A Beginners Guide To Pre-Production for Product Photography Shoots

This article is a beginners guide to pre-production for product photography shoots and the process it involves before starting client projects.  After reading the beginners guide to product photography, you’ll have the tools to start producing deliverables for your clients – but what happens next? Pre-production.  This is such an important step for you and your clients, and is essential in being able to communicate and interpret the clients needs as correctly as possible.

So you’ve got an enquiry from a potential product photography client – now what?

This was the very question I asked myself when I had an enquiry from my first client…..”now what?”.

There are multiple moving parts in the pre-production process.  This can look different for everyone, but for me and my clients it looks a little like this:

  • Initial email enquiry from a client.  This is generally where potential clients will ask what my rates are and my calendar availability, and sometimes they’ll let me know what their product is and how many photos they’d like.
  • Product photography questionnaire.  Pixieset is an amazing studio software for photographers, and the reason I love it is because my questionnaire, quote, invoice and contract templates are all together and I can attach them to specific clients so that any documentation in relation to my clients can be found in the one place making everything seamless, professional and efficient.  My product photography template is created with very basic but important questions, and you’ll need to think about what you feel is important to know, and depending on the products I’m quoting for, sometimes I’ll add extra questions to the editable template.  An example of some of the questions I ask my clients are how many images, how many products am I photographing, are any products highly reflective, where will the images be used, does the client have a specific orientation etc.  The more specific you can get with your questionnaire, the more clear it will be to you when they answer the questionnaire about how to quote the project, and the amount of time you will need to block out to get the project completed.  I also ask the client if they can send through some visual inspiration images as well.  The questionnaire in conjunction with the visuals will be used to help you build out the creative brief.
  • Quoting.  This is where you’ll look at the answers to the questionnaire and you’ll formulate a quote.  Consider the number of images required and the way in which the images will be used – for example, will the client just be using the images for website only? Or will they be using the images across social media and for advertising?  And if they’re advertising, will it be print advertising, edm advertising and/or electronic advertising?  Are they planning on stocking their products in a retail space and will that retailer be using those images for advertising?  Other things to consider is the time spent in pre-production, production and post production, prop rentals etcetera.  Make sure that you’re also including in your quote any relevant expenses specifically related to the project.  For example, will you be using organic flowers as props in the shoot?  If so, what is the rough purchase price of those and any other props the client requires in order for you to bring their vision to life.  It is at this point where I also let my clients know my calendar availability for the shoot, and now we wait for either a yes, a no, or a not right now.
  • Contract.  The client has answered the questionnaire, accepted the quote and is happy with the dates for the project – happy days! Now I send through the contract, and once signed by both parties it’s time to get the deposit through so I can get started with the creative brief.
  • Deposit paid. Before any further work commences, I always request a 50% deposit be paid by my clients to get the project underway.  Once that deposit has been received, it’s time to create the pre-production creative brief.
  • Creative brief. I use a wonderful program called Milanote for all of my creative briefs.  This is a document I create that I send to the client that covers the details of the shoot, any branding notes and a shot list with a breakdown of each shot including a visual example, a list of the props I’ll use in the shot, and the style.  The creative brief is created based off the questionnaire and the visual inspiration images the client has provided to me and ensures I’m creating a brief that speaks to the brands aesthetic and the type of image gallery they’re asking me to capture.  The creative brief can take anywhere from 1-4 hours to create depending on the brand, the image requirements and the size of the project.  I send this off to client and ask that they come back to me with any questions or amendments, or if they’re happy with it they give me the go ahead and I can begin sourcing any relevant props required for the project.

As you can see, there is so much that goes into pre-production, and as a product photographer you should be charging for the time spent in pre-production as well as production, and post-production.  This is in no way a definitive resource for you or your business, but this beginners guide to pre-production is a starting point. Be sure to research and do your due diligence on what you’ll need to create a seamless service for your client, because at the end of the day, that is what will bring the client back to you, and that is what will give your brand a good reputation.

If you’re feeling confident in your pre-production and you’re ready to learn more tips around production and post-production for your clients, you can find the production article here.

Want to know more photography behind the scenes, or do you just want to come along for the ride?  Then head on over to the About page to learn more about the origins of my love for photography, or follow me on Pinterest,  Instagram or Facebook for more behind the scenes.  You can find examples of my product photography work here, or, if you’re a product based business and would like to enquire about how we could work together, you can contact me via the services page.

Until next time,


Founder, Lens & Muse

About The Photographer

Deb is an Australian photographer from Newcastle, NSW, and she is passionate about exploring and documenting the natural and built world with creative curiosity and camera in hand.

Commercially, she photographs accomodation, eco-tourism travel service providers and sustainable outdoor product based businesses Australia-wide to create bespoke, impactful image galleries to connect with those inspired by environmentally focused travel, adventure and lifestyle.

You can find more product photography guides here, and you can find more of her work over on her Instagram and Pinterest pages.