E-commerce Photographer Miami | How to Produce a Professional Photo shoot, aka “What the heck do I do now?”

Everyone has to start somewhere. Chances are good that if you are reading this blog, you are wondering what the heck do I need to do to produce a photo shoot? It’s OK! No one will tell! In fact you can message me with any questions you might have. My goal is to help my clients or anyone who finds themselves needing to produce a photo shoot. Ready? Here goes!
When planning a shoot, there are a multitude of things to consider in order to make your shoot successful. As the saying goes, “The devil is in the details.” Here are ways to plan out those details to make for a successful shoot. While this is a list of important items to keep in mind, the descriptions are purposely broad with some specific examples given; your distinct needs for your shoot will require you to refine, add and/or subtract items as necessary.

Some of the very first things to take into account are your budget, due dates, the shot list, and usage. Identify the budget for the shoot, and determine how rigid it is. This will help shape the decisions you make regarding the entire production. How much flexibility do you have if unexpected costs come up? Due dates are crucial to keep in mind. When are the images needed? Understanding your time frame will allow you to work backwards in creating a schedule. A shot list is also imperative. Brainstorm what photos you will need. Does your product need to be shot on-model and/or still life? Do you need various angles of each item? How many total images do you need of your product(s)? And don’t forget to keep in mind the usage. How will your photos be used? For advertising? Internally? On the web?

The next thing to plan is the art direction. This is something that can be done in-house or outsourced, but is a significant aspect of your production. Art direction involves sourcing inspiration for your photos (I suggest collecting visual examples for this), making sure the photos line up with your company’s image, and ensuring that the photos convey the mood and environment that you want your product(s) to have. And, of course, this all dictates the type of photographer that you will use. You wouldn’t choose a nature photographer for an action shot of a model, for example. Which leads us to the casting…

Your next step involves casting and determining the details of the actual shoot. Your casting may include hiring models, stylists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and, of course, the photographer (to name a few). You may also need to hire a professional retoucher for post-production. Some photographers can do their own retouching, but it is important to determine whether they can do it well. You then need to ascertain whether you will be using a studio or a location for the shoot. If you plan to shoot on location, you will need to obtain permits or permission to use the site, and you should have a back-up plan in case of weather issues. You also need to consider your set. What inanimate objects will you need to complete the shot? What wardrobe or accessories might you need for the models? Is a manicure necessary due to close-up shots of a model’s hands?

Within the location details (whether on location or in studio) it is essential to plan food and beverages for everyone at the shoot and possibly transportation to and from the site. You may even need to provide lodging for the clients, models and/or the crew, depending on the location.

Image selection is an important part of the process. This can occur either on set or after the shoot. If the photographer shoots tethered to a computer, you can see the images immediately as they are shot. This gives you the opportunity to select your images while on set, and it also allows you to confirm that you have everything you need before the shoot is done.

After the shoot has taken place, there is still work to be done. The post-production work includes file management (naming, re-sizing, and delivering the images as digital files), as well as any retouching that may be required. When budgeting for your shoot, it is important to determine whether these costs are built into the photographer’s fee or will be charged additionally.

After taking all of this into account, the big question is can this all fit into your budget? If the answer is no, it is time to re-evaluate some aspects of your plan. Can you get a higher budget? Can you be more specific in your usage? Can you reduce your shot list? What can be done in-house?

And lastly, don’t forget about payment. When are people expecting to be paid? How long will it take your company to pay?

So, here is a quick checklist to help you plan your shoot:

due dates
shot list
art direction
shoot details
location details
image selection
post-production work

Just remember, this is a list of important items to keep in mind, but the descriptions are broad. You will need to tweak the list depending on your own needs for your shoot.

Here is a handy flowchart for your reference:


New work all over the place!

I’ve been working my tail off, as is the trend when the blog goes silent. But I promise I have been thinking about blogging. Some of the big updates, I’ve hired a fabulous part-time assistant and we have been training and shooting like mad. At first, it’s a little tough because so much training has to happen but then quickly you realize that your time has become way more efficient and you are able to take more clients and jobs than before. The side effect of course is with so much new work the blogging gets pushed to the back of the to do list.
I did find time though to give a quick interview with the folks over at Glamniac which published today! I’m pretty sure this is one of the more narcissistic things you can do, give interviews about yourself and then promote them on your blog, but at the same time I have my mother in town and her comments of never knowing anything that goes on in my life inspired me to publish this anyway.

If you’ve ever interviewed me or talked to me about my work the info is probably very familiar. But it’s still fun none the less to mention! The post also helps me recognize it’s time for a new bio picture…. the bangs were cute but my hair grew WAY too fast to keep up with them (I mean, come on, you see how often I find time to blog, hair is not high on my to do list).

A special thank you to Kat for the flattering introduction and making sure I didn’t sound terrible in my answers!

The Clatter about Klamar

For those of you who aren’t big into the photo world, lately a particular group of pictures has created quite a buzz. Joe Klamar, a photographer with an incredibly successful 20 year career may have just taken the worst pictures of his life. So who cares, right? Photographers have off days and take bad shots every now and again. But when the job on the table is photographing the US Olympic Athletes, you don’t screw it up.
So I’ve been reading all the comments (and making plenty of my own) about the images. If you go to the guys website you can see, he doesn’t suck. But it looks like he sent an intern in to this gig, photographing some of the most accomplished Americans. What is blowing everyone’s minds is how could this photographer shoot people who have worked so hard their entire lives for this moment like bad senior portraits?

Here is the Kate Take: This is not what he shoots. If you go to Klamar’s website to view his award winning, internationally published, work you don’t see ANYTHING like this. To be well rounded in photography you have to shoot everything all the time. That is just not the way this industry works. What we are taught to do, conditioned by art buyers, agents, producers, etc, is to master one look. Make it synonymous with our names and success will come. So if you call a photographer at the top of his or her game, make sure you are calling because what you need is a shot that they take.

The AFP decided to send in one of their top guys to this. They thought, “hey! Let’s send Joe! He’s amazing!” they didn’t think, “which of our photographers is going to roll with the punches and be prepared for anything” since they clearly didn’t have the right idea of what this event was (as was made clear by Joe’s statements post-shoot, “I was under the impression that I was going to be photographing athletes on a stage or during press conference where I would take their head shots for our archives,” he explained. “I really had no idea that there would be a possibility for setting up a studio.” It was the first time AFP had been invited to participate in the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Media Summit) this is a miscommunication that destroyed a photographers reputation.

The article the AFP put out for their damage control made it even more clear, using the pitch “we love these photos…. they are just what we wanted… yup! We’re very happy!!” I hate to be Debbie Downer here but no, I’m sure the AFP isn’t happy. But I’m sure Joe is even more upset. As a photographer, we know when we take crap pictures. Joe is the one who has to live with this. I didn’t know who he was until I saw these shots, many others are in the same boat. We only know him as the photographer who took the worst portraits of Olympians ever. He knows that is what we are all thinking.

Joe is a master of his shot, which now, I have to wonder, is he just getting lucky? Because of these images, a photographer I otherwise would have thought had a great eye I know think gets lucky. I think he puts the biggest CF card he has in that camera and holds the shutter down taking as many pictures as he can before the camera has to process it. One must be good, right? How else can we excuse the way he doesn’t look through the lens and see how horrid the angles he is shooting are? That there is ZERO connection between subject and photographer?

In my imagination, I see a photographer showing up unprepared and trying to fake it till he makes it. Jumping around, making a big production about how he is shooting and paying no attention to what he is shooting. Bravo for taking risks but if the angles don’t work, try another!

So form your own thoughts… take a look at these images and let me know, do you think this is just breaking the mold brilliance or are they crap pictures? This is the first page Google Images search…

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.

The most useful site online

Ever wanted to try out a new lens, light, camera, before deciding if you want to buy it? The prices at Borrow Lenses are the lowest I’ve found and that includes my local Miami rental shops, (sorry guys!). Every type of photography (food, jewelry, portrait, wedding, architecture, etc) can be done best if you have the right gear, but why drop 2K on a lens that you need for an assignment every once in a while. Just doesn’t make sense. So I’ve become a fan of Borrow Lenses because those special assignments (for me usually architecture and I need a TS-E lens) would not pay for the gear needed to shoot it right. Go check it out and you may find yourself bookmarking the page. I’ve always had great experience with them.


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