To Produce or Not To Produce? Thoughts on Doing Your Own Photo Shoots.

To Produce or Not To Produce? Thoughts on Doing Your Own Photo Shoots.

Click, click, flash! E-commerce startups can go in two directions when faced with the decision about how to show merchandise –  produce their own shoots, or use the designer or brand’s stock photos. We believe that whenever possible,  producing your own shoots can contribute success to your startup and here’s why:
First, a disclaimer: this article isn’t intended to convey that you must produce your own photo shoots in order to have a successful startup. It’s a comparison of companies that produce their own shoots versus those who use images given to them by the designer or brand. Also, just to be clear–we’re talking about photo shoots consisting of live models and sets. Merchandise on mannequins need not apply.

Producing your own photo shoots for your e-store.

Here’s our pros and cons to producing your own photo shoots:


You’re making your site easier to browse. Clearing out the clutter always makes for a more welcoming e-store. Producing a continuous thread of photo shoots creates a less complicated, easier-to-view site by allowing the clothes to speak for themselves.

You won’t run into any legal issues. Well, that is, as long as no one steals your photos. However, once you’ve paid the price to produce your own shoot then those babies are all yours.

You can be your own visionary. Every brand has their own vision and design, so why would you use somebody else’s? Using outsourced images would be like Van Gogh asking Picasso to paint on his canvas. Get the point?

Photo shoots are fun! Starting up a company can be tedious; emails, contracts, meetings, training staff, research, financials, more emailing, more meetings.. Ah! Take a break. Photo shoots are an enjoyable way to get your creative juices flowing and put your other business-related issues on hold for a short while.

They can be pricey. Whether it’s creating your own studio space or renting one, photo shoots don’t come cheap. Be prepared to have a budget set aside for a well-executed photo shoot.
They’re time consuming. When undertaking a shoot, you must be ready to devote a good chunk of time–or perhaps even create a new position that can solely focus on producing them. You’ll need to hold castings, find photographers (for more exotic shoots) and coordinate hair and makeup–all of which are not speedy tasks. The output of your shoot becomes the face of your company. It’s what drives the customer you’re directly targeting to your site, therefore expediting your product efficiently is the most imperative mission of them all.
It can be an added stress. Imagine the stress that you deal with on a regular work day and multiply it by, um, a lot. Not only are you dealing with dozens of designers/brands, but you’ve now added talent agencies, management companies, and time scheduling. That’s an instant additional crop of humans you’re interacting with, all with conflicts of interest and perhaps ulterior motives.
Creating your own studio space vs. renting one.
Save yourself some loot and set up your own studio space. If you’re an online retailer, chances are you’re going to be gathering a lot of merchandise. Rather than renting a studio space for $100+ an hour and hiring a photographer for basic brand shots, you should simply create a studio space within your office (you’ll need about 100 sq. feet for basic backdrop shots). This set-up will consist of a backdrop ($25+ a pop), lighting (starts at $600 and can go up to $2,000), backdrop stands ($100+), and a highly-recommended DSLR (which costs anywhere from 1,500-10,000). For these cameras, you’ll need someone that knows how to photograph manually. The three main elements you’ll need to be familiar with in order to operate a DSLR are the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. While this might sound like gibberish to a non-photographer, it is somewhat uncomplicated and can be easily learned. This might help you out.
Shooting therered is the process of syncing your photos immediately into your computer device. It’s an effective way to increases your productivity and cuts your time in half by allowing your art director to approve or dismiss images in real time.

Using Stock Photos 

“Can we use your images, please?” More and more these days, etailers are opting against using stock photos. While we’re big supporters of this decision, there’s still reasons why using stock images might be right for you.

You save money. If you have a solid relationship with designers, then there’s no reason why they wouldn’t supply you with free stock photos of their product.

You’ve saved time. You’re not going through the hassle of any of the processes mentioned above. Enough said.

Your design concept might be rerouted. Imagine if your direction is avant garde minimalistic, yet you carry Marc by Marc Jacobs. That means bright colors, prints, and maybe retro-inspired imagery. Your modern aesthetic may now look interrupted by equivocal images. Cohesive brand shots keep a customer engaged. When was the last time you read a book with different fonts in each paragraph?

You’re not expanding your network. Needless to say, networking to business is like peanut butter to jelly. The outcome is much tastier when combined. Cutting out this whole side of the fashion industry is not the better decision. They’re well-connected, fabulous, and an overall creative network of people to have by your side.

While algorithmic sites aren’t likely to produce their own shoots, they should be the only exception. Subscription, flash sale, rental, and especially e-commerce sites seem to be jumping ship to self-production more and more each year. We feel that this is a sure sign that producing your own shoots is an effective method for online retailers. Don’t get discouraged if your startup can’t afford them immediately, but do strive to do so when your business is lucrative enough. Even go that extra mile and produce an on-site shoot for your hero area. Get creative, and mostly importantly–have a good ol’ time!

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables.