In-House Studio, Independent Photographers, or a Photo Platform?

Decoding the Costs: In-House vs. Independent Photographers vs. Photo Platforms for E-commerce Images. Learn the financial implications of each photography option for your e-commerce business. From studio expenses and equipment investment to the flexibility and potential hidden fees of independent photographers, and the budget-friendly, no-surprise pricing of photo platforms. Make an informed decision to showcase your products brilliantly.
In-House Studio, Independent Photographers, or a Photo Platform?

When it comes to obtaining captivating product images for your e-commerce website, you're faced with the choice of an in-house studio, independent professionals, or leveraging a photo platform service. Each option comes with its own set of expenses and benefits. In this blog post, we'll delve into the costs associated with building an in-house photography studio, hiring independent photographers, and exploring the advantages of utilizing a photo platform.

In-House Service Expense

Studio Space

Renting a studio space constitutes a significant portion of the cost. The size of the studio depends on the type of products being photographed, and rental rates vary based on location. According to, for an average company, the total annual labor cost for a photography team, including the photographer's salary, ranges from $134,017 to $296,596. With an average of about 6,870 photo shoots per year, the labor cost per photo falls between $19.51 and $43.17.


Building your own photography studio involves a significant investment in equipment. The essential gears for product photography include cameras, lighting, background equipment, props, product/props cleaning accessories, and a computer. The cost of setting up a photography studio depends on the level of product photography requirements:
- Beginner Photography Studio Setup: $2,500-$3,000 per year
- Professional Photography Studio Setup: $15,000-$20,000 per year
- Product Photography Setup: $20,000-$25,000 per year
- Tabletop Photography Setup: $300-$1,000 per year

Labor Cost

In-house photography requires budgeting for a complete team comprising a photographer, retoucher, assistant, and stylist. The total annual labor cost for a photography team in an ordinary company, as per, is between $134,017 and $296,596, encompassing the photographer's salary. With an average of approximately 6,870 photo shoots per year, the labor cost per photo amounts to $19.51 to $43.17.

Post-Production Software

Choosing post-production software is an additional cost to consider. While online product photography software like Picmonkey and Canva offer quick retouching options, in-house software such as Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and GIMP provides greater creative control and enhances the final product image.

To learn more about how to calculate the in-house photography costs based on your location, product category, and the types of photography positions in your team, check out our comprehensive guide on "Calculating In-House Photography Costs: A Location, Product, and Team-Based Approach." This resource will provide you with valuable insights and strategies to estimate the expenses involved in setting up and maintaining an in-house photography studio tailored to your specific needs.

Independent Photographers Expense

Per Day Pricing

Independent photographers or studios typically charge a flat fee for a "day" of their time, ranging from 2 to 8 hours. On average, these shoots can cost between $300 to $25,000. Additional expenses like assistants, post-production, props, talent, stylists, locations, and usage fees can add $8,00-$5,000 to the total cost.

Per Hour Pricing

Some photographers or studios opt for hourly rates, usually ranging from $87 to $327 per hour. However, estimating the number of hours required to capture the desired number of images for each product can pose challenges in budgeting.

If you're curious about the working process when hiring an independent photographer and obtaining photos from them, we've prepared an in-depth guide for you. Learn more about "The Working Process with Independent Photographers: From Briefing to Final Deliverables" to gain valuable insights into how to effectively communicate your requirements, establish timelines, and receive the desired results. Discover the steps involved in collaborating with independent photographers and make the most out of their expertise and creative vision.

Per Product Pricing

Per product pricing involves a flat fee for the images of each individual product. It is essential to determine the number of images included in the fee and whether it varies depending on the product type. Certain product categories, such as large, reflective, or transparent items, may entail additional fees.

Hidden Fee

When deciding on hire a independent photographer, there are several factors to keep in mind that may contribute to additional costs, including editing coverage, reshoot rates, turnaround time, file delivery formats, styling and prop expenses, model and talent fees, food provision for larger shoots, shipping fees for specialized studios, and set/studio costs. To assist you further, we provide a comprehensive photo call notes guide that you can use when discussing your needs with independent photographers.

By considering these additional factors, you can have a more comprehensive understanding of the potential expenses involved in your product photography journey. It's crucial to address these aspects upfront to effectively plan and budget for a successful and visually appealing product photography experience.

Image Platform Expense

Outsourcing product images to a cost-conscious yet professional studio via a photo platform often proves to be the most cost-effective solution.

Pay by Photo

With services like PENCIL ONE, you can pay per photo rather than acquiring a vast number of photographs and selecting only a few. This approach ensures efficient budget management, knowing you're only paying for the images you use. Additionally, it simplifies the overall process by eliminating the need to store excessive images.


By pre-ordering, you have a clear vision of what you'll receive from your product photographs. This removes the guesswork and reduces the need for substantial editing processes, providing a hassle-free experience.

No Extra Cost

One of the advantages of using a photo platform is that there are no hidden costs. You receive high-quality product shots without worrying about additional expenses.


When contemplating the best option for your product photography needs, evaluating the associated expenses is crucial. In-house setups require significant investments in equipment, software, studio space, and a complete team. Independent photographers offer flexibility in pricing models but may involve additional fees for various services. Photo platform services provide cost-effective solutions tailored to your requirements, offering payment options that align with your budget. Assess your needs, weigh the costs, and make an informed decision that will showcase your products in the best light on your e-commerce platform.

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