The Product Photography Market Is Changing!

And the times, they are a-changin’ too.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that 2024 has started off abysmally for creatives. Budgets evaporated overnight and well-established creative businesses are closing, pouring countless talented creatives into an already over-saturated pool of applicants for new projects. My linkedin feed is full of people telling freelancers to ‘hang in there!’.

I’ve felt my flow of projects reduce drastically this year, and I’m taking action to change my current business strategy to ensure I can keep enjoying my work. I gave myself a week or two to mope, then came the action. Here’s the plan of attack:

  • Reduce operating expenses. I’m downsizing my studio space, liquidating redundant equipment and building a compact, at-home product photography studio. This allows me to continue shooting product photography, with far fewer overhead costs. I used to operate like this, and it was by far the most profitable my business has ever been. Luckily my skills have improved since my home studio days, meaning I can do more with less.
  • Refine my product photography offering. I’ve spent much of the last two years focused on scaling my business. Bigger studios, bigger budgets, bigger clients. This worked, for a time, but the market changed quickly. The demand for a mid size studio like mine with a minimal team just isn’t there at the present. The preferable options seem to be either small-scale home studio photographers, or full service creative studios with large teams. This isn’t a gripe – markets change, and if what you’re supplying isn’t in demand then it’s time to adapt.
  • Focus my outreach effort. I’ve spent much of the last year pouring time and budget into making myself as known as possible to big agencies. This isn’t a wasted effort; anything that increases awareness of me as a photographer is great! In a nutshell, my new strategy focuses more on social media, rather than cold outreaches to agencies, studios and larger brands.
  • Develop my in-house capabilities. My USP as a product photographer has always been my background as a Graphic Designer. I could Photoshop before I could use my Canon DSLR effectively, and now both skill sets are at a level they compliment each other beautifully. I could push this further, and learn to 3D model to supplement my offering. This could be used to generate entire assets, but my intention is to find some middle ground where I combine 3D modelled elements with ‘traditional’ product photography. BUT, as an Adobe die-hard I’d struggle to use alternate software options, and currently Adobe’s 3D modelling software is only available on PC. Is this an excuse to build a high-spec gaming-style PC to render digitally created products and environments? You bet, it sounds like fun.

I’m reflecting a lot on my product photography studio journey, and the potential mid-steps I’ve taken. Didn’t scale too quickly? Were clients impressed by my studio space and project outcomes, only to be disappointed that I am a one man team, and not a full-service agency-style studio? AI generated imagery is on the rise; I’ve already had a few clients use AI generated content to supplement my work on their social feeds. How do I stay ahead of this? The industry is in a dive, at what point do I start considering alternative career paths?

I don’t have all the answers, but I’m asking a lot of the questions. There’s never a guarantee of success in any venture, but I’m made damn sure to give myself the best chance I can.

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