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.

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

 

12/30/13

2013 Miami Photographer “That’s a Wrap!”

Congratulations on making it through another year! 2013 was a great year of working with long-standing clients and some awesome new ones too! Thank you to everyone who used Kate Benson Photography in 2013 and I hope that 2014 proves to be one of your best years yet.

In 2013, I photographed all kinds of things. Excitedly at the start of the year there were ad campaigns, lots of portraits, and products, while at the end of the year a big e-commerce photography push came in which really kept me busy. So during 2014, my resolution is to use my time as wisely as possible. Update my website (a frighteningly overdue project that keeps getting pushed to the back of my to do list), blog with at least a little more regularity, and shoot some personal work are all on my list. Seriously, I think some of those were on my 2013 resolution list as well. Does anyone ever do their resolutions? I’ll have to find out in 2014 I guess!

Stay tuned for a great 2014~

 

 

04/10/13

Kate Benson Photography Miami | Jewelry Photographer | Editorial shoot for Inspirato Magazine

In February I had the pleasure of working with Inspirato Magazine for the first time. They are a great team and need a Miami photographer to capture a group of jewelry pieces from designer Loren Jewels. Funny thing, when I went to her website I saw she was the designer of pieces I had been lusting after on Pinterest (cigar band ring, yes pleeeeease). So naturally I was very excited to be the photographer for the shoot.

Some of my favorite moments came from the challenges of the styling the image. The pieces were shot on large leaves that were not even close to lying flat, causing issue after issue. But the excitement of solving these issues (how to get earrings to look perfect while they are sloping down the side of a leave, without knocking over the ring or bracelet delicately balanced on the same leaf) made it a very fun shoot!

Here’s the shot!

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04/9/13

Kate Benson Miami | E-commerce Photography for Shoe Designers

I’m getting ready to send out my first email blast for e-commerce photography. This is going to be geared totally towards shoe companies and what I hope to do is show some new companies what they are missing out on by not outsourcing this (to me, of course). We all have things we are better at when it comes to taking pictures. I did not know that shoes would be one of the things I just get. It is really ironic because 1/2 the time I shoot, I’m barefoot. But there is something really beautiful about the design of shoes that I respect. So today, draft after draft, I have started writing my email. I want to make sure it will still have my voice in it. But how do we as photographers write original marketing pieces that sound professional? Where is the line of familiarity drawn? I don’t know these people, but I want them to get an idea that I’m a friendly, easy going, photographer who can make life so, so much easier for them. What images do I include? Lastly, how do I write this so it doesn’t sound forced?

Of course this is the day my husband does training and so, alas, no bouncing emails off him. Do you think it’s an abuse of the ASMP leadership list to email all the members and ask them to check my grammar? Don’t worry, I will only toy with the idea. Your VP knows that no one reads those emails anyway. Ha! Just teasing again!

Well, moving onwards and upwards, here is a little angle compilation shot of some of my typical e-commerce photography for shoe designers. I’m no graphic designer but what do you think? Hopefully this along with some clever writing will capture the interest of many shoe companies that don’t know what they are missing!

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03/15/13

Kate Benson Photography | Miami Photographer | The chaos.

It feels like March just started. Actually, it feels like it is still February. I have lost all concept of what week it is. I know there is a lot of traveling coming soon, but how soon is a blur because I really have no concept of where we are in the month anymore. All I know is that I have been busy. Like, the busiest ever, and it is great! I’ve been shooting everything from editorials for magazines in Colorado to Billboards and TV commercials. Portraits, e-commerce (like crazy), and more portraits have eaten up March. To be fair, I suspect they ate quite a bit of February up too. And speaking of eating, who has time for that? I knew I was forgetting something today!

My blog is neglected as a result. But that is probably the best excuse for neglecting a blog you could have.

My studio is destroyed. I still have an umbrella open on the shooting table, stuffing for bags everywhere, steamers out (but off), lights everywhere, lenses everywhere, etc… because as soon as I shoot, I jump on the computer to bust out the retouching as fast as possible. I can’t be cleaning up! There is no time for that!

But I’m getting it all done. I think I can thank RISD for the ability to handle choices like, work, eat or sleep without any issues (work unless your work starts to suffer because your too hungry, work unless you eyes aren’t focusing anymore and then take a 20 minute nap -no more, no less, 20 is the perfect number). And also for my ability to make anything with a box cutter and some cardboard (actually had to use that skill yesterday while shooting some vintage Chanel handbags). The RISD alumni out there get that all too well.

Really, I can’t wait. I can’t wait for the moment a client gets back to me with his/her selections and I get to dive in and retouch it. I can’t wait to share some of this stuff on my blog and website! I love seeing the way an image finalizes. I love retouching because I have so much fun shooting and I get to explore those moments again in post production. I’m incredibly lucky to be able to do this for a living!  Meeting new people is such a wonderful part of what I do, I find myself smiling while I work on their images, happy to have had the chance to capture a piece of who they are or of what they create!

And now, that moment is here. I hear the ding of my email telling me it’s time to get back in. Maybe I’ll grab a cliff bar and some more coffee first though.

 

12/28/12

2012: Miami Photographer | Recap.

2012: A year of tremendous growth as a photographer and for my business. One of the highlights of the year was being elected to the position of Vice President to our American Society of Media Photographers South Florida Chapter (ASMP-SoFL). I felt missing connections to other photographers in my Miami life. Part of the reason I left the Boston area was because I couldn’t connect with any of the other photographers there. But through ASMP-SoFL this year, I met some truly amazing photographers and people who I consider friends now. Helping run the chapter was enough to keep anyone busy, there was a huge learning curve and coming to the board for the first time, then being voted in as Vice President, it was a trial by fire for sure. But worth it and I’m excited to keep working with ASMP-SoFL in 2013. I also have to thank 2012 for a barrage of new clients. Working as a photographer means spending a lot of alone time in the studio/in front of the computer/etc. Getting to meet new people, new clients, and interact with them is a huge highlight of being a photographer. This year I had the pleasure of starting relationships with so many wonderful people. People I would be thrilled to spend time with off the clock as well as on. I know I had a blessed year when not one of the clients who hired me did I have a difficult time with. So thank you to all who found their way to my studio this year! Not to be discredited, my existing clients. Year after year I’ve had the pleasure of watching some small businesses become big companies, some big companies transition gracefully, and I love all of it. These clients come year after year, month after month, and some week after week and are the lifeblood of Kate Benson Photography. If their companies suffer, so does mine. Happily 2012 was a great year for them as well and I congratulate all of those amazing teams of people for doing so well and being so awesome to work with. Naturally, no one knows what is in store for the future. I’m optimistic that 2013 will be another great year. Life can change a lot in a year, businesses can change even faster. I hope for everyone to have a Happy New Year and pray that 2013 will bring happiness and fulfillment to you all!

01/30/12
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Ecommerce Photographer Miami

Welcome to Monday. My day has started with retouching the 422 photo’s I took of shoes Friday. I’m completely beat from running the Miami ING 1/2 marathon yesterday and I am booked Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday this week. Glad that the fashion accessories e-commerce photography business is booming but also have to laugh a bit at the “when it rains it pours” truth in my life. Next week is also scheduling up really full and all I want to do is take a nap! I’m only 307 photo’s away from that nap…. Which basically means I’ll be working through the night. But after the changes that have happened 2012 so far, I’m happy for the work and to be busy is always good for a freelance photographer.

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01/8/12
Pinterest Screen shot

Miami Product Photographer | Kate Benson Photography | E-commerce Photographer

Ecommerce photography, e-commerce photography, e commerce photography…. it is so new I’m not sure which would be the right way to say it, I see all three, often. When the buyer used to go to the store, pick up the bag, feel it, handle it, look at it on her/himself (equal oportunity shopper), they would know they loved it and make the purchase. E-commerce has changed all that. Having just gone through the holidays I can say first hand that I shop online. Why would anyone ever want to go to the mall or shops on a weekend in December and buy gifts when they can sit at the computer the instant the idea for the gift hits them and buy it right away? Or better yet, when you can go to Pinterest and see thousands and thousands of beautiful products/gift ideas and then buy them instantly? Like many who have found Pinterest I have become a devoted “pinner”. As a woman who likes beautiful things (follow my pins if you like, but I warn you, I am a bigger nerd than you imaged, by far…. and I use my married name, Kate Trotter) I am obsessed with Pinterest.

I hear you, you want me to get to the point. What do e-commerce and Pinterest have to do with each other? First an explaination in my own words of what Pinterest is, skip this part if you already know.

Pinterest works like this: you install a button on your browser which says “pin it” and anytime you stumble across any website with anything you want to remember you click that button. The button prompts you to choose a picture from the website to remember the site by, choose a “board” (a category you’ve created, ie. food, clothes, home, etc) and write a few words about it. Then instead of going through your bookmarks to try and find this cool thing you want to remember again, you go to your Pinterest page and see the picture with text and instantly know it is where you want to be. You can also “Follow” other people and when you sign into Pinterest it will show you what cool things the people you like are pinning, you can repin those links directly from there as well. Helping you find cool things in way less time. Here is a screen shot of what it looks like (it’s not all weddings, I promise, that is just what my friends are thinking about today):

Okay, so here is the connection. A while back I read an article in Fast Company magazine, one quote in particular stuck with me, “Across the web, the average sale resulting from a Pinterest user following an image back to its source and then buying the item is $180, according to research from e-commerce firm RichRelevance, compared with $80 for Facebook users and $70 for Twitter users.”  This doesn’t surprise me since I have Adblock installed on my browser and don’t see Facebook ads. Considering how much shopping I have done on Pinterest and how I have never clicked on a Facebook ad it makes sense.

But why we pin what we pin is almost 100% based on the picture. That image has to be perfect. We don’t fall in love with the product, we can’t see the product, we fall in love with the picture of the product and then we want that to represent our experiences with the product when we buy it. Being a small business owner it took me a long time to learn this lesson, I learned it through my website actually in the end, brace yourselves, the lesson is, YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL YOURSELF, YOU CAN TRY, BUT IT WON’T BE WORTH IT! To save money, we who are building our businesses want to do everything. But it ends up costing us more than we think. For the first few years of my business I had a custom website that either I built or my friends built for me. Updating it was a huge pain because I didn’t want to bother my friends and if I did it I screwed things up and spent forever fixing them. Finally one year I said enough. I found a template I loved, with an easy to use back-end for uploading images and text and forked over what seemed like crazy money at the time. Within the first month of the website up I sold a print (if you’ve been to my main site Kate Benson Photography, you’ll see it isn’t exactly fine art focused) that paid for the start up fees and first year of service. In my mind when I justified the purchase I thought, “Kate, if you book one extra job this year you’ll pay for it”. I had no idea it would be so quick to work. E-commerce photography is notorious for being done by owners of their small businesses, not professionals. With earning potential like you get on Pinterest, it is more important now than ever to do those photographs justice. You could have the most beautiful product in the world but if you don’t take the right picture you won’t sell it online. I sometimes get a little preachy to new business clients or potential clients about this, when the profit of the product is less than the cost of the photos it should be an easy decision to take great shots of it. Because if that photo helps you sell 10x the product you would sell if you did your own photo then you’ve made a good call.

But it is equally important to make sure that your website can be “pinned”. Speaking from experience on this one, mine cannot and it drives me crazy. If my website company wasn’t so awesome I think I would have switched a long time ago because of this. But they really have the best customer service I’ve ever experienced, (so no worries guys, I’m sticking around till you get rid of me) and I can be pinned from my blog so I’m complacent for now. But just like Facebook when it went publicly traded, Pinterest too could easily loose its luster. But not yet.

A couple other pieces of food for thought, Pinterest is the 3rd largest social networking site (behind Facebook and Twitter), is 90% female users, and commands (as we pointed out before) over double the average sale of any other site like it. Let me know if you need an invite to join as I’m always happy to send some out, but I warn you, it is addicting.

01/3/12
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Miami Jewelry Photographer | Kate Benson Photography and Earthy Chic Boutique

Recently I had the pleasure of photographing the ecommerce images for Earthy Chic Boutique. This company was started by two incredibly fun sweet girls who sell in Mary Brickell Village but needed to get a website up and running. Jewelry photography is one of the  most complex and sensitive types of photography, do it right and you can beautiful shots, do it wrong and it can look really, really terrible. As many have, the girls did their own photography while putting together their budget for professional photography and as they explained to me, it only encouraged them to get into the studio and get some professional photos right away. Happily we were able to get the pieces in here and turned around in a couple of days (quite a feat since they had over 80 pieces). Well, the girls haven’t got the website up and running yet, but it you love anything you see here go give them a visit in Mary Brickell Village and when the website is up and running I’ll post a link for everyone!

Here are a few of my favorite pieces from Earthy Chic Boutique: