How to write a product photography brief – a beginners guide

So, let’s assume you’re reading this because you’re in the process of getting your first product ready to launch.  You’ve validated your idea, worked out the costs, done the sourcing and placed your order. (Well done you for getting this far!)  Your thoughts may well now be turning to actually selling it.

Having great photographs of your product is crucial.  I can’t stress enough that both the product description and images together will be what sells it. (In my last post I shared some top tips for DIY product photography, for those of you who fancy giving that a go.)

If however you have the budget to hire a product photographer, you might prefer to go down this route.  (Especially if it’s your first product.)

If it’s your first photoshoot it might feel daunting.  But don’t worry! Here are the things you need to think about before you book in your shoot. Take a bit of time to think them through. The answers to these will form the brief you’ll give to your photographer to enable them to plan effectively, to quote you accurately and, most importantly, to deliver images that you love!

First things first – what’s the purpose of your photoshoot?

Can you sum up why you’re doing it?  I.e. I need high-quality photos to use to promote my product on my chosen marketplace and to use on social media. It’s important that your photographer has a bit of background on why you need them – as they may well be able to help and advise you.

What photos do you need and how will they be used?

For example – I need 10 photos to use on my website, plus 6 additional photos I can use across social media.

When you’re thinking about this, it’s important to look into whether your chosen marketplace has any photography guidelines you need to adhere to.  For instance, Amazon states that the main image has to be on a plain white background with no props.

Some marketplaces use more lifestyle shots (showing the product in use).  You might also want some of these for social media.

Ideally you’ll want a mixture of shots, but you need to be sure the photos you take meet the criteria for the marketplaces you want to use them on if this is their primary function.

A lifestyle shot
A product on a white background

What images do you need?

When putting together your photography brief I would go as far as to list out every photo you want.  This way both you and your photographer can ensure you end up with everything you need.

For example, the list of photos for my new bamboo bowls and plates included:

  • Bowl / plate and spoon on a white background
  • Close up of suction
  • Bowl stuck upside down (to show suction)
  • Bowl / platewith food inside
  • Child eating from bowl
  • Close up of spoons

Other things you might want to include are:

  • Photos of the packaging (particularly if it’s premium)
  • Close ups of any key features or details that make your product special

How do I know what photos I should use?

If you’re unsure about what these consist of, or you’re not entirely sure how to describe them, you can look at photos of similar products online.

For example, when thinking about my own brief I went to Amazon, looked at baby dining products and made a note of the photos they used.  The goal here isn’t to copy them – it’s to get inspiration.

You can also take screenshots to put into your brief, to show your photographer exactly what you mean – useful if you find it hard to put into words.

If this makes you feel uneasy, remember this – unless yours is the first product of its kind, customers have a choice of which to buy. If everyone else has a photo of the packaging (as an example) and you don’t, what do you think they’ll think?  

Even if it’s subconscious, chances are they’ll believe your packaging to not be as good because you haven’t shown it and others have.

Of course there might be a good reason for you to not do it (perhaps you don’t have it just yet), but do take all the photos you can, with the products you have. You’ll never regret having too many!

Think about venues, props and models

Let’s take each in turn.

Venues

Let’s say you’re selling a kitchen appliance – for this example we’ll say a dishrack.  You may well need a photo of it on a white background, but you might also want a photo of it in situ – i.e. on a counter top, next to the sink.

This is important information your photographer needs to know.  You’ll need to work out who finds the venue (you or your photographer) and ensure it’s available for your photoshoot.

If you’re just starting out, I always recommend using your own, or a friend’s, kitchen, garden, etc, to save on costs.

Props

Using the same example as above (dishrack) you may well also need a photo showing it full of dishes and cutlery.  Usually you’d be expected to provide any props you need.

If it were me, I’d use my own, borrow what I needed, or buy something, ensure it stays in perfect condition and return it.

Models

Do you need anyone to be in your photos?  If so, you’ll probably need to find someone yourself.  (Of course there are agencies for this kind of thing, but that won’t be cheap.)  Again, make use of family, friends, your community and networks to find the person you need.

When doing this, remember to think about your ideal customer (you’ve heard me say this plenty of times before!) rather than just using whoever’s convenient.

i.e. if you’re looking to sell a product to a woman in her fifties be sure that’s who you use in your photo!  Don’t use someone else because they were easier to get hold of!

Or, in the example of my towels, I wanted to show they were suitable for babies and toddlers, so I had children of varying ages modelling them, rather than just having the tiny babies my photographer managed to find for me.

An older child wearing my towel

Where will your photos be used?

The resolution of all photos you receive should be high – but I would always be clear if I planned on using any images for print rather than just on screen.

It shouldn’t make a difference to the cost, and I’m sure most photographers will provide images of a high enough resolution to print well as standard – but since you’re paying for this to be done, you should be clear on exactly what you need.

Finally, do you have a deadline?

If you do, be clear upfront.  After the photoshoot your photographer will have to edit the images, send to you to check, and there might be final edits needed before you receive the final versions.  Then you may still need to resize them yourself to upload them to your chosen marketplace. All of this takes time, so ensure you give yourself enough of it by planning in advance and communicating it!

If this is your first time – keep it simple

There’s lots more detail you (and I!) could go into  – such as branding your photos, use of lighting, etc.  I’m writing this assuming it’s your first time having a product photoshoot and have therefore kept things pretty simple.  A good photographer will know how to best ‘show off’ your product and, as with everything, it will seem easier second time around.

If you have more experience you may well want to produce a much more detailed brief.  (But then again, you also might not be reading this!)

Whatever you do, best of luck and I can’t wait to see your photos!