Producing a catalog

If you work for a large company with an actual marketing department, chances are your involvement will be minimal. The smaller the company, the more you will have to be involved.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’s a matter of sticking some cute outfits on some models, take pictures, Photoshop and print, right? Well, not quite. Here are some things to consider before you start. Some of these may be obvious, but I think this is a good checklist of things to consider for every photoshoot.

It turns out that producing a catalog is more about juggling schedules. The perfect photographer, models, stylist, makeup artist, hair stylist, CAD artist, and printer won’t mount to much unless you can get all their schedules in sync with your deadlines. Oh, and don’t forget you have to pay all these fabulous people, so make sure they also fit into your budget.

When choosing the photographer and models, keep in mind what your collection is about, the mood you want to convey. There is no best model, there is only the best model for the job at hand at the price you can afford. Remember to schedule a preliminary fitting. You can tuck and pin during the shoot, but the clothes should basically fit.

If you work for a company that doesn’t produce a full line (the company I work for is 90% jackets and coats) you have to consider the rest of the outfit. It can’t just be the hottest outfit, it has to be the outfit that makes the item shine. The item you’re selling has to be the focus. Each picture has to read “This whole outfit won’t work unless you buy this jacket. The jacket is what makes this model look so good.”

You may want to cut your expenses and style the shoot yourself. (Even cheap stylists can charge around $1000/day.) On that note, make sure you have all the clothes you need prior to the photoshoot. Models, makeup and hair stylists, and photographers are expensive and many charge by the hour. You can shorten the time spent at the actual shoot if you plan in advance. Style your outfits and buy the clothes and accessories you need. Nothing is more frustrating than realizing in the middle of the shoot that a pair of brown cords would be so perfect with that jacket, but you didn’t think to bring any. And time spent figuring out outfits while the photographer sits idle and model is changing outfits multiple times, ruining her hair in the process, is just wasted money and energy.

If your line is a full collection, try to merchandise the line so that you’re pairing items most wouldn’t readily consider. All your blouses would look great with jeans, but everyone’s figured that out already. Pair a blouse with a skirt most wouldn’t put it with, make it look amazing and all of a sudden, people are more interested in both items. Remember the goal is to sell.

When deciding how many photos you need, keep in mind page formats and printing. Do you want an accordion or a regular booklet stapled in the middle? If you want a booklet, you have to think 16 pages, 20 pages, 24 pages, because each sheet of paper becomes 4 pages. Think about paper type and weight. Think about your potential bestsellers–maybe you want them to have a full page while others only a quarter shot. Maybe you can shoot some items flat on the floor. You can shave off some model and styling fees this way.

Think about captions, what copy do you want on each page, what font to use and what color? Think about your cover. Also think about your back cover. Think about where you’re going to print your pertinent information like contact and ordering information.

Lots of forethought and planning can drastically reduce cost and keep the energy upbeat and flowing smoothly at the actual shoot, which should be your biggest goals. The last thing you want to do is produce a beautiful collection and then showcase it poorly by slapping together a shoddy presentation.

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  1. Beverly says:

    Great post on catalogues (Canadian spelling)! I do a black and white catalogue twice a year for our supply business and we use mostly line drawings to show product. I can whip up a detailed technical drawing very quickly using Corel Draw or Illustrator. If you are inclined to use the computer to draw with, I can highly recommend a book called Fashion Computing by Sandra Burke, printed this year.

    But going back to garment catalogues, Ive admired the European bra companies (Lejaby, Simone Perele etc.) which tend to have one photo of each style in the front of their catalogues, but have line drawings (flats)in the back. Each line drawing also list all the different products associated with that style. So if bra 1234 has matching briefs, tanga and also high cut leg, they don’t show all the panties in colour in the front, but they make sure you know they are available and in what colours, in the back. Just a different way to approach it.

  2. One of the companies I used to work for used to do a beautiful, glossy, teaser catalog and send it to a million people and if they wanted to order, we’d send them a linesheet with black and white flats and all pertinent ordering info. There are lots of ways to present your collection, but that bra company’s idea seems pretty good too.

  3. Jeff says:

    Good intro and ideas for overview of catalog production. I will add that, as a past production coordinator for a European photographer in Los Angeles, one must realize that someone must not only direct the shoot, but also produce it, as there is always a budget to keep in mind. Never could one assume the photographer or the client could do it. The key was always knowing what was required and, this always involved pre-production meetings.

    Our goal was to be on time and under budget for our clients. This is what made them most happy because, from experience, they new these things could easily get away from you, especially on location. I was constantly on shoots with budgets of over $250,000. While 15% was profit, it was really quite easy to see the other $212,000 being eaten alive. Often, there is an element of having to babysit some of these “fabulous” people one encounters on such projects, especially on location, where everyone has their special needs and, they all seem to come out of the woodwork when you take them away from home.

    You are right about planning as being critical. It takes a lot of imagination to produce a completed photo shoot in your head, and on paper, before one starts the clock. This is true whether the budget is $250,000 or $2,500.

    Now that you are the client, try and think through as much of the details as possible, beginning with the end in mind. I was always impressed when the client rep new what they wanted and, was at ease.

    I am just now planning my own shooting schedule. (hang tags, website, POS, marketing material, merchandising, possilbe catalog images, all considered.)I am the client and, I have a low low budget. But with some experience and thorough pre-production coordination, I can save lots of time and headaches by knowing exactly what I want and, take the straightest, cleanest path to the end result. The photgrapher will love you for it. So will everyone else. Bottom line: as the client, consider your self as head of production coordination as well.

    The single greatest thing for everyone involved is: “That’s a wrap.” People will enjoy working with you again, if you have this mindset.

  4. ef says:

    I have to say that everything that verbalcroquis said is very important.

    As one who creates catalogs, ads, POP, packaging, etc. Planning is the most important part of this process even before you consider taking pictures!

    I can’t stress this enough, if you are making a catalog plan it out to the smallest detail! Figure out exactly what you want on each page. The best thing to do is to draw out the layout of each page, and draw out each shot and label each piece and angle, even if it has to be stick figures , arrows and descriptions. The motion picture industry always does this and good graphic designers, too.

    As harsh as this sounds, for saving your time and money (and dream) you have to remove as much of the creative problem solving and standing around as you can from the people doing the production, as this is how the price goes up and moves you farther away from what you want. Make some pictures and tell the Photographer and designer ‘this is how you want it’ – nicely.

    It may seem silly, redundant or ‘crushing the creativity’ of the shoot, but trust me, this will save you HOURS and even DAYS of time, which means mountains of cash and ensures you actually get what you need,without reshoots and lost time.


    P.S. Love the site!

  5. HI all,
    Good article and great advice…one additional thing….Please, please , please do not use your friends sisters cousin as your model or your daughter (because she’s just beautiful) I produce photoshoots and catalogs for a living and can not tell you how many times I have had this fight with my clients….the funny thing to me is they all complain their previous (before me) catalogs were unprofessional looking…..and then they have all these demands…not realistic…if you have never done this type of thing before please hire a professional or at least consult with one…it will save you tremendous time and considerable money reshooting.
    Look we all know everything in Fashion is about Image…so when you step back and look at your images do they really reflect your company/Brand and are you proud of them or are they “not so bad considering my budget”….believe me there are a hundred ways to negotiate with Phtographers, Models, agents, stylists, hair and make up and crew that will keep costs down but still produce a collection of images you will be proud of when they do a retrospective of your career in 50 years! :)

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