12/10/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | Website Product Photographer

Last week, the on-model images that I shot for Cosabella’s Fall 2014 debuted on their website. This shoot is a great example of the synthesis of product photography in still life e-commerce and on-model photos. In this photo you can see both types of images.

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Pajamas are certainly not easy to shoot due to their “comfortable” nature. There is a lot of material to work with and the structure is often boxy, which doesn’t give much shape to the garment. Here you can see the difference between the still life photos of the pajamas and the on-model shots. The still life images show the important details of the garment and the on-model shots convey a lifestyle image to the consumer.

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Still life photos show details of the garment.

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On-model shots convey a lifestyle image to the consumer.

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In addition, two of my still life shots were used in email blasts. For these particular still life images, you can see how there had to be some foresight as to the placement of graphic design or text which might be inserted into the frame, so I purposely left space in the photo to allow for this.

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As you can see, by elevating the photography for your website, you’ve elevated your brand.

11/24/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | Photography Studio South Florida

Last week I moved into a fabulous new studio space. Although my old studio is extremely functional, I was quickly outgrowing it and was quite happy to find this new, larger space. It is an industrial-style studio in Fort Lauderdale’s Art District so the neighborhood is fun and funky and the space has a “New York” feel to it.

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Photo Credit: Gary James

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Photo Credit: Gary James

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Photo Credit: Gary James

Our first shoot took place last Saturday and was quite successful. In fact, all the little details of the studio space helped contribute to the shoot. From the rustic wood tables to the vintage 1913 letterpress to the old fashioned tools decorating the place, all the charm of the studio ended up being perfect as additional features we used in the shoot.

The client was Crown & Buckle, a watch band manufacturer with products made from gorgeous leather and nylon. We had an ambitious list with 35 shots on it which included on-model shots as well as still-life photos. Our mission was to shoot their online marketing imagery that would be used as intro shots, banner shots, e-commerce shots and product shots, as well as for social media and email blasts, so we had a variety of tasks for the day.

The studio has an east-facing glass door that brings in the most spectacular golden morning light. We took advantage of the light as much as possible, shooting the watch bands on the letterpress and the conference table, which were near the east wall. We also did some of the on-model shots there as well.

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As shown on Crown & Buckle’s Instagram page, the morning sun gave us incredible lighting.                          Photo credit: Taffney Lathrop

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The natural wood conference table made an excellent background for our shots. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

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The natural lighting was useful for the on-model shots as well. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

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Making decisions with the clients and stylist. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

The owners of the company had brought quite a few props for us to use for the shoot. Old-style American flags, Christmas lights, their tools, a papier maché mounted deer head, a mounted deer head made of cardboard, scraps of leather, and they even had snippets of evergreen trees Fed Exed down from Wisconsin (because we don’t really have pine trees in South Florida). One of the best lines of the day came from Taffney as she opened the Fed Ex package and got a whiff of the contents. “It’s like Christmas in a box!” she exclaimed.

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Using the evergreens as a festive prop. Photo credit: Kristin Stickels

Motto is the branding agency based in South Carolina that had recommended me to the client. While they were not physically present at the shoot, we were able to send them batches of photos from the shoot for their instant feedback. The studio also had two flat screen televisions with Apple TV, so I was able to immediately show the client the shots I took on my camera from my computer.

All in all it was a great day at the new studio and we loved getting to know the people at Crown & Buckle and Motto.

For the moment, I am testing out the new studio space for a month to see if it is going to fit my needs, but so far so good. I will be sharing the space with The Guild 5 Forty Five members Gary James, photographer, and Kim Grijalva, creative director.

 

 

11/14/14

E-Commerce Photographer South Florida | My “Purse”-pective

Back in September I spent some time shooting for one of my clients who purchases vintage Chanel handbags and resells them on her website. This is yet another type of e-commerce shoot. As you have seen with my previous blogs about e-commerce photos, the product is obviously the focus, and quite often the only object in the photo. With clothing, there is typically an on-model shot as well, where the clothing is still the focus of the shoot and the model is simply a live hanger for the garment.

For this shoot, the client wanted on-model shots. The focus still needed to be the handbags, however, the models needed to be dressed. So, this involved some choices in clothing and styling that did not detract from the handbags. As you can see in the following photos, the garments chosen were in basic colors which complimented the purse, typically without large patterns or textures.  Blacks, reds, and whites all helped to serve as a live background for the handbags.

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Another consideration is the framing of the photo. Again, it is imperative that the purse be the focal point of the photo. By using a model but not including her entire face, you are drawn to the item instead of the eyes of the model. The model is simply a prop for the handbag instead of the other way around. In each photo above, if the photo had included the model’s entire body, the purse would not have been in the center of the photo. Instead, it would have been in the bottom 1/4 of the photo (in the case of the plaid handbag), or the top 1/3 of the photo (in the case of the black handbag).

Clearly there are many different types of e-commerce shoots and countless things to consider when shooting e-commerce photos. A few main points to remember: keep your product in mind, maintain clarity in the image, and take into account the structure of the photo.

11/12/14

E-Commerce Photographer| Intro and Banner Shots

I recently shot marketing and lifestyle images for Frank Morgan’s American Swimwear, a startup company based in New York, whose brand focuses on the young, twenty-something crowd.

As you can guess, a company’s website needs more than its e-commerce shots to sell the product. Having lifestyle photos which project the image that the company is targeting can really enhance the website. A strong intro shot draws customers to the site, where the e-commerce shots will then provide the necessary product information.

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For our shoot, we first shot the e-commerce images in the studio, and then ventured out to the beach to shoot the lifestyle images. It was a typical gorgeous day on the beach in Miami: blue skies, turquoise water, white sand. Clearly we had a lot of beauty to work with, including the designer’s sister who flew down from New York to be our model.

The images we shot outside were to be used for banners and intro on the company’s website, so they needed to have ample room for cropping, placement of text, the company’s logo, etc. Here are four of my favorite photos from the shoot.

 

The following photos were shot to be used as intro photos on the company’s webpage. With the brand’s focus on a youthful crowd, these images are intended to be young, playful, and flirtatious.

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This photo was shot with the purpose of being used for a banner on the company’s website. It allows room for cropping into a narrow, horizontal image without eliminating any of the crucial components of the photo.

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Here are two examples of how photos can be used as intro shots on a website. Space was purposely left on one side of the photo to have a generous amount of room for the necessary text.

 

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Here are two examples of how photos can be used as banners on a website.

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11/4/14

E-commerce Photographer South Florida | The Picture Sells the Product

Sometimes it’s hard to justify the cost of e-commerce photography, especially when the product will be photographed on a model. Instead of just paying for the photography, the client will need a whole team to produce photography that will sell products. That means (in some cases): photographer, model, hair & makeup (not always one person for both), stylist, assistants, location, catering (if the shoot is going to be a full day), etc., etc., etc. It’s hard to imagine getting all that on the budget that most startups have.

So, how can you make the photo shoot worth it? Considering that a startup has a smaller budget, the goal would be to shoot less product perfectly, rather than shooting all of your product in a mediocre fashion. Think quality, not quantity. It certainly isn’t worth wasting the budget on sub-par shots. In the world of e-commerce photography, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it.

Recently, I came across a photograph of a swimsuit I liked. The still life shot looked really good and it was selling to me.

Super cute swimsuit photograph, still life.

I even don’t mind the wrinkled fabric in this photo.

So I decided to follow the link to the website where I could buy it. Once there, I saw more shots of the swimsuit, including some that were on model and I really, really liked the swimsuit!

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Here we see how nice the back detail of the swimsuit is…

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Another photo to show that the swimsuit is reversible.

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An additional still life shot of the bottom shows the details a little better.

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This was the main (first displayed) on model shot of the swimsuit

But, unfortunately, it was sold out. Lucky for me the company had put the designer’s name on the swimsuit so I did a quick search to see if I could buy the swimsuit directly from the designer’s website. And that, my readers, is when I did a double-take. I could not believe it was the same swimsuit. The designer had different colors but I had NO desire to buy this product in any color. It looked terrible in the still life; all the various colored swimsuits were shot differently. On model it was unflattering as well.

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I don’t like these wrinkles.

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A different front and back still life shot than the others.

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Another very non-symmetrical shot of the swimsuit.

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Another version of the laydown still life.

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As you can imagine based on these photos, I’m not sold for a lot of reasons. Let’s look at this on model first. The suit isn’t showing me the side details at all, her pose is awkward and not relaxed which makes me wonder if that is because the swimsuit isn’t comfortable. This isn’t clear to me that the swimsuit is reversible here. I can’t figure out why I’m not seeing the back of the light blue swimsuit (it takes me a while to figure out that the dark blue is the outside of the light blue swimsuit and that is what I’m seeing).

The still life images vary quite a bit. One shot makes the bottom look uncomfortably small. The straps are all different on the tops and it just looks messy. The description on the image tells us the color of one side and the bungee but not the reversible side which makes me wonder if they are all reversible , especially for those whose color is closer to skin color. Or, in the case of the palm print suit, I have no idea if it is even reversible.

I can only imagene the return on investment (ROI) for the first images was astronomically higher than the ROI of the second set of images. I’m sure the budget for the first set of images was also much higher. So to be fair, this is a “you-get-what-you-can-pay-for” situation.

Now, here’s what I would have done. If the client didn’t have the budget for great shots in all colors, I would have recommended that we shoot one swimsuit perfectly, then shoot color swatches of the details for each alternative colored swimsuit. If the budget allowed for it, I would say shoot that swimsuit on a model because the ROI will be bigger. If the budget didn’t allow for it then shoot one perfect still life and, if possible, one group shot with each swimsuit stacked showing the detail of each swimsuit displaying the bungee, the color inside and the color outside.

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Not exactly the crop I would use, but you get the idea.

This would save time (and hence, money) by not having to style the whole swimsuit.

So there you have it. My two cents, from an e-commerce photographer’s perspective on what to do to optimize your e-commerce photography ROI.

10/23/14

Still Life Photographer Miami | but before I give these back, let me just shoot one more thing…

One of my clients is the fan-freaking-tastic eyewear designer Christian Roth. I adove (adore + love = adove) the stylish sunglasses and eyewear they create and the team, Christian Roth and Eric Domége, as well. I’ve enjoyed photographing their product and even been able to capture Christian and Eric in front of my camera for Miami Modern Luxury Magazine.

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They have flattered me using the images I shot for them on their blog and Instagram:

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Used my other portraits of them in other publications and blog:

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And of course, their catalog and product shots on their website:

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So I’ve had my hands on their product to photograph quite a few times now and I fall more and more in love with it each time. Yesterday, I found myself with a few free moments. October has been my busiest month to date. ever. So I was shocked I had a minute. Naturally, I used this moment to shoot! I am returning product to the boys tomorrow so if I didn’t get these beauties in front of my lens one more time I would cry.

Here are some of my shots where I just enjoyed my freedoms to shoot what I saw, how I styled and lit. Completely sans art direction. Enjoy…. (and please forgive that I haven’t retouched these at all, there wasn’t THAT much extra time!)

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08/11/14

Miami Portrait Photographer | Optimize your headshot!

Many of you already know me on a personal basis, but for those who don’t, my husband Sam is an internet guru. I really don’t know how else to describe him. He works in hospitality helping hotels make the most of their online presence. This week he will be speaking at a conference in Tennessee and so he came to me because he needed a new headshot.

Okay, so why is this interesting? Photographer takes picture of her husband… big deal. Actually it was what he taught me that was so cool I wanted to share it with everyone. On one of the blogs he follows Cyrus Shepard created a post called “How Optimizing My Ugly Google+ Pic Increased Free Traffic”. To sum it up, by placing a color behind the subject people were statistically more likely to click on that person or their link/article. Google likes to put our bio pictures all over everything it can now, and the internet has become overrun with black and white head shots, or head shots against a black, white, or grey background. So when I photographed him we did it against, you guessed it, grey (and I included a black and white of the shot for him too, aren’t I nice!?). He shared the article with me after our photo shoot.

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He took it upon himself to add orange to the background (this is what we would call an artists rendering of what he did, I can’t find the actual file anywhere now)…

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Orange. Bright orange. Now, no offense to my beloved or anything here, but after some convincing he let me have a go at changing the grey background to a color for him. I went with a techie blue (he also has blue eyes so that was inspiring me).

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When I saw his new headshot with this color pop up in my text messages I the post hit home. My eyes immediately rush to his shot over all the other photos next to text messages in my phone (everyone has a little photo next to their message on my phone). The effectiveness of this in a larger setting (aka, the web) was not lost on me.

Since then, I’ve shot two more portraits one for a writer, one for a jewelry designer, both asked for blue as the color behind them.

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At this point, I’m feeling rather out dated with my black background behind me in my bio pictures. Guess it’s time to update myself! What do you think??? Out with the old….

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In with the Warhol?

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08/6/14

How to run a business and start a family | Part 1

I have a confession. I have been very, very busy this year. On top of already this being one of my busiest business years to date, I went and became a mom back in March.

I have a second confession, many of my clients didn’t know I was pregnant or that I had a baby.

First, let me say, this is a subject that I’m sure will hit home to a lot of my readers. I’m a 30 something year old woman, who has been nurturing her own business for about 8 years or so now (plus 1+ year of interning and 4 years of college for photography at RISD). So it was not lightly that I decided to start a family. It seems like my path is crossing with a lot of women who either own their own businesses or have worked their tail off to start a business who are around my age and facing this question: do I want to have kids? That question is quickly followed by the next one, what are the sacrifices of starting a family? And of course, that gets more specific with wondering, is it even possible to keep my career on course and become a parent?

The answers won’t be the same for everyone. But for me, I had no intention of letting my business get off track because I was going to start a family. Upon the suggestion of one of these woman whose path has crossed mine, I am going to write a little bit about how I made this transition work and how I was able to meet all my clients needs during this time.

So this first post is about making that choice to become a parent. Not everyone has the luxury of getting to make that choice and so already you are lucky.

Like many of my peers, I was very scared to start a family, for lots of reasons. What was going to happen to my body/career/marriage/etc?

The fear of what starting a family would do to my marriage caused my husband and I had some very intense conversations. These were no holds bar honest conversations. In these talks, we confessed what we both wanted our marriage to be like and where it currently fell short of that and what we needed to make sure we didn’t let go of when a baby arrived. We talked about “what if” situations. We discussed our peers who had children and the strains we saw them going through and mapped out strategies if we found ourselves in the same boat. Naturally, so much of what we talked about didn’t come true for us or did but in a way we never predicted. But being able to have already talked about stresses in a “what if” scenario took some of the taboo out of discussions when the situations were taking place.

Please don’t judge me because I know it is a vanity, but I didn’t want to loose my body to a child. This was a huge source of anxiety for me. Throughout my whole pregnancy it was a stress. I’ve always been in good shape and in the last 5-10 years put a lot of effort into eating right and being an athlete in my free time (My husband and I paddle, Dragon boats/OC/Sup, anything you can think of). I was terrified that I would have a baby and never get back into my shape and it would cause stresses on me and my marriage. So, just like above, my husband and I talked about it. A lot! I worked out until I really couldn’t, whatever I could do (my Dr said no to continuing to do crossfit, which now I think I might have been able to do actually). I ate as right as I could (first trimester all bets were off, my nausea decided I was going to eat a lot of Mac-N-Cheese with chicken nuggets -seriously, like in 3rd grade again). What really helped was acknowledging that my husband loved me, he liked me being in shape but loved me and that wasn’t going to change with the transitions my body went through. I picked a good man to marry, one who I knew wasn’t in it for looks. So that helped. And as a side note, if your with a guy who you feel like would leave you if you weren’t smoking hot anymore, maybe you should rethink that relationship because we are all going to get old one day and no matter what you do, gravity is going to get you.

Now the golden ticket: career. I decided to keep quiet about expecting to all of my clients. I let them ask me about it when I was showing enough that they were curious. I decided that there was a line between personal and professional life and to be honest, I was intimidated that my clients might run to someone else. So I knew that meant I had to make sure their photo needs were met EXACTLY as they were when I wasn’t pregnant.

That included a plan for going into labor during a shoot. I trained and trained and trained an amazing assistant of mine to do anything and everything I could so if I ended up in the hospital or on bed rest my business could still run. Picking the right person is key in this. For me, she had to be as attentive to detail as I am, friendly, professional, and okay with me staring over her shoulder commenting on her every move. I also had to trust her immensely. Essentially I knew I wasn’t going to get any downtime pre baby/labor/post baby so I had someone else to be there just in case I was too weak or physically unable to do my shooting so my clients wouldn’t have their images or timelines compromised. Luckily, I didn’t need my assistant to do too much when the time did come. But I had to be incredibly prepared. The total unexpected upside of this was that after I hired my childcare and found myself back in the swing of things I had the most amazing assistant ever! She was trained to be my hands and so I could trust her to do every light setup perfectly, know how to style everything I work with, understand the timelines needed (there were nights that she pulled all nighters to get my stack focus images ready so I had a file to work on) and always have a positive attitude.

Interview the crap out of this person. And pay them well. This was a cost of my business continuing to run so even if I broke even for a while because I had her helping me it was worth not loosing accounts/clients over. Be ready for complications because other people will notice your amazing assistant and offer them work as well. I was lucky that the clients that did that were super sweet people and we were able to work something out where my assistant could help them and me.

This fear, of how a baby would affect my business was a huge roadblock for me when I thought about starting a family. Even when I had been training and teaching my assistant it wasn’t until my clients could see her work and were comforted that as a team we were producing images as consistent and dead on as always, that my mind was at ease. Hopefully some of these confessions and tips help you put your mind at ease too. It really can be done and things will be okay. I’ll keep posting (as much as I can because having a baby does cut way back on my blogging time) more about how I am working through this transition and how it actually, positively has continued to affect my business.

 

 

07/25/14

New E-commerce client

I’m so excited to add Cosabella to my client list! We’ve been shooting tests and perfecting the look for the website. Today I noticed the first pieces from our shoot went live! I have to say, I love being an e-commerce photographer. I know it’s not for everyone, but until you trouble shoot the styling and lighting of items like fine jewelry, sunglasses and bras (yes, I’m adding bra’s to the list of most complex items to shoot) you can’t know the rush of getting it right!

Here are a few screen shots of my work on the site. Most of the corresponding pieces are also my shots! Enjoy and thanks Cosabella! I had a blast working with you and hope to do so again soon!

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07/21/14

Testing E-commerce photos for new clients

One of the most valuable strategies for getting ready to shoot e-commerce with a new client is a test shoot. I almost always will recommend (or even sometimes insist) that a brand do a few hours of test shooting with me before we dive into their inventory and shoot all of it. The test shoot is my way to make sure I am giving the client the shots they need with the right consistency for their website. It is also how I double-check my per shot estimate to make sure that it is on track with the quote I gave.

My e-commerce photography clients range in size from  less than 100 to 10,000+ shots a year (yes, I shoot a lot of inventory). The test shoot might be the most important shoot I do for those clients in our whole relationship. It is where I will lock in the lighting, styling, pre production preparation, retouching, and file delivery for everything we do moving forward. I usually ask to see some examples of what the client wants the final images to look like. After seeing those, we discuss the files they like and why. Then I get my hands on items to test shoot and we schedule the time. One of the nice things about my workflow is that the client doesn’t have to be present while I do the test shoot. I can run a screen share via Skype for example and I shoot tethered. So the client can be discussing with me each shot as they appear. This has been a  huge help because now art directors around the country can be hands on in the test without actually having to get on a plane.

It’s after the test shoot that I start in on the actual e-commerce photography for the website. Sometimes as fast as the next day or later that afternoon we can get the ball rolling for clients. In the e-commerce world, inventory that hasn’t been photographed is money lost so moving fast is critical. That test shoot lets me build realistic time estimates for clients so they know how fast the files can get back to them.

To the photographers reading this, whether you shoot portraits/weddings/anything it’s always a good idea to run a test shoot. Any big advertising gig’s I’ve ever had I dedicate a day in my studio with whatever team I need to work out the kinks of what we will be shooting. My husband has had to jump in front of my camera many, many times while I confirm lighting for a portrait to make sure the settings are where they need to be. A very good goal to have in photography is to make sure the time with the client/on the clock is used as efficiently as possible so test what you will be doing!

 

Example of testing lighting/angles for e-commerce on handbags:

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Then the same shot but without reflection so client could choose:

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And finally, an example of how the client decided to use it:e-commerce_Photographer_Handbags3