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How to set a budget for your content marketing photoshoot

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Graphic with a camera and strobe light on the left, and a Polaroid of a woman standing against a wall on the right.

A solid catalogue of images of your products to accompany product pages, blog posts, press releases and social media is a must-have for any marketing activity. You need to invest time and energy in creating these images, and with that comes the question of budget. Just how much cash should you set aside for a photoshoot?

How much a shoot costs comes down to a balance between what you want to achieve, and who is capable of delivering it.

The basic roles and costs

At the absolute minimum, someone (aka the photographer) will take photos. Don't worry about having expensive cameras and lenses. Being able to compose an image on a phone is often good enough for digital marketing. If you aren't confident enough to take them yourself, hire a local photographer.

You might need a model or three. I say "might" because you could shoot flat lays (the items put out on the floor) or use a dummy. Hiring models is an entire book in its own right, but a decent starting place is one of the modeling sites like Model Mayhem. Models usually charge by the hour, with minimums and travel expenses to factor in.

Then you'll need a set. If you want something free, use parks and streets. You can get a gritty, urban feel, although the logistics of costume changes can be interesting. Some photographers have studios (if you're hiring one), or you can hire a studio separately. Alternatively, set up a small studio in the corner of the store or your home for something more flexible.

A British Asian woman in a black and white striped dress stands on a path with trees fading into the background.
Using a public footpath as a photo studio

You might want a makeup artist (or MUA), although some models are OK with doing their own makeup. Still, an MUA can add extra style and ensure consistency between models.

To ensure consistency between shoots, you might want an Art Director. They can add a lot of value during the early stages of building a brand, although hiring one "just" for a single photoshoot is rarely worth the money.

Of course, you'll need the outfits, products and props. If you're careful, you can return whatever you use to stock. Sending items out to customers covered in sweat and make-up is rarely a good look though. Any damaged stock you can put in a drawer to use on another day.

What's right for you?

My suggestion is start with the most lavish shoot you can imagine and work backwards. I find it easier to try and solve the problem of making something with impact on a low budget, than trying to layer ideas until the budget's maxed out. The former can create interesting ideas, the latter tends to end up looking cluttered.

That said, as you add ideas in and take others out, you'll build a sense of the size of budget you need, and the return you can expect.

A photoshoot doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Photoshoots are part of your overall marketing strategy. There's no point in organizing an expensive, model rich shoot if the images are going to gather dust on a drive somewhere. Before you start hiring models and studios, make sure you have a clear brand and marketing strategy.

Bottom line

Photos are an important part of content marketing, and having a solid bank of images to call on is an essential tool. When you're putting together your budgets and plans, think about what you want to achieve and who you need to deliver it.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction.

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