Susan J. McIntyre, Founder
PATIENT: "Why do our photo shoots seem chaotic and stressful, and what can we do to improve them?"
CATALOG DOCTOR: "Photo shoots are complex events with a lot of steps (so with potential mis-steps), and lots of people (so with potential strife and confusion). Here are 7 key actions you can take to avoid the major drivers of photo shoot stress and chaos."
More assistants avoids having an experienced (and expensive) photographer standing around waiting for an (affordable) styling assistant to finish steaming a garment or slicing prop fruit.
Catalogers ask for rights that often surprise studios used to shooting for non-catalogers. Be very clear up front with the studio about the rights you need, or you may end up not owning your own photos, and paying royalties for reuse or use in other media. Use photographers willing to shoot as "work for hire" (there are plenty) where you own all rights, forever, in all channels. Do be prepared to sometimes pay somewhat more for all rights. And do not expect to get all rights from shots using models — that's up to the models and their agencies, not the photo studio.
An accurate shot list ensures you book enough studio and crew time. It also avoids last minute surprises like finding "one" coat shot actually meant "plus pocket and collar details", and "flip the coat over and shoot the back too." Some staff who request shots may not have been at shoots and so haven't seen all the re-lighting and restyling needed for "variation" shots, thinking those are 5-minute easy add-ons. Even "old hands" may adopted a shorthand way of specifying shots and so assume you know that "1 coat shot" always actually means 5 shots.
I'm amazed at how often I hear "Oh no, I asked for 5 dozen cupcakes but they only sent me 5!" or "What's this orange jacket? Has this been added to the line? Are we supposed to shoot it?" Getting samples plenty early gives you enough time to review, count, come back with questions, and get more and/or different samples shipped before the shoot starts.
Be sure you have the right email address of the person doing remote reviews and approvals. Check to be sure they're actually going to be available when you need them. Phone to let them know another emailed proof is waiting for their review. It's amazing how much studio time gets wasted just waiting to hear back from someone at the other end of an email send.
You can waste an awful lot of studio time having a mid-level person tweak and tweak a shot to their liking before sending it to the actual decision-maker, and then having the decision maker reject it. Early in the shoot try to send rough looks to the decision-maker early to find if you're going in the right direction. With their input on the first few shots, the shooter and stylists will start to get a feeling for what the decision-maker does and doesn't like, making the rest of the shoot go much faster and more smoothly.
The shot list the studio works from should include the name of the image that works with your current naming system. The name should also make it easy to search on for everyone who will want to access the images later whether for catalog, web, email, social, PR, or ads.
First published on RetailOnlineIntegration.com blog November 2013 © 2013 Susan J. McIntyre