learn what you need to achieve that goal?
 

seriousleisure

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 2, 2020
8
12
16
Dallas, TX, USA
I honestly don't know how viable this business model is but I'm curious to see how it works out for you.

I've heard that people send stuff overseas for this. Amazon recruits shooters in multiple states to work in their studios. The rates are low and they expect high output.

Also, retouching is a good skill to learn but you can send items shot on white overseas to get the background removed and basic cleanup for a dollar or 2.

Phlearn has great Photoshop courses.

If you are looking for inexpensive strobes to start with, Dynalite and Paul Buff make some of the most reliable units at a reasonable price.

Start with a medium softbox or 4-6' octabank and some fill cards and move these around the subject.
Window light is also very versatile.
Typical product photography is often backlit with front fill.

Since you have a background in photojournalism my bet is that you have a good eye. You may also consider doing corporate headshots and environmental portraits. With a good eye, a long lens, and one light, you can make nice images. To take things up a notch, you could add an edge light opposite your key.

If you want some critique or other advice, let me know. I've shot catalogs, furniture, interiors, table top, and food.
 

CountMonteCristo

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Oct 10, 2015
37
78
118
Hungary
Hey, congrats on your progress so far! Keep it up, you're really close!

I used to work on Upwork as a video editor (also learned a ton from Lex) and I know the struggle. I agree with Andy's point, you shouldn't get caught up in your craft, you should focus on building a killer profile in the least amount of time and getting your first client. I'd say 5-10 killer images, and you're ready to apply. You can improve your craft as you work.

A few practical Upwork tips if you're interested:

Make a client profile and post a fake job that's pretty much what you'd love to work on. Look through the applicants and see what they have and which one you'd pick and why. This is what you're up against. This way you can get a better idea of what you need to stand out.

Upwork's job filter system is garbage, so you get tons of irrelevant jobs and in the beginning when all you do is sort through jobs all day, this can eat up a lot of your mental stamina. I used to use a free RSS reader (Feedbro) to weed out any job that had irrelevant keywords in the titles. You can connect your Upwork feed and within Feedbro you make a rule that deletes any job that has certain keywords in the title, keywords that would mean the job has nothing to do with what you do.

Think outside the box. When I started as a video editor, I was a total beginner. I had no experience editing, no portfolio, no references, nothing. So I spent about 2 weeks to make an intro/self-promo video (pretty much a commercial for myself) and filled it with with flashy editing effects and dumb jokes. (I didn't know anything so I followed tutorials on all the editing.) Nobody had anything like that, and I got hired on my 1st application that turned into a $10K+ client. Think about what clients care about the most and how you could assure them of money well spent with you, with the least amount of work. Ignore everything else.

And lastly, although I'm going to assume you now Peter McKinnon, just in the off chance you don't, or forgot about his stuff lately, here are a few of his videos on creative product photography as inspiration:

PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
UNDER WATER PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
How to do EPIC PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY!
 
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
For real, you guys are all awesome! :smile:

Welcome.


Don’t make it a goal to *learn*? Have a goal to make sales and then learn what you need to achieve that goal?
Thank you very much! That's a good way to frame it! :smile:

I honestly don't know how viable this business model is but I'm curious to see how it works out for you.

I've heard that people send stuff overseas for this. Amazon recruits shooters in multiple states to work in their studios. The rates are low and they expect high output.

Also, retouching is a good skill to learn but you can send items shot on white overseas to get the background removed and basic cleanup for a dollar or 2.

Phlearn has great Photoshop courses.

If you are looking for inexpensive strobes to start with, Dynalite and Paul Buff make some of the most reliable units at a reasonable price.

Start with a medium softbox or 4-6' octabank and some fill cards and move these around the subject.
Window light is also very versatile.
Typical product photography is often backlit with front fill.

Since you have a background in photojournalism my bet is that you have a good eye. You may also consider doing corporate headshots and environmental portraits. With a good eye, a long lens, and one light, you can make nice images. To take things up a notch, you could add an edge light opposite your key.

If you want some critique or other advice, let me know. I've shot catalogs, furniture, interiors, table top, and food.
Thanks for the response! I'll let you know how it works out :rofl: if I fail, at least I tried. Also, I love Phlearn! I also watch PIXimperfect as well and I haven't felt this much enthusiasm about Photoshop since I started learning it when I was 12!

Also, you're right! I can say without ego that I do have a good eye! I've made do with two umbrellas and some flashes I haven't used since college (Vivitar 285s, but they're cheap and I like the results from them!) I'll definitely take you up on your offer with critique. Is it easier to PM you?

Hey, congrats on your progress so far! Keep it up, you're really close!

I used to work on Upwork as a video editor (also learned a ton from Lex) and I know the struggle. I agree with Andy's point, you shouldn't get caught up in your craft, you should focus on building a killer profile in the least amount of time and getting your first client. I'd say 5-10 killer images, and you're ready to apply. You can improve your craft as you work.

A few practical Upwork tips if you're interested:

Make a client profile and post a fake job that's pretty much what you'd love to work on. Look through the applicants and see what they have and which one you'd pick and why. This is what you're up against. This way you can get a better idea of what you need to stand out.

Upwork's job filter system is garbage, so you get tons of irrelevant jobs and in the beginning when all you do is sort through jobs all day, this can eat up a lot of your mental stamina. I used to use a free RSS reader (Feedbro) to weed out any job that had irrelevant keywords in the titles. You can connect your Upwork feed and within Feedbro you make a rule that deletes any job that has certain keywords in the title, keywords that would mean the job has nothing to do with what you do.

Think outside the box. When I started as a video editor, I was a total beginner. I had no experience editing, no portfolio, no references, nothing. So I spent about 2 weeks to make an intro/self-promo video (pretty much a commercial for myself) and filled it with with flashy editing effects and dumb jokes. (I didn't know anything so I followed tutorials on all the editing.) Nobody had anything like that, and I got hired on my 1st application that turned into a $10K+ client. Think about what clients care about the most and how you could assure them of money well spent with you, with the least amount of work. Ignore everything else.

And lastly, although I'm going to assume you now Peter McKinnon, just in the off chance you don't, or forgot about his stuff lately, here are a few of his videos on creative product photography as inspiration:

PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
UNDER WATER PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY
How to do EPIC PRODUCT PHOTOGRAPHY!
Thank you!! That's a great idea about the Upwork job posting! I totally agree that Upwork's filters are garbage. I tried to do my own weeding to see what other people were doing, but with mixed results. How you got your first client sounds amazing! Confidence is definitely key in this and you got a lot of it! I'm very shy, but I've made progress on how to get more out of my shell (posting here is some of it!) Also, I love Peter!! I used to not pay attention to his product stuff, but nowadays I'm on a binge with him!

Pricing myself is also another issue, but my sister gave me a book for my birthday (Best Business Practices for Photographers 3rd Edition) so maybe I'll find some answers there. I've done some calculators on my cost of doing business, but I think getting over the uncomfortableness of pricing what I'm worth is something to focus on.
 

seriousleisure

New Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Jun 2, 2020
8
12
16
Dallas, TX, USA
Also, you're right! I can say without ego that I do have a good eye! I've made do with two umbrellas and some flashes I haven't used since college (Vivitar 285s, but they're cheap and I like the results from them!) I'll definitely take you up on your offer with critique. Is it easier to PM you?

Feel free to PM me.
I'm excited to see your progress and help any way I can.
 
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
It's a small update, but I finished the 6th product! I'm in the process of setting up the 7th (a knuckle ring.) I'm photographing super shiny things as a demonstration of skill. It's super maddening, especially when I'm doing the composites, but the results are gorgeous.

I'm also making a 1/5/10 Strategy. I went super extra, got some 9x12 mixed media paper, some watercolor, and went to town on it. I'm waiting for the paper to dry, but it is pretty! I'm keeping it by my desk as a reminder to stick with the plan. I also see some people doing 2 week plans, which is pretty cool too! I'm sort of doing a variation of that with Trello with the GSD method. It's so satisfying to see my 'Done' tab.

As for my work schedule, I'm treating it as a regular job as much as I can. I work on it Monday through Friday, a minimum of 4-6 hours a day, and have my weekends to myself and my family.
 

Don't like ads? Remove them while supporting the forum. Subscribe.

Last edited:
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
I completely botched the knuckle ring. After 3 hours of masking plus dodging and burning, the image is too boring and I can't figure out what to do with it. I have to do a reshoot tomorrow and go from there. A friend of mine told me I killed the highlights so I'm just agitated. Photographing rings are hard!

I'm also extremely tempted to post whatever I got on Upwork and start sending proposals, raging bull style because I'm so done staring at this already, but I got to keep going.

Edit: I did what @CountMonteCristo suggested and made my own job listing for an advertising photographer. I'm curious about what the results will be!
 
Last edited:

Rinzler

Bronze Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
May 21, 2014
119
116
83
28
Northern California
I completely botched the knuckle ring. After 3 hours of masking plus dodging and burning, the image is too boring and I can't figure out what to do with it. I have to do a reshoot tomorrow and go from there. A friend of mine told me I killed the highlights so I'm just agitated. Photographing rings are hard!

I'm also extremely tempted to post whatever I got on Upwork and start sending proposals, raging bull style because I'm so done staring at this already, but I got to keep going.

Edit: I did what @CountMonteCristo suggested and made my own job listing for an advertising photographer. I'm curious about what the results will be!
Sorry if you've mentioned this already but do you edit using Lightroom?
Normally it's amazing at giving you plenty of room to work with RAW files even if they're under or overexposed. It's a gamechanger for sure!
 

CountMonteCristo

Contributor
FASTLANE INSIDER
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Oct 10, 2015
37
78
118
Hungary
After 3 hours of masking plus dodging and burning, the image is too boring and I can't figure out what to do with it.
Hey man, feel free to send me a pm if you don't mind sharing your scrapped work with a total stranger lol. Maybe I can help you figure out why it's not working?
 
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
Sorry if you've mentioned this already but do you edit using Lightroom?
Normally it's amazing at giving you plenty of room to work with RAW files even if they're under or overexposed. It's a gamechanger for sure!
I don't think I did, but I do! Prior to shooting products, I used it more for keywording, the catalogs, basic edits, and exports for FTP uploads. I love it! However, nowadays I use it to color balance all my images, export 3-11 frames as layers in Photoshop, mask all of them, and paint over the parts I don't like to make a composite. Then I export the finished image back into Lightroom and do some touch-ups! :smile:

Hey man, feel free to send me a pm if you don't mind sharing your scrapped work with a total stranger lol. Maybe I can help you figure out why it's not working?
Hey, I don't mind! Any feedback is good feedback!

Is anyone else opposed if I post works in progress and finished works?

Edit: I look in my job posting, and I got 8 proposals overnight. A lot of them are rock stars and others you can tell have two brain cells fighting for survival. It's crazy! The pricing I got was all over the place, but I think it's because I opened up the floodgates to international freelancers rather than staying within the US. But @Lex DeVille wasn't kidding that no one reads the job description. I only had two people who really listened and asked questions. It feels weird being on the "employer" side of things. I feel like I want to be "romanced" and wowed by the applicants :happy: Another thing too, does Upwork naturally kill the photo quality? Some of the portfolios I'm seeing, there's a ton of .jpeg artifacts.
 
Last edited:
OP
OP
Beerbread

Beerbread

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
I've Read UNSCRIPTED
Dec 2, 2019
42
63
111
New Jersey
A little late, but to my American friends, I hope you all had a great 4th of July! No major updates, but business in my regular work picked up for the weekend. In my state, we can have small parties, and I knew some people who usually go to portrait studios for their children, but because they're still closed, I got their call instead. I haven't done formal portraits in a long time, so it was nice to break the monotony! Everyone had a great time.

I also had a major ADD moment and started watching Mike Maloney's 10 part series about gold. Very educational :happy:
 

Create an account or login to comment

You must be a member in order to leave a comment

Create account

Create an account on our community. It's easy!

Log in

Already have an account? Log in here.

Sponsored Offers

  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Fox's Web Design Guide: Earn $100K this year (Yes, 2020!) and Go Fastlane
Hi guys, I repost here my old review with a small update : Feb 2020 : Hi guys, Just wanted...
  • Sticky
FEATURED! Introducing... WEALTH EXPO$ED, A Short Story By MJ DeMarco
Ah, I should've checked here to find out that it was free! Although, Amazon only charged $2 for...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Lex DeVille's - Advanced Freelance Udemy Courses!
Pick the one you need most. Some just buy them all. :D Loving your email sequence.
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE You Are One Call Away From Living Your Dream Life - LightHouse’s Accountability Program ⚡
Dropping a quick note in here to say... if you are on TFL, you are part of an elite group of...
  • Sticky
MARKETPLACE Kill Bigger Incubator
I joined @Kak's business incubator in the first week of May. During our daily chats we uncovered...


Visit A Forum Sponsor
sponsor

Fastlane Insiders

View the forum AD FREE.
Private, unindexed content
Detailed process/execution threads
Monthly conference calls with doers
Ideas needing execution, more!

Join Fastlane Insiders.

Top Bottom
AdBlock Detected - Please Disable

Yes, ads can be annoying. But please...

...to support the Unscripted/Fastlane mission (and to respect the immense amount of time needed to manage this forum) please DISABLE your ad-block. Thank you.

I've Disabled AdBlock