How to Prepare a Simple Photo Shoot for Your E-Commerce Site

How to Prepare a Simple Photo Shoot for Your E-Commerce Site

Preparing for a shoot can be a laborious and daunting task – even more so for the small business owner, who is on a budget. It is not uncommon for SMB owners to just whip out their cellphone and snap a few quick photos or video clips to post on Instagram or YouTube and while that may be fine for social media, it won’t really cut it for your e-commerce site.

If you’re using those photos and/videos to ask your customers to part with their cold hard cash – it’s important to make sure that they can see everything and have all of the info they need to hit the shopping cart button, ideally the first time around.

Here are 5 things you may want to consider before you bite the bullet and dive into shooting products for your e-commerce site.

Plan and then Plan Some More
You want to give yourself at least 3 months to prepare for a shoot because even if you know exactly what you want, it does not necessarily mean that everyone or everything you need for that shoot will be available when you want them to be.

So give yourself plenty of time to get all of your ducks lined up in row. It’s important to focus on a budget, but also on whether or not the people you decide to work with are reliable and have the same point of view that you do about your brand or company.

The last thing you want to happen is to spend time going back and forth with a photographer, makeup artist or prop stylist about why your vision is more important than theirs on the day of the shoot or waste time waiting for people to show-up.

Renting out a studio can be very expensive and there is no excuse for anyone to be “fashionably” late. Time is money.

Create a Timetable
Figure out what you want to achieve on the day of the shoot and work your way backwards. This is known as creating a “reverse timetable”.

You want to try to envision what the finish product will be and start listing all of the things that need to be there to make it happen.

Once you have that list, start researching online and asking your friends and business colleagues if they know anyone who can do the work for you. Be proactive in educating yourself about what you can expect from a photographer, makeup artist, videographer or food stylist.

The internet is great for this type of research and if you do it in advance – it will allow you to have a more productive conversation when you are interviewing people for the job.

Now this may sound like a lot of work and the truth of the matter is that it is, but we’re talking about your business. I’m a small business owner, myself and like you I’m short on time and I can’t afford to really waste any money.

So I would rather do a little research upfront on the web and make a few phone calls and send out a few emails to friends, before I go and blow my money on something that I really know nothing about.

Build the Right Team
When you do reach out to someone, you want to make sure you tell them what you are looking for first to see if they even offer the service. Sometimes we assume someone does something and it turns out they don’t.

If you own a gourmet cheese and wine shop and you’re looking for someone to take photos of your great cheeses and wines – it’s probably not a good idea to contact a wedding photographer to do it.

You may have better luck looking for a “food stylist” or “a still life photographer” instead and I can almost guaranty that you will get better results and a better price.

Don’t forget to ask for referrals from previous clients and pricing, you need this to prepare the appropriate budget for the shoot. Be sure to also include money in your budget for things like deliveries, food for the day of the shoot, steamers, irons and prop rentals if need be.

You also want to make sure that everyone signs a release so you have the right to use the photos as you see fit for your work. It’s OK for members of your team to ask for a copy of the finished product for their portfolio, but it is not OK for them to ask for royalties for use.

You commissioned them for the project and you’re paying for their services, the shoot would have never happened without you – so no one should give you a hard time about this.

You’ll want to discuss this and have signed releases in hand, before you even start the project – that way you won’t have any surprises on the day of the shoot. If you are not sure, then consult an intellectual property attorney.

Prepare for the Shoot
Once you’ve got your team in place and you know what your budget is going to be – you need to have a meeting with everyone from your team to go over all of the specifics. This is usually referred to as a “pre-production” meeting.

The goal here is to discuss what you (the client) are looking to achieve at the end of the shoot day, what time everyone needs to be there, how long they need to stay, do you need models or special props, etc.

Some people may need to be there all day. Others may only need to be there at the beginning of a shoot and then leave. Keep in mind that you don’t really want people just “hanging around” the set if there is nothing for them to do. This is important to know especially if you are paying them by the hour.

Now let me be clear – this isn’t about being paranoid. Walking around and intimidating people is a sure fire way to make sure that you get “crappy” work and people going out for extra long coffee or cigarette breaks. You should try to keep the atmosphere light on the day of the shoot, especially if it is going to be a long day – it keeps the morale up.

Just make sure that you have the ability to review their work as you go. You really should be there unless you have someone else that you trust can stand in for you.

Don’t leave the shoot with anything less than what you all agreed to in the pre-production meeting you had earlier, if you do there is no guaranty that you will get what you thought you were paying for and they will demand to be paid regardless.

You also want to be clear on who will be handling any and all of the post production work, you should ask for high resolutions files (about 300 dpi). This will ensure that you have a file that can be used for both small and large images, print and digital work.

You’ll also want to take the time to reconfirm how everyone will be communicated to and when they will get paid.

And lastly, don’t pay anyone their entire fee upfront, any reasonable and honest professional will ask for a deposit with the rest due upon completion. Some may ask for you to pay them in cash – if so ask for a receipt. A handwritten dated receipt will due if that is all that you can get, but don’t let anyone “slide” on this.

If you plan on working with them again it will set a precedent and could become a hard “habit” to break. This doesn’t make you difficult, by the way – it makes you professional and they should respect that. Remember, you’re running a business, if they want you to treat them and pay them a pro – they need to act like a pro!

So you see there is a lot that goes into preparing a photo shoot for your business, but let me tell you if you find the right team it is well worth it. You will have images and/or film footage that will give your business that “polished” look that your product or service deserves.

Plus it investing in the professional services of photographers, videographers and the like will save you time and money in the long run.

Question: Have you been wrestling with the idea of hiring a professional photographer or videographer to put together a catalog for your business? Share your comments, questions and stories below.

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This post was updated on July 2, 2020.

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