Good photographs sell products pt.2

Styling Tips

Continuing from part one, since you’ll be paying for your model and possibly a small crew, you’ll want to maximize your time on the set of the photo shoot. If you haven’t hired a stylist, here are some tips on how to prep.

  • Be sure all your samples are clean and ironed.

  • Keep an iron standing by (pre-heated), it’s difficult to Photoshop wrinkles out and takes much less time to just do things right the first time around.
  • Organize your samples by shot list before you arrive (so you don’t have to run around wondering which piece is next).
  • If your samples are delicate, protect them from the model’s makeup (a simple shower cap over the face while she’s taking them off/putting them on is an easy, disposable fix… poke some holes in it for air).
  • Make sure the sample fits well, keep straight pins on hand to tighten anything that’s too baggy where it shouldn’t be.
  • If you’re shooting clothing that needs a specific undergarment, bring it to the shoot (recommended reading).
  • Be sure to provide shoes if needed, in the right size for the model (more about protecting shoes).
  • If the model will be wearing shoes, you’ll be providing them. Make sure you get the model’s shoe size.


Modeling Tips
Before the shoot, flip through magazines and catalogs to see how other companies present their garments. Find something that you’d like to emulate. Look for key body positions. Where are the model’s hands? How does she have her legs arranged? Is she smiling? (A key to getting customers to buy!) Tear these pages out (or print them if they’re on the Internet) and bring them to the shoot. Show them to the model and make sure she follows your direction. One trick is to make sure the model keeps her chin up and out/forward.This is also an area where an experienced professional can really save time/effort. A professional can hit poses quickly and perfectly. With amateurs, you’ll often find yourself taking dozens of shots and hoping the model hits the pose. I imagine having a stylist on hand would help as well.

Marie Claire magazine features a section called 101 Ideas that is great for sourcing catalog-type poses. They’ve changed format but look for one of the old issues. July 2006 or previous.

Location Choice
Studio may seem like an obvious choice but depending on your brand you may choose to use a location, interior or exterior. The pros of using a studio are: your lighting can be set up beforehand, there is space for the crew to work comfortably, lighting can be more easily controlled. If you shoot on location, be sure you have enough room for everyone to work and a place for the model to change. Most importantly, make sure that the location adds to, rather than distracts from, the clothing that you’re trying to sell. Again, look to see how other retailers are managing their location choice. Often it will be good to have a mix of shots on location and in studio.

Photo Editing/Photoshop
There are a number of programs on the market to help you edit, correct and improve digital photographs. We use Photoshop. Photoshop allows you to do all sorts of useful things. Take the Miami II top again.

The garment the model is wearing is red and black. The aqua and black (as well as all other variants) were color corrected in Photoshop. Neat, huh? Or, some other things you can do:

Original

to

Here’s another:
Original

to

Conclusions and Advice
It is very tempting to try and cut corners with your photography. Resist this temptation. Regardless of whether you decide to shoot on live models (our preference), flat, or on mannequins, use the best camera, under the best conditions, with the best photographer and best models you can afford.

While $200/hour for a model sounds expensive, we’ve found that we can shoot eight garments and usually get a few set shots for front pages, category images, “lifestyle” shots etc all within two hours. That works out to be $25 in modeling expense per garment, which in the greater scheme of your cost structure is just a rounding error.

Caveat: I’m not a professional photographer. Please don’t send me questions specific to cameras, settings, lights, or other. I can give you general answers based on our setup but discussion of shutter speeds, apertures, f-stops, and strobes makes my eyes glaze over. (That’s Amy’s department anyway.)

For some friendly photo advice and feedback, try the DuRoi Fashion Only Forum. Many amateurs but enough professionals to balance the boards there.

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6 comments

  1. jocole says:

    these posts have been just what i’ve been needing. i hate my photos on my website, and now i’m convinced, if i want more sales i need more professional photos. thank you so much mike for taking the time to write this out.

  2. Vesta says:

    Our Creative Director (a trusted contractor who provides all of the creative direction we need outside of textile prints and product design – which is my job) provides a list of footwear to our models to bring to the shoots. He liaises with the clothing stylist, providing her with samples of the products to be photographed; she puts together outfits to coordinate, in the sizes of the models we’ve contracted; she tells him what shoes/boots will be needed for those outfits. Then each model brings all of the shoes they might need, in case they end up in any one of the outfits.

    Just writing this out reminds me why I pay this person to coordinate our photo shoots. There is a tremendous amount of coordination to be done, including one or two cattle calls, stylists (hair/makeup and clothing), photographers, locations, food for all-day shoots, payments to be arranged – as well as pricing negotiations. I appoint one of my staff to take lead on the project internally, and the two of them let me know when and where to show up and how much money to bring.

    It’s pricey in dollar terms, but I calculate the value of my time fairly highly these days, in the grand scheme of getting company business accomplished. Photo shoots won’t do me any good if the products aren’t getting produced because I’m busy coordinating photographers and models. Of course, our shoots are especially complex because of the involvement of babies and the need for semi-skilled models, who know how to use baby carriers.

  3. Megan says:

    Great articles! Photography is a huge issue for me as a jewelry designer. Making a necklace come alive, making the stones “speak” in photography, is SO important. Buying jewelry is much more tactile event so having photographs where people can “feel” your work is so important. I’m still struggling with it, but Photoshop is my friend! :)

    These posts relate to more than clothing so I really appreciate them.

  4. Mike C says:

    What version of Photoshop do you use? Did Amy take classes, use help books, or figure it out for herself?

    Photoshop 7. A new version (CS3) is coming out in February and Amy’s indicated that we should stick it in the budget.

    We figured out the basics ourselves and then used the web to search out tutorials on things we didn’t.

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