How to run a successful photoshoot

3/11/2016 01:44:00 pm HELEN STILES 0 Comments

Last Friday was the photoshoot for the Hide & Seek Spring/Summer collection – which was chaos, as usual, but I think the best shoot to date. When I started this business I probably underestimated the importance of great photography. I knew that I'd need half decent product shots for the website, but what I didn't fully grasp was a) how difficult it is to take great pictures and b) how invaluable a resource those photographs become. So I thought I'd share a little of what I've learned about how to run a successful photoshoot and get the shots you want!

When you're running an ecommerce business, your photography is absolutely key to your brand. It IS your shop front. But you need to think beyond your website. Of course your website is important, but photography is also critical for telling your brand story, for your social media presence, PR efforts, customer mailings, brochures, flyers, advertising and pretty much any other form of communication you can think of!

If you are selling product, then of course your product photography must be crisp and professional. But don't overlook the importance of 'lifestyle' photography as well (essentially, products styled and put in context). You can't assume that everyone has the vision or imagination to see your products in their life. Some of your customers certainly will, but for others a beautiful shot of that chair or dress or vase in a real setting could be the difference between 'what the **** is that' and 'I NEED that [chair/dress/vase] in my life!' Ditto press – PRs are hugely busy and constantly bombarded with information. Great lifestyle photography can help you stand out (just make sure you also have simple product shots and cut-outs to back them up).

So, how do you run a successful photoshoot to get the best shots you can? Here are a few tips I've picked up (mostly through trial and error). If you're nifty with a camera then these tips may be useful discipline to help you capture everything in one day. If (like me) you'd rather leave it to the professionals, then this list should help you get the results you want from a professional photographer. I've been lucky enough to work with Carole Poirot, an amazing photographer with a great eye, but even so, these tips really help things to run smoothly.

1) Planning is everything. I've found that defining your theme(s) for a shoot well ahead helps enormously. For example, we based the recent SS16 shoot around 3 key themes:
California Dreaming
Modern Tribal and
Desert Chic (can you tell which is which from these pics?)

Having 3 or 4 themes really does provide a focus and a reference point when you're in the midst of a very hectic day.

2) Communicate with your photographer/stylist/team. Walk them through your themes and what you want from the shoot. Share pinterest boards, mood-boards, tear-sheets or anything else that helps communicate what you want to achieve. Don't expect your photograhper to be able to see inside your head (at least not without a little help!)

3) Prepare a detailed shot list. This is something I didn't do in the beginning, but it makes such a difference. Work out which shots you really need, where they will be taken, which products are required and what the overall look will be. Then try to order those shots to maximise efficiency – shooting in one room/space at a time before moving onto the next.

4) Make sure you have your logistics in order; will all the products you need be available? Have you coordinated deliveries? Or will you, like me, be collecting pallet-loads of rugs from the pavement mid-way through a shoot, whilst your photographer waits patiently for your next instruction? (If I hear the phrase 'sorry love, it's kerbside delivery only' once more I may not be responsible for my actions....). Sorry, back to topic!

5)  Think about location. You don't necessarily need to hire a studio or set to take great shots (although go ahead by all means if you have the budget). If your products are of a suitable size, most can be styled at home – against a wall, in the garden, as a still life, against a backdrop (get creative - coloured card, wallpaper, large tiles or sheets of slate all work well as backdrops). Most of the Hide & Seek photography has been shot in our home, when the kids are at school. It causes chaos but so far it works!

6) Get all the shots you need. Another one learnt from experience, but it pays to remember that you may need a wide variety of shots (portrait shots for pinterest and brochures; letterbox shots for webpages; square shots for instagram). It's surprising how often you try to crop a shot for a particular channel only to discover the composition simply doesn't work. Far better to get all the shots you need on the day of the shoot – take some wide angle, then restyle to get a better instagram vignette etc.

7) Do as much as you can to nail the shot in front of the camera. Don't rely on editing software to remove blemishes or correct things that you could have altered in front of the camera. Not only will you save post-production time and costs, but the shots will look more authentic too.

8) Expect to be tired! There is a lot of running around, tweaking, moving furniture, shooting again, styling again, shooting, tweaking again etc etc. And of course at the end of a long day everything has to be tidied, repacked and returned to whence it came.

By way of an example, here is what the other side of the room looked like when we were shooting the images above (excuse the camera-phone shot!)

See the new Hide & Seek Lookbook for the full results! I'd love to hear if you have any more tips for running a successful photoshoot, tell me in the comments.