Learning Something New, Staying Busy & Getting Work : How I Started and Grew A Successful Product Photography Business During a Pandemic

I often describe my journey as a photographer, artist and content creator as a “marathon, not a sprint” and how I have navigated business and my creativity through the highs and lows of this pandemic has really solidified my faith in that phrase. Throughout this past year, I have really challenged myself to stay busy and to keep finding ways to innovate both in the content I create and in acquiring clients. It has been an interesting and demanding journey and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it! 

Shot with a Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

When I first caught wind of the impending Covid19 wave last year, I was immediately worried about my business. I was already still at a relatively low productivity level because I was just recently getting back into actively working after a pregnancy and recovery and from easing myself into motherhood. Needless to say, the stress was real! But luckily, my characteristically optimistic spirit did not let me down and I put my nerves aside and forced myself to regroup and put together an action plan. I was determined to not only keep my buisness afloat to also give it room to grow past what I had previously allowed for myself.

Although, at the time, I was actively working in beauty photography and portraiture, the social distancing measures as a result of the pandemic quickly put a stop to that. However, and luckily, I had already been working on a contingency “just in case” endeavor, so that I had something to fall back on should my beauty/portrait business lull. In my free time and in between clients, I was working on building my skills in product photography. 

Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

So wow! Product photography is and has definitely been … it’s own animal. It has been one of the most challenging and frustrating and fruitful and empowering ventures I’ve embarked upon thus far. Lots of tears and pillow punching, even more laughs and celebration. And in spite of the setbacks and hurdles, I am so thrilled and excited to be here continuing this particular intellectual and artistic journey. One thing about me is I get bored quickly, I constantly need to be challenged. And product photography has definitely been one of my greater challenges and I appreciate that. It keeps me pushing and keeps me inspired. The idea of constantly having to work thru obstacles and piece together different and often innovative approaches and that I get to wake up every day and learn something new, has kept me optimistic and encouraged. And while I love the artistry of product photography and there’s always some new product, new trend, and new aesthetic to play with, the real challenge has been how to launch a product photography business that can support itself and, more specifically how to do all of this while social distancing and during a pandemic. 

Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

A few key aspects to my success were the following:

  • Have a consistent and strategic approach to social media networking to keep your audience engaged and to attract new clients to your space in order to help facilitate and generate leads
  • Create a multifaceted approach to my brand of content creation including both static and active content and create the content that I would like to be booked for. 
  • Build a competitive props kit and a highly utile gear kit so that I am able to take on most projects that I end up booking without having to offset pricing for gear rentals and props sourcing 
  • Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

    After the new social distancing measures were enacted, I was definitely feeling the pressure when it came to maintaining, growing the size and expanding the reach of my social media based network. I use my social media pages to not only stay in touch with friends in the industry and as a resource if I should need some help, but also to generate viable leads and clients. So it was imperative that I continue to stay active on my social media and to keep the my audience interested in my work and my content. My Instagram @taylorrbee is my most prolific generator so the brunt of my content ends up on there. I focus on creating multiple kinds of content which shows a diversity in skillset but also keeps my followers, new and old, on their toes and always excited for new content. I have really been enjoying using the Reels and IGTV features on Instagram to create behind the scenes videos as well as show what goes into post production. This gets potential clients excited about creating their own content with me because they can see what goes into production and they find the active creation to be interesting and inspiring. I also personally enjoy seeing other photographers and creative’s lighting, set design, prop and materials sourcing, and other aspects of production, and I know others can learn from my content as well. Education and access to information is very important for me, so I like to contribute to my community through my behind the scenes and through engaging with my followers in the comments and in direct messaging, which also in turn, keeps my followers engaged and interested in my content. The clients win, my followers win, I win; It’s a great time all around! I also use targeted hashtags and tagging to put myself in front of potential clients. My hashtags are specific and relevant to that specific kind of content. So instead of generalized tags like #fun or #color, I will use #beautyphotography #productphotographer #productphotography as well as regional hashtags such as #virginiaphotographer and #dmvphotographer to attract clients that are in my specific area or looking to hire from my area. These approaches as well as others has helped me grow my Instagram steadily as well as generate enough leads to keep me booked and busy this past year. 

    Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

    The content that I put on my Instagram (and any other social media pages) is what gets me booked. The goal with my personal projects and with the content that I end up taking to social media is to show and to create what I would like to be booked for. There is intention and strategy behind my posts. And every posts serves a purpose.  I try to show a diversity in my range and ability but in a way where the aesthetic is cohesive and visually easily digestible by clients. I don’t want to overwhelm or overstimulate them but I want them to be intrigued and inspired. So Ive really been pushing myself to land on an aesthetic that I enjoy, is replicable yet will fit many clients branding, and has enough room for interpretation that I can explore without becoming bored or uninspired myself. I would describe my aesthetic as bright, fresh, clean, rich and vibrant. I definitely show that aesthetic through my beauty photography and I wanted that to translate over into my product photography because I structured my product business to sidecar my beauty business. This sidecar approach allows me to sell myself as a beauty and product photographer to the same clients, which means convenience for the client as I am a one stop shop for them which, in turn, generates more income for me. 

    Nikon D850 + Tamron 90mm Macro

    As for keeping myself challenged and intellectually stimulated, my main goal has not only to really hone in on replicable and consistent approaches to lighting and set design but to also learn how to add different and engaging elements to the content itself. I have learned how to make gifs and stop motions, and am currently learning how to shoot video and how to use Blender and Adobe Dimension to render 3D aspects that I can composite into my work to add visual interest and pique potential clients. My clients for product photography are looking for new and innovative ways to stand out of the crowd and if their business is largely social media based, they want their particular content to stop people from scrolling and interest them enough to go shop their store. So, while keeping my clients mission in mind, my goal is in turn becomes to not only be good at content creation but to also creation different kinds of content than my peers and to offer that new approach to clients for purchase. The client is happy, they feel more competitive and more avant, and are more likely to return to me for that content in the future. 

    Nikon D850 + Tamron 24-70 2.8

    I often hear, from my product photographer peers, that a product photographer is nothing without his/her props kit. And while one could definitely survive without a large props collection, LET ME TELL YOU, a decent sized prop collection has definitely made my life easier. That being said though, I built my entire product business on a DSLR, a 50mm 1.8, a 105 macro and some silk flowers and a pile of colored cardstock and scrapbook paper so you can most definitely do A LOT with a little. All that being said, here’s some of my favorite places to source for props and my gear list: 

    • All of my current product and beauty lenses are Tamron. I use 3 lenses and 3 lenses only! A 24-70 2.8 , a 70-200 2.8 and a 90macro. That’s it, that’s all, I don’t need anything else! 
    • My current DSLR bodies are a Nikon D850 as my main body and a Nikon D750 as my backup. Both are extremely sturdy and reliable and are absolute powerhouses. 
    • My strobe lighting kit is all Profoto. I use mostly D1 500Airs though I also own 2 A1X speedlights and 2 D1 1000Air that may come out for macro work when I will often need more powerful lights to make up for the smaller apertures. 
    • My continuous lighting are 2 Aputure LS C 120d2 and several Aputure Multicolor LED mini lights that I use in the place of gelled lighting and to add a pop of color or light in small spaces. 
    • I get so many of my props from swap meets and through thrifting. Theres always something random and interesting I can pick up where I least expect it. Simple things like glass spheres, wooden blocks, shelves, baskets, fake fruit, faux flowers, cool rocks, random fun little knick knacks. You never know what will come in handy.
    • I also do a ton of shopping on Amazon, at Target and other big box stores, and with online vendors
    • Vinyl Backdrops have been an absolute lifesaver. They can be a bit pricey per drop BUT they are durable and often waterproof. The nicer ones are definitely more realistic and photograph better so if you’re looking into vinyls, save your coins for the nicer drops. Always be sure to read the reviews and look at the sample photos on the site and social media. 
    • Seamless paper, matting boards and colored paper all make gorgeous backdrops too. You can get this on Amazon, Adorama and other photography vendors and at craft stores. 

    Nikon D850 + Tamron 70-200 2.8

    With a comprehensive approach to business, posting, and putting myself in front of clients, and because I consistently create and release new and engaging content, I have thus been able to build a successful product business over the past year. It has been a ton of hard work and an innovative, perseverant  and a strategic attitude has been the key to my success. I am so excited to be able to explore this niche, and I think I’m gonna be in here for a very long time, creating and having a ton of fun!  

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