Over the last few years, whenever the topic of my website comes up, I’m often asked “Who does your photos?” People are sometimes surprised that I do all* of them in house. First off, let me say that before I started Etta + Billie, I had zero experience with photo shoots. Over the last four years, I’ve come up with the concepts, worked on styling, scouted locations and even taken a few photos myself. I’ve utilized the existing skills of my employees such as photography and photo editing. Though it’s a serious process and takes some planning, I think an in house photo shoot is completely doable and the most cost effective way to get fresh material for your website and other marketing purposes. Plus, it’s kind of fun. Read on for my tips for doing your own editorial style photo shoot.
Why are you taking these photos? Are you creating images for your website, marketing materials, press materials, or all of the above?
Once you answer these questions, you’ll be able to start planning your photo shoot. My recent shoot was for holiday and for products that I haven’t yet featured on the homepage of my website. The photos will be used to add fresh content, highlight limited edition product and for marketing materials like holiday postcards.
What product are you going to shoot? Is this a seasonal shoot? General product shoot?
The answers to these questions will not only influence what product you are actually going to shoot but also where you’ll take them and how they’ll be styled. Need inspiration for styling a shoot? Get yourself over to Pinterest! Months before a photo shoot, I search certain terms like “editorial” and “holiday” to find image inspiration. I look for shoots that flow with my branding. I keep a private board for all my photo finds, organizing them by season. This makes it easy to reference while I’m setting up a shoot and I can share the images with my staff/photographer so we are all on the same page about the “look” I’m trying to achieve. Once you know what you want to accomplish, you can start making a “shot” list and collect objects/materials you think you’ll need.
Note: Be sure to share your shot list with your photographer.
When are you going to do the shoot?
The answer to this question really depends on question number 1 and 2. Think about editing time, vendor lead times for marketing materials as well as any press lead times. If you’re shooting Xmas holiday images and you also want to pitch to press, you really need to do your shoot in June (early July at the latest) since national magazines will be finalizing their holiday issues by the end of July.
Where will the photoshoot take place? Is there a certain look you are going for?
Some shoots require simple backdrops (see the photo above - taken on the concrete floor of the loading dock the building where my studio is located), others may need specific surfaces such as a marble counter top, bathtub or a leather couch. For the more complex locations, think about friends or family who may have spaces that would work for the look you’re after. I’ve done at least four shoots at friend’s homes. The key to any location is natural light. Other location options: hotel rooms, airbnb’s or your own apartment.
Note: all the shoots I’ve ever done take far longer than I think they will. Be sure to give yourself at least 4-8 hours depending on how many images you want to get. For my holiday shoot last year, it took about 6-7 hours to get about 4-6 usable images. This is especially true if you are not using a professional photographer and are also going to style everything yourself.
Who is going to do the shoot? Are you going to take photos yourself or hire someone? Will you need help styling or setting up your shoot?
If you have a nice DSLR camera (or access to one) and know how to use it, there is no reason you shouldn’t do the photos yourself. Just keep in mind that this will definitely take longer and you’ll probably still need to do all the editing yourself unless you have a VA or a friend who is will to take that on. If you’re like me and have VERY basic camera skills, consider hiring someone or ask a friend that you know has a passion for photography. Through my network, I’ve found some great photographers that were really reasonable priced. Don’t know anyone with mad photo skills? Consider contacting your local community college, art school or university. There may be a student who is willing to work for less so they can build their portfolio. Another way to reduce cost is to share a photographer with a fellow maker.
Note: if you’re hiring a photographer, be sure that you can check out their work in advance and contact references.
Other bits of advice:
- Bring multiple units of each product you're planning to photograph, just in case.
- Bring more props than you think you’ll need.
- Build in time for a break, especially if you get hangry.
- Overestimate how much time you’ll need for each part of the process.
- Refer to your shot list often. This helps keep you on track and you’re less likely to miss something important
I know there is a lot to think about when setting up a photo shoot but I hope this helps you feel a bit more confident about process. You can do it!
*current images on my site are thanks to the very talented sister duo Lydia & Emilie