Behind The Lens: How Indie Beauty Brands Produce Striking Photos On Tight Budgets

In this edition of Beauty Independent’s ongoing series posing questions to beauty entrepreneurs, we ask 10 brand founders and executives: How do you produce your product and lifestyle photography, and what’s the budget like that you set aside to do so?

Sacha Okoh Founder and Creative Director, SO Aesthetic

We work with our local photographers @laceupmedia and @phloshop to produce our product imagery and campaign shoots. We work with a modest budget of $500 to $700 per shoot. We sometimes use our professional cameras and, day-to-day, we use our personal phone, meaning our iPhone, to take pictures. For editing pictures, we have downloaded great apps—facetune2, mojo and iMovieto make editing much easier.

Lauren Lovelady Co-Founder, Each & Every

We dedicate about 10% of our advertising budget to creative and use a variety of resources for photography. We do some product photography in-house using iPhones and DIY tools like Canva and Adobe Spark for editing. We also leverage creative agencies like Code Creative for more professional content. For lifestyle photography, we work with a network of freelancers. We also repurpose user-generated content and influencer-generated content to maximize options. 

Bethany McDaniel Founder and CEO, Primally Pure

Our product and most of our lifestyle photography is shot by our remote creative team, The Wonder Jam, who is based out of Columbus, Ohio. They really bring our vision to life, and are so creative and fun to work with. We also host some lifestyle photoshoots in our workspace/spa space, which is usually shot by our freelance photographer Stef Johnson. She is also extremely talented and great at taking on our brand's vision.  She is local and based in Oceanside, Calif.  Overall, our photography spend is roughly $1,500/month on average.

Elin Dannerstedt Co-Founder, NCLA Beauty

We produce our photography in-house while also working with freelance photographers. We use Karla Ticas for larger campaigns, and Nicholas Waickman for product photography and stylized product imagery. Our budgets have ranged from $500 a shoot to $10,000 a shoot. The outcome is whatever you make of it. As a brand, we prep and conceptualize each shot so that the photographer can execute our vision. I am very hands-on with every production, which helps us remain within a budget.

Kát Rudu Founder and CEO, Kát Rudu Beauty

I am the creative director. I have photographers that I work with consistently. Moni Rose does my lifestyle shots in Malibu, Santa Barbara or I go to New York. Laura Keys from Flashbox Photo Studio does all of my online professional product in-studio images. I am lean with my photography since I have relationships with women that believe in the brand. I set aside approximately $3,000 a year on photos and will increase it as needed. We like to do fresh photos every two months of myself and of my products.

Jacinta Kanakaratnam Disruptor and Founder, The Veddas

Product and lifestyle photography is the bane of our existence. It has been our biggest roadblock and headache! As disruptors of our niche industry, we thought we could go without professional photos and keep our marketing grassroots. We were wrong. When the time came that we understood the value of professional photos, the pandemic and lockdowns hit, and no photographers were doing in-studio sessions. So, when publications were asking for headshots and product photography in the summer 2020, we were at a loss. 

I tried to learn about how to take product photos myself, but, as a small team, it just wasn’t feasible to wear yet another hat. In my city and in my network, I received unaffordable quotes for one or two photos. I just could not justify it. We try to funnel money into product development and ingredients and pinch on marketing. We have been utilizing client product photos or collaborator photos thus far. We finally bit the bullet and have booked a photographer for the end of the summer. If all goes well, we will be able to obtain better photographs and, as such, cleaner content.

Alisha Ricki Co-Founder and COO, Kanti

As content creators in our own right, my sister/co-founder and I have obtained a great deal of experience with photography and videography in the years leading up to the launch of Kanti. Those skills have allowed us to self-produce lifestyle and product visuals for social media, digital marketing efforts and our website. The ability to create this content in-house has not only saved us a lot of money as a new brand, but also given us the flexibility to execute concepts completely on our own terms. With most of the equipment already on hand, all we need for most shoots is a little bit of creativity and less than $100.

Tonya Kidd Beggs Creative Director and Founder, Stories Parfums

I make a clear strategy with my team for our lifestyle photography. It is important to me that as a brand we tell our story through our photography and that we make an emotional connection with our customers. This is often where the customer journey begins and where they make their first connection with the brand. Stories Parfums is all about emotional connection and, as we cannot smell through our social channels, it was imperative to me that the person viewing would connect with our images emotionally and that those images would portray the brand as honestly as possible. Our photographer is Johnny Frazer. We work together on the shoots, but he also has such a creative mind, and I love to give him freedom to express that and the outcome is incredible.

Melissa Obeid Founder, Le Fervance

I really love the story of our gorgeous lifestyle photography. The synchronicities around the creation of La Fervance are so amazing, and this is no exception! When we first arrived in Paris for our “short sabbatical” back in 2016, we met the principal male and female dancers of Le Moulin Rouge, who also happened to be husband and wife. Jolene met Alex Denes on her first day at Le Moulin after winning an Australian audition to dance there for six months. That was 18 years ago!  

Following her retirement from Moulin in 2016, Jolene Denes has developed her natural talent for photography. In addition to being one of our discerning global testers during the long R&D phase, she was the perfect choice for our official photographer.  Jolene totally gets the brand, is a daily user of the product and is also living the “Fusionistique” Australian, French and Romanian dream, too.  

Being a self-funded, recently launched independent startup means we’re extremely creative. So, the Aussie café’s in Paris, our amazingly generous friendship network, stunning apartments and streetscape of Paris and Provence are our props, not such a difficult canvas to work with. So, the current limited budget is more than compensated for by the abundance we’re surrounded with.

Olufunke Tonye-Preghafi CEO and Founder, Blot Beauty Cosmetics LLC

We do everything from our graphics to photography in-house as we already have team members who take on these double roles. It keeps us agile and up-to-date on trends and presentation styles, especially for social media.

If you have a question you’d like Beauty Independent to ask beauty entrepreneurs, please send it to [email protected].