A 6-Step Prescription for Pain-Free Photo Shoots
Patient: "Doc, our photo shoots are painful. They go too slow, we can't get what we want and we end up having to do reshoots. How can we reduce our photo shoot pain?"
Catalog Doctor: "Photo shoots needn't be painful. Good planning can turn them into a pleasure. Here's a six-step prescription for making your photo shoots pain-free."
1. Pin down winner and loser shots. Go through your catalog and circle what shots you like and don't like. Then tear out pages from other catalogs and magazines of shots you like. You needn't stick to your product categories.
2. Post-mortem meeting. Bring samples of the photos you like to a meeting with your photographer and stylist. Ask them to help identify consistent traits of the photos you do and don't like. The differences could be lighting, camera angle, props, styling or a combination of factors. Studios love the chance for meetings like this because it gives them tools to keep you happy — helping them win your business again.
3. Build a "shot book." Before your next photo shoot, fill a three-ring binder with one sheet for each product. Fill in any data you already know — what's left you'll fill in at the pre-shoot meeting, which I detail below. This data includes:
- product name;
- image name (this will help you find it quickly in your image bank for future use);
- how many shots — front, back, pockets, etc.;
- type of shot — e.g., silhouette, square cut; and
- are props needed?
If your designer pre-designs the photo layout (many designers do not), include a printout of the layout. Bring samples of similar product shots to show what you do and don't like.
4. Pre-shoot meeting. A week to two weeks before your photo shoot (more if using models), meet with your studio crew. Bring product samples or snapshots, as well as your shot book. Explain your goals for each product. Ask your stylist and photographer for their thoughts on styling, lighting, props and how many shots are needed to best sell each product. Add each decision to your shot book. When complete, give a copy of your shot book to the studio.
Also, cover how many photo sets and stylists are needed for a shoot. Each photographer should be running a minimum of two sets so they can be shooting one while the stylist is setting up the other. If each set requires lots of styling (like cooked food does), three sets and two stylists per photographer can make your shoot run faster.
Because of your pre-shoot meeting, everyone now knows what they're supposed to do. Your stylist has time to get good props; your studio has time to get sets, backgrounds and book models.
5. Shoot catalog and web at the same time. Print and web often have different photo needs. For some products, print can best sell grouped (e.g., jacket/blouse/pants) and propped (e.g., model holding flowers) items, whereas the web needs each item in a separate shot on its own page, and often devoid of props that might obscure the product.
By planning ahead, often very minor changes in lighting and styling can get you all the shots you need for both web and print in just one time-saving sequence.
6. Review shots in real time. You can avoid costly reshoots by either being at the shoot or being on call to review emailed images. The image reviewer should be both marketing savvy and a decision maker. The key is to always ask of each shot, "Is this photo going to sell this product well?"
Susan J. McIntyre is Founder and Chief Strategist of McIntyre Direct, a catalog agency and consultancy in Portland, Oregon offering complete creative, strategic, circulation and production services since 1991. Susan's broad experience with cataloging in multi-channel environments, plus her common-sense, bottom-line approach, have won clients from Vermont Country Store to Nautilus to C.C. Filson. A three-time ECHO award winner, McIntyre has addressed marketers in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, has written and been quoted in publications worldwide, and is a regular columnist for Retail Online Integration magazine and ACMA. She can be reached at 503-286-1400 or email@example.com.