Finding the correct tools to shoot 360 product photography can be an overwhelming process. The industry is fragmented with many different suppliers providing 360 photography turntables, software’s and cloud based services that enable users to create 360 degree product images in-house. We also consider 360 product photography services as an effective option for brands who do not wish to take on the upfront expense of getting started or whom have only a few unique products to photograph.
In this article, we will explore options for creating 360 product spin photography and discuss the true cost of ownership associated with investing in the different options.
True Cost of Ownership: Investing in 360 Product Photography
Before we get started, let’s discuss true cost of ownership. This will provide readers a metric that can be used to make an informed decision when deciding their investment into 360 product photography. We will consider a variety of factors including:
- The Upfront Cost of the 360 Photography Equipment & Software
- Number of Products Required to Photograph
- Time Required to Create a 360 Product View
- Hourly Cost per Employee who is Shooting the 360 Product Images (or Opportunity Cost)
- The Value of 360 Degree Product Photography
The Upfront Cost: Investing in 360 Product Photography
Nowadays, anyone with even a limited budget can get started shooting 360 product photography in house (as highlighted by our How Do I Make a 360 Degree Product Image blog post). The question comes down to how much time and skill is required – and whether outsourcing might be a better option. The devil however is in the details. And what you think you are purchasing to create 360 product photography (for ex. a low cost motorized turntable that spins at a consistent rotation speed), can actually pose to be challenging and nearly impossible to create good quality 360 product photography results.
Do it yourself 360 product spin photography equipment (more specifically 360 Photography Turntables) range in terms of functionality, automation, prices and ease of use. 360 Product Photography Software also is available in various forms and functionality with price models ranging from a one-time purchase to SAAS based cloud 360 product view hosting solutions that come with a recurring monthly fee. We will attempt to help you decide what route will be the best and most affordable, in the long term, for creating 360 product photography.
How Many Products Do you Need to Photograph in 360?
If you are a small business who has decided to take the leap into 360 product photography, we’re happy to hear it. The benefits of 360 images in eCommerce are sure to provide adequate return that will outweigh the costs. Now, we typically see a threshold at around 20 products when deciding between 360 product photography as a service vs. shooting 360’s in-house. That is, if you have less than 20 products, outsourcing might be a better alternative when considering investing in 360 photography equipment and learning how to shoot 360 product views. Professionals offering 360 product photograph as a service range in prices – it really depends on numerous variables that include product size/weight, complexity of the product (ex. shooting 360 jewelry photography is much harder than 360 shoe photography), number of products required to be photographed and if the product requires special props to stand it up (ex. think of shooting a necklace). On average, we’d estimate the cost of creating a 360 product view from a Professional Photographer is ~$50 USD. If you are interested in 360 product photography as a service, check out The Largest Network of 360 Product Photographers.
Now, if you have more than 20 products, it might be in your best interest to bring your 360 product photography in house. And this is where it can get overwhelming when looking at all options available. First, we’d suggest not to go the route of a motorized, continuous spin turntable as successfully capturing 360 product image sets can be very difficult (unless using a specialized 360 product photography software). Suggested turntable options will come down to either:
Computer-Controlled 360 Product Photography Turntable + Software:
Automated Workflows Enable Users of Any Skill Level to Create Professional 360 Views in Minutes
Pricing for a software controlled photography turntable range from as low as $699 all the way up to over $10,000 (if shooting large items such as cars). The benefit of this type of photography turntable is it is often the easiest to use, the most accurate in terms of replicating shooting angles (a requirement for 360 product photography), can capture higher frame counts and will automate image capture by synchronizing camera control (cameras image capture) with turntable start and stop. They can also be very fast for 360 image capture (ex. capture 48 frames in <2 minutes). Often these turntables can include an additional or add on software that can further streamline 360 product photography workflows beyond image capture (automated 360 image editing, processing and 360 view creation). For example, Shutter Stream 360 Product Photography + Video Software from Iconasys
Manual 360 Photography Turntable:
Allows users to Easily Control Important Variables Required in 360 Product Photography
A good, professional quality manual 360 Product Photography Turntable can enable users of any skill level to create professional quality 360 product spins. These can be DIY, make your own (for under $50 USD), or bought pre-fabricated (for around $150 USD). Regardless of which option you decide, it is critical there is some sort of guide marker around the circumference of the turntable to ensure that when manually rotating the turntable to get your photos, you rotate it at even intervals (ex. if shooting 72 frames per 360 rotation, each photo will be shot at 5-degree increments). These are a great low-budget 360 Turntable option that will yield good results and can be fairly quick too (ex. capture 48 frames in ~6 minutes). See video communicating 360 product photography with a manual turntable.
A good rule of thumb here would be, the more products you plan to photograph in 360, the more you are going to benefit from a computer-controlled 360 product photography turntable. The 360 image capture process can be daunting when using a manual turntable (believe us, we’ve been there) and the overall time savings of an automated, computer controlled turntable can often pay for itself.
Time Required to Create a 360 Product View
How long does it take to shoot 360 Product Photography? This, while a great question, is a loaded one. It depends on many factors, the main being the number of images you plan to shoot to create your 360 view. When 360 product photography in eCommerce was first introduced back in 2006, we would see 360’s with lower frame counts – typically around 18-24 images. This was because internet bandwidth was slower and load times to view the 360 product image could take longer from a slow internet connection. As bandwidth has improved, the number of frames used in a 360 view has also increased. Remember here, the more frames, the more fluid the rotation. Now, we are typically seeing a minimum of about 48 frames/360 rotation, with some companies opting as many as 120 frames! Clearly, the more frames, the longer the overall process time.
In addition to the 360 product image capture time, we need to consider image editing and image processing. This is where time really starts to add up, think of editing a product photo, maybe making a small color correction, increasing sharpness and removing the background to pure white. With 360 product photography, that process is multiplied by the number of frames you plan to shoot in 360. For ex. if shooting 360 product photography with 48 frames, that’s 48 images to edit! So although the shooting process can only take minutes, the editing process can take hours. Now, before we change your mind on moving to 360 product photography, we should note, there is some great 360 product image editing software available that can batch edit and process images in a single click.
Without the right tools, 360 product photography on average can take about 1-2 hours per product. When using the correct photography turntable and software, creating 360 product photography can be created in just minutes!
Hourly Cost per Employee who is Photographing the 360 Product Images
If you’ve decided to go the route of shooting 360 product photography in-house – its time to consider cost per product. For example:
- You have decided to go the budget route of a manual 360 photography turntable and will use existing software for image editing. You make a manual photography turntable for $150 and use existing camera, lighting equipment and software. We’ll be conservative and say the entire process time is 1 hour per 360 view. Your investment is only $50, you have 60 products to photograph and the employee creating the 360 product views is making $15/hr.
Sunk Cost: $150
Products X Hourly Cost Per Product: 60 products (at 1 hr per product) x $15 = $900
Total Investment: $1050
- You have decided to invest more upfront and have purchased a computer controlled turntable and specialized software to help automate the 360 product photography workflow. The entire process time is 7 minutes to create a 360 product view. Your investment in the turntable and software is $1000 and the employee creating the 360 product views is making $15/hr.
Sunk Cost: $1000
Product X Hourly Cost Per Product: 60 product (at 7 minutes per product = 7 hours total time) x $15 = $105
Total Investment: $1105
With option B, we spend more up front however save time in employee cost (total of 53 hours saved time) and are able to get the 360 product views on our website quicker (meaning you will see the results of 360’s faster). There is also a higher chance of achieving professional 360 results when using the correct 360 product photography software and turntables. We also don’t factor in Opportunity Cost. The 53 hours saved in employee time can be used for other value added activities.
The Benefits of 360 Product Photography
We hear it from our customers all the time, “the investment we made in our Iconasys 360 product photography solution has already paid for itself”. When using in eCommerce, or for any other 360 product photography application, the value of enhanced visual communication on the web can be immense. In eCommerce we often hear increased conversion rates and customer satisfaction while decreasing product returns. Consider a 3% increase in conversions on your site – what does that add up to? Or a 5% decrease in product returns, how much money is that? We aren’t here to suggest you start with 360 product photography now, we just want you to be aware of the benefits it can provide – and the true value it can add to your bottom line.
Poor 360 Product Photography will NOT Yield Positive Results
High quality product photography helps sell products – and it’s no different with 360 product images. We often see those who inquire with Iconasys decide to inch in to 360 product photography by purchasing a low cost, inefficient solution that doesn’t allow them to achieve good quality results. They then measure the results to see the overall effectiveness of 360 product views in their webstore. Poor quality 360 product views will not provide benefits, in fact will provide quite the contrary. They will hurt your brand image, shopping experience and likely deter your shoppers. 360 product photography has been proven time and time again – so much so that we have even seen 360 images used in Amazon Product Photography. Now’s the time to get started!
Conclusion: Investing in 360 Product Photography
As we have read above, investing in the right 360 product photography equipment and software, although a larger upfront sunk cost, is one that will provide return through time savings when the number of products to be photographed is more than 20. With the right automated tools, users can expect to create 360 product images in a fraction of the time compared to more manual tools. In addition, high quality 360 results are sure to provide benefits that can be measured through increased conversions, user experience and overall profits. Tip, you likely wont be able to create professional quality 360 product photography using a mobile phone.
Iconasys is a leading provider of still and 360 product photography automation tools. Our product line includes still and 360 product photography software, turntables and lighting that enable users of any skill level to easily and efficiently create professional quality product images for use in a variety of product photography industries and applications. Check out our 360 Product View Examples
Check out other helpful articles related to 360 Product Photography:
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