Benjamin Harty is a Marine Corps veteran in 2004 and has over 12 years of experience in digital content creation. Benjamin is a digital media strategist in Skyline FBA together with his wife Sheila Harty (Creative Director). Both he and Sheila have been into digital media for over 10 years. Their passion for product photography helps them to create such beautiful e-commerce photography to showcase the product branding of your business.
It is such a great pleasure to us and is proud to share his work as a part of this feature story.
How long have you been a photographer (hobbyist or professional)?
Most of my experience is with digital media such as videos, marketing, SEO, etc. and I’ve actually not been a photographer myself for very long (3 years) compared to my wife, who has had a camera in her hand for well over 15 years. Up until recently, we would consider ourselves hobbyists who just enjoyed taking photos as a creative outlet. Now we are a husband and wife team.
Is it your profession (part-time or full-time) or are you still learning?
What started as a hobby has become a profession, and it has been a constant learning experience ever since. I would say that I’m always going to be learning. Even if I think I know something, I enjoy taking a course to see new ways of doing things that I might not have thought of before – especially since things are always changing.
How long have you been a working photographer?
We first got more serious into photography when we were trying to promote our own products and found ourselves needing better quality images if we wanted to stand out and actually get some sales. This was back in 2017, and through doing so, more and more people in our circle reached out to us to take photos for their products too, and that’s when we decided to make it our full-time job about 3 years ago.
What types of photography services do you offer?
When we first started, we offered everything from e-commerce photos to social media videos, but now we specialize mostly in hero images and sell digital products (such as product infographic templates that other photographers can use for their clients). Particularly hero shots that are designed to catch the eye in a lineup of other product listings.
What helps set you apart from your competition?
I think the biggest thing that sets us apart from other photographers is collaborating with our clients and being part of the design process to come up with a solution that will help their products stand out. Many photographers just try to capture whatever the client asks for, but we work with them to create something that will have a strong impact on their target audience and ultimately boost sales.
What are your goals (or plans) as a photographer?
Would it be shocking to anyone if we admitted that our goals are not to get more clients? As much as we love product photography, that’s not what drives us. Our goal as photographers is to help raise the bar for what is considered acceptable product photography on platforms like Amazon to hopefully increase the demand for quality images and talented content creators (from places like Photigy).
What made you decide to pursue product photography?
As funny as this might sound, before getting into product photography I had the bright idea of shooting real estate to help sell properties because I thought there would be a lot of money in it.
After all, I saw all these beautiful photos of million dollar homes, the insane commissions real estate agents made, and figured, “Hey, I can do that!” But after a few months of trying to get into the industry, I quickly realized that it’s not as glamorous as it looks on the outside. It was a whole lot of work and very little pay.
When the pandemic started, we had to start thinking about other ways to make money since our primary source of income dried up almost overnight. One day, while walking down the aisle at the local grocery store, I paused to look around me and realized that every single product package had a photo on it. And that’s when it hit me – product photography is everywhere, and it’s an essential part of marketing for just about every business out there.
That’s when we remembered that we actually enjoyed taking product photos and decided to give it a go as a way to make some extra money. Soon after, we discovered one of the biggest benefits: the products came to us in the mail and we could shoot them on our own time, as opposed to the demanding schedule of a realtor. Even more than that, our clients were happier with the photos and we made more money staying home doing it.
How did you first learn about Photigy?
I first learned about Photigy from various Facebook groups on product photography and noticed that courses from Photigy were highly recommended for people wanting to learn more about how to take better photos. So, I started by taking the free course and really liked Alex and his approach.
As a former small water system operator, I spent a large amount of time “in the field” where solving problems without access to the necessary equipment required a certain kind of thinking (1st principles) is a must, and that’s exactly the kind of thinking that I see Alex teaching in his courses.
When did you take your first course (what year)?
I took my first course from Photigy in December of 2020.
How many product photography courses or workshops have you taken through Photigy? Do you have a favorite course or workshop? If so, what made it your favorite?
I’ve purchased a handful of courses and workshops, such as:
● Intro to CGI for Product Photographers (yet to be completed)
● 20+4 Premium Photography Workshops
● Complete Guide to Product Photography
● Jewelry Photography from A to Z
Do you have a favorite course or workshop? If so, what made it your favorite?
I would say that my favorite course was the Complete Guide to Product Photography. I found it to be very comprehensive and it taught me some 1st principles that helped me understand how to light difficult products. Additionally, Andrei was my course mentor and the personal feedback that I received from the assignments was very thorough and helpful. So I would say that the personalized feedback that this course provided was my favorite part of helping me grow as a photographer.
When you first got started, what did you find to be the most challenging aspect of photographing products?
When we first started in product photography, we didn’t really know what we didn’t know. One day we had a client who wanted an e-commerce photo of a bottle on a white background. “How hard could this be?” I thought. We were the most expensive option, and the client told us that we were chosen because they needed professional help (after trying to shoot it themselves).
So we set up a white seamless, put the bottle on a stand with our lights pointed right at it, and took about 10 photos before finally realizing why the client was having so much trouble. We worked through the night trying to shoot this nightmare bottle and had no idea how to handle these types of reflections.
After many hours of trial and error, we discovered that we could make it look pretty good if we surrounded it with a makeshift cone of paper. It wasn’t our best work, but after some photoshopping, the client was very impressed and didn’t hesitate to purchase some other images we upsold to them.
So, reflective products, liquids, and splashes are what we found to be the most challenging.
What is your favorite product image you created since taking courses/workshops through Photigy?
While there are many images that we’ve created that I really like, I think the one I like most is the Pacifica Perfume #2. Not because it has any particular style or technical feat that I’m proud of, but because it was the first image that I was able to take that was exactly what I had envisioned in my mind. I was able to come up with the concept, set up some lights, and snap the photo in less than 30 minutes.
What specialty in product photography interests you the most (beverage, food, jewelry, cosmetics, etc.)?
After shooting all kinds of different products for clients, in all sorts of different categories and sizes, I’ve found that I really enjoy shooting small items such as jewelry and cosmetics. It’s empowering to be able to shoot products that are difficult or require special knowledge such as reflective/transparent surfaces and to be able to set things up in a way that makes sense and looks good.
Beverages are my next favorite because I like to make drinks look as refreshing as possible (then drink them afterward). Basically, if it fits on a tabletop and we don’t have to hire a model or get a location permit, we’ll enjoy it.
How was your learning experience with Photigy affected your success as a photographer or pursuit of photography?
I would say that Photigy has taught me some 1st principles that have helped me to understand how to set up lights in a manner that makes sense and gives the best results. I no longer worry about getting a good image by accident, because Photigy taught me how to plan for it.
With that said, my wife is still far more creative than I am, so I would call myself a “technical” shooter who is able to look at a great photo for reference and figure out how it was put together.
What advice do you have for people interested in pursuing product photography?
I suppose I would have different advice depending on the goals of the person.
If someone wants to get into product photography to make a lot of money, then I would suggest that they start by finding a niche market that isn’t being well served by existing photographers. There are always going to be clients who want cheap photos and don’t care about the quality, but there are also clients who are willing to pay a premium for quality work.
If someone wants to get into product photography to be creative and have fun, then I would suggest that they learn more about licensing, copyright, and protecting their work so they aren’t taken advantage of.
What other areas of photography interest you?
My wife and I are interested in learning more about creating landscape composites for some of the trips we’ve been on. With that said, I am personally interested in creating satirical product photos of some of these cheap Amazon products that we often see (but clients wouldn’t appreciate). Additionally, I think 3D rendering is going to be the future of product photography, so that is an area that we are interested in learning as well.