How the right photographer factors into the catalog production equation.
In the catalog business, a picture isn't just worth 1,000 words — it can seriously affect your sales. Product photos, therefore, must give consumers an accurate idea of what you're selling, as well as drive them to make a purchase. Choosing the right photographer can make all the difference in how well your catalog is received.
"The products being shot have to be well represented, and the photos need to show the subtleties of the fabrics and the things that are important from a consumer perspective," says Chris Price, president of Xara Sportswear USA, a cataloger of soccer uniforms. "If we're doing outside work or action shots, we need someone who can capture the action and create that authenticity."
Glenda Shasho-Jones, president of New York-based catalog consultancy Shasho Jones Direct, advises catalogers to focus on photographers who already have experience shooting material similar to their own. Whether it's hard goods, soft goods, jewelry, apparel or other products, each one of these categories requires a different set of skills, she points out.
When choosing a photographer, not only should catalogers request to see photographers' portfolios, but they also should ask for references. "I would want to see a range of their work in the area that we're talking about. References aren't used enough," Shasho-Jones says. "By checking references, you discover all of the surprises. You may have made the decision to hire someone, but it would have been nice to know that they, for example, don't start their day until XYZ has happened, or that they're slow in one area but make it up in another. You want to know how they've been on other jobs."
References also come in handy at the beginning of a cataloger's search. "There are photographers' reps out there," she says. "There are listings of photographers, but it's really hard to distinguish what work they've done that's relevant. There are associations. These are good if you've heard someone's name and you need a way to contact them. Your best bets are from the other creative talent that you're working with. Your art director might be able to give you some options. Sometimes stylists have really good suggestions. You also can ask other noncompetitive catalogers who they're using."