Five Shots You Need to Get When You Are an Industrial Photographer

Five Shots You Need to Get When You Are an Industrial Photographer

An industrial photographer is someone who photographs the people and the products associated with multi-million dollar companies that make machines and tools for industries such as power and electric, trucking, and construction. As an industrial photographer, you will photograph everything from a two-ton drill used underground to a two-inch screw that secures a safety harness used by workers from a state electric company.

If you are ever hired to create images for one of these companies, you should have some understanding of the different types of shots you can offer. I spoke to Kristie LaRochelle from KP Studios who detailed five specific shots you can offer when you are an industrial photographer.

Industrial headshot, photographed by Kristie LaRochelle. Nikon D810 with 85mm lens. Profoto B10 Lighting.


This image shows a head and shoulders portrait of an important person from the company. During the headshot session, you might photograph 10 or more people who are in charge of various departments at the company. Since you are photographing the people who hold the top positions in the company, everyone will likely be 40+ years old. It is wise to use large softboxes or umbrellas to create soft lighting so that age lines are minimized. The goal here is to create a clean, uncluttered image that allows the viewer to focus on the person’s face.

This image is likely to be used in a company directory or on the website alongside a bio of the person. If the person is offering a seminar or being presented with an award, this is the image that would be used on the flyer. You may want to deliver this image in a variety of crops as well including square, vertical, and horizontal for easy placement on a variety of flyer designs.

Unlike the standard corporate headshot that might be taken against a white or even gray background, this photograph should include some elements of the environment. Try to give a hint or suggestion of the products the factory makes in the background of the photograph. Incorporating an out-of-focus machine that the viewer can’t quite make out into the background of the image is often enough to give the viewer some idea of what field the person works in.

Making of the product, photographed by Kristie LaRochelle. Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm lens. Profoto B10 lighting.

Making of the Product    

These images are captured inside the plant or manufacturing facility and show the process of making the product that the factory sells. These photographs are used to tell the story of the process and to show the quality and craftsmanship that the company puts into its product. These products may be sold for $500,000 or more, and the photograph needs to convey that value. When you include actual workers from the factory into these images, you give the photograph an element of authenticity and you give a literal face to the people that make the product. These photographs can help give a face to the company in the same way that KFC uses the striking image of the colonel to help convey the homegrown persona of the KFC brand. The potential buyer can make a connection to the people that take pride in the creation of the product. Some workers are eager to be photographed in this manner, but many are not, so do not wait until the day of the shoot to find someone to be in these photos. You may have to schedule a day to do an actual casting at the company to ensure that you get the right workers for these photographs.

Although a worker is included in this photograph, the hero of the image is the product itself. Shallow depth of field can help to draw attention to the product. Industrial companies are meticulous in the creation process, so every detail of the product itself should be clear in the final photograph. You might want to use different lighting on the product then you are using on the background. This can help draw attention to the product. Colored gels can help make the scene more palatable to the eye since the lighting in the factory is likely to be flat and uninspiring. The factory may also be dirty. If you keep the background out of focus, you can reduce the appearance of the dirty background.

Product in use in the filed, photographed by Kristie LaRochelle. Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm lens. Profoto B10 lighting.

The Product in Use in the Field

This shot shows the product being used in the field and helps customers visualize the product at work in the real world. Although the products made by industrial companies will end up dirty and scuffed in actual use, these photographs typically show the product in a brand new state.

Because every detail must be correct in this image, you may photograph someone who uses the product rather than someone who makes it. The goal is to create an authentic image, so it would not be wise to use a beautiful model for the shot. However, there is still consideration given to how the person looks, and the viewer must believe that the person in the photograph could be performing the task every day. If your photo shows the first time this person has ever worn that safety harness, it will be evident to a trained eye. The company must have someone on set to ensure that every detail is correct in how the product is being used in the photograph. All safety harnesses may look the same to you, but the potential buyer knows that a construction harness is very different from a bucket harness. You don’t want to show a worker using the wrong harness for the setting in which you are photographing.

Product shot, photographed by Kristie LaRochelle. Nikon D700 with 70-200mm lens. Profoto B10 lighting.

Product Shot

This image, which shows the finished product without any workers, is used to showcase what is being created by the company. The goal of the shot is for the end-user to see exactly what they are buying. You want to show off the quality and craftsmanship. You want to convey that the buyer can put their trust in this product as this can be a matter of life and death for the people who use certain products. The buyer may be spending very large sums on the product and the image needs to give them confidence in the purchase.

There are many challenges to creating a great product shot in an industrial shoot. Unlike a photographer who photographs watches, an industrial photographer doesn’t have the luxury of putting lights anywhere she wants. The photographer might not be able to even move the product she is photographing. Finding a clean space inside a working industrial warehouse is difficult. It can also be difficult to create a photograph where the product is shown in isolation. And, you need to create a photograph where the product looks beautiful, even if it doesn’t look beautiful in person.

Kristin’s choice of lighting for all of her strobe photographs is the Profoto B10. These battery-powered strobes are lightweight and self-contained. AC strobes are not an option, as you might need more than one extension cord to reach an outlet. Extension cords are also a safety hazard. Your photograph should help the client visualize the product being used in an actual tough working condition, so the product mustn't look too glamorous.

Proper use of gels can help to minimize distracting elements. Bold primary colors like blue, yellow, and green are used frequently. Red can work well in some images, but it is hard to retain detail for elements lit in red, so this color is more often used in the background than in the foreground.

Trade shot, photograph by Kristie LaRochelle. Nikon Z7. Profoto B10 lighting.

Trade Shot

This group shot is of the owners of the company or the heads of important divisions. This is the face of the company. Usually, other industry leaders will recognize these people. Even the competition will recognize these faces. In any industry, there are trade publications that are well known among those in that industry but wholly unknown by the general public. Whenever a new person is hired into an important position or a manager retires, for example, there will be a news item in a trade publication. Similarly, when the company embarks on a new venture or creates a groundbreaking new product, it will be featured in a trade publication. Some companies even make their internal magazine, where they write about new hirings and the company’s achievements. The trade shot is very valuable for these uses.

Once the main trade shot has been captured, you will usually photograph permutations of that shot. These variations can include the owner with managers or maybe the owner with the international team. It is common for one person to stay for five or six photographs while different people step in and out of the photograph. These shots need to be replaced fairly often as people change positions and new people are hired.

Whenever possible, the company likes to show off its signature product. If the company makes a giant tool or a distinctive machine, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will be asked to capture the trade shots in front of that product. As the signature product is redesigned over time, the photo may need to be redone.

Because the trade shot is the image that needs to be changed most often, it can be your gateway into booking an industrial shoot. Your initial contact with a company might come in the form of an inquiry for you to capture trade shots. If you have a good understanding of the various other shots that the company might need, you can always make a pitch to do a more comprehensive shoot that incorporates the shots detailed in this article. If you are successful in this pitch, you can negotiate for a higher rate.

John Ricard's picture

John Ricard is a NYC based portrait photographer. You can find more of Ricard’s work on his Instagram. accounts, and

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Agreed! Great post and also thankful that it is an actual article instead of a video!

I understand the objection to video as I'm a fan of just getting the information from text rather than sitting through a video myself. Still, I do make videos fairly often. But I'm proud to say that my videos don't follow the annoying conventions of today where every video has an introduction, which is followed by an introduction (sizzle reel) and then another introduction! Often the person making the video talks really slow, has annoying music underneath the talking and then the host proceeds to spend 30 seconds telling us we should like and subscribe. It's unbearable to me and I can't understand why so many people follow the same script.

Great article, I love shooting this type of work. Also as others have thanks for an actually article and not a video!

This is a good article. This is an area of photography that we do not see much of.

A couple of points that I learned a long time ago is to show people actually doing the work where things are made by making it up close and personal.

Use people for scale if it is something large.

I always talk to the person in charge to tell me about the product I am going to photograph and what they feel is important about that product. Then I have a frame of reference of what I want to bring out in the image.

Lastly, come prepared to shoot something no one ever thought of or you notice while you are on location, as you don't always get a chance to come back. It could be a macro shot, a telephoto shot of something you can't get to, or some difficult lighting. It could mean extra income or another photo assignment.

I'm going to do an article at some point about the shots you need to get when you are an event photographer, and one of the things I'll talk about is just what you said -getting the "different" shot. For me, that means using a Leica Monochrom to capture black and white photographs. The client didn't ask for that, and probably doesn't even want those shots. But black and white shots are something that I am starting to give my clients along with the images that they asked for and eventually there will be some clients who are grateful for those unsolicited images.