The Inside Scoop is a series that chronicles the ups and downs of starting a Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) apparel company from scratch...in the middle of a pandemic.
Note to founders: take any photos with you in them at the
BEGINNING of a shoot, before you get sweaty fixing things.
We are officially less than a week out from the launch of our Kickstarter, and it has been a whirlwind! Kickstarter is a highly visual platform so it was high on our priority list to get beautiful photographs of our product.
Photo shoots are INTENSE! They're also a lot of fun! This was the first time Jane or I had ever been a part of one, and we were in charge. Scary thought! Learn from our mistakes (or at least laugh at them!) in this behind the scenes look at Frankly's official photo shoot.
COVID-19 protocols add another dimension of complexity to a shoot.
To have a successful photo shoot, you need five main things:
- A Plan
- A Photographer
- A Shoot Location
- Product Samples
We were shocked at how expensive a professional photo shoot can be. As with everything, you have to choose where to spend and where to be thrifty. We were quite frugal and still spent upwards of $2,000 on this shoot.
A plan consists of a vision and execution. Set your vision early. What adjectives do you want people to use when they describe your brand? A dreamy, romantic vibe leads to very different choices than a preppy, upbeat vibe. This should influence the photographer you choose, where you shoot, and (hopefully!) is already reflected in the clothes you make! For day of, you need a call sheet. This is what tells people where to be when, and in what clothes. It will include a shot list of the photos you want and who will be in each one. Choose the set / backdrop for each shot, and don't forget to build in time for the models to change outfits! Whenever possible, optimize your call sheet to minimize outfit changes. This is fair warning that everything will take longer than you think, even if you build in contingency. Do your "must have" shots first, while models are fresh and you are not rushed for time. Our photographer kindly stayed slightly over her time to finish things up with us, but this is NOT the norm.
Our call sheet was very scientific - based on my wedding planning experience!
This person controls much of your destiny when it comes to imagery. You'll want a photographer that can do both lifestyle (natural "IRL" shots that showcase how and where to use your garments) and product (technical images for showing details and selling on your site) photography. It is important that you like the photographer's lifestyle shots, as product photography is more commoditized. Photo shoots are typically charged for half days (4-5 hours) or full days (8-10 hours), and sometimes additional charges apply per photo. A half day photo shoot can run anywhere from $750 - $5,000, depending on the photographer and location.
Save or Splurge: Splurge. If you're really trying to keep costs down, look for photography students or friends looking to expand their portfolios. We highly recommend our photographer, Meg, as an economical option in LA.
This is how photographers get those seamless
"floating" product photos for websites
A Shoot Location
You need somewhere to take your photos. It is 100% possible to do this for free at someone's home or outdoors in a public place. This was probably easier pre-COVID. Now, if you're shooting in public or a tighter space, your models should wear masks. You also need to be willing to have more natural product shots (against a wall instead of on a seamless backdrop). If you're willing to spend a bit more, look for a location that has multiple backdrops or "sets" so that you can get variety and be sure to book a studio with plenty of space for people to spread out. Peerspace and even AirBnB are great places to look for studio space that fits your vibe. When shooting outdoors, beware of permit laws! We got shut down before we even got started at one location because shooting required a permit fee in advance.
Save or Splurge: Save. While there were plenty of spaces we looked at that cost hundreds of dollars an hour, you can easily find something great for $50 - $75 / hour or go the free route.
A few of the different sets at our studio space.
Ah, models. I am here to tell you that professional models are pricey! They know their angles and how to show your clothes to their best advantage. They need little to no direction on set, which will make your studio (and photographer!) time more efficient. Like photographers, models are typically booked for a half day or a full day, but can sometimes be hourly. Half day rates are $500 - $4,000 per model. Plus agency fees (typically 20%). If you want customers to see your clothes on different bodies, this will add up fast. You can keep costs low by just using one model for everything or by using amateurs. Our friends modeled for us, in part to be thrifty, but in part because it was important to us to showcase real women in their real lives. All of our models knew each other which made the chemistry on set magical, and let everyone feel more natural as they interacted. Our photographer had to stop taking photos several times because the ladies were making her laugh so hard!
Save or Splurge: Save. This is a personal decision, as we are blessed with many gorgeous and generous friends who were willing to spend their day with us. If you want professional models, ask for fresh faces. These are models just starting their careers, and you can often get them for half the price.
Our photographer taught us that repeating "watermelon" and having authentic laughter are the best ways to get natural looking candids.
The real question here is: how many, what sizes, and what colors. The more samples you have, the quicker your photo shoot can run. If no one is sharing samples, the models can change as soon as they finish their previous shot, instead of waiting for someone else to finish so they can have that particular dress. If you only have one model, this is not a concern.
Save or Splurge: Splurge. Chances are, you will need the samples for other things, as well. It's worth getting them early so you can use them for photos. If you're looking for ways to save, only use one color. A good retoucher can often alter the color in post-production to match any additional colorways you offer.
Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 related delays, we weren't able
to get our samples in a full size run. A huge bummer for us as an
inclusive brand, but we made do with what we had!
Other Things to Consider:
We opted to do hair and makeup in our hotel room to save on studio costs
- Hair and Makeup: Our team at Angeleno Beauty did an amazing job to get our models looking their best and feeling confident. Hair and makeup is optional (it's amazing what retouchers can do in post!), but highly recommended. Expect at least $150 per face+head, although you may be able to negotiate a half day rate for multiple models.
- Styling: Have models bring their own shoes. We also had our models provide their own jewelry, accessories, and bottoms (for our bodysuit shots). We gave them a list and they brought several options for us to choose from. This worked well for us, but most professional models will expect you to provide all styling elements, and give direction to hair and makeup to achieve your chosen look.
- Changing Times: Build in at least 15 minutes per outfit change. We built our call sheet so that only two of our four models were changing at any given time. That way there was no wasted time for our photographer. She was able to shoot 1-2 people while the others were changing.
- Retouching: Post-production is a modern miracle! Light switches on the wall? Poof, they're gone! Weird shadows? No problem! Know how much and what kind of retouching you want done. While some brands may want full blemish removal and digitally enhanced makeup, others embrace the natural and beautiful imperfections of each human. Think about this in advance. Often times the photographer will do batch or individual edits, or you can send out to a third party retouching service.
- Fashion Emergencies: Pack a kit! Make sure your snacks are not messy or greasy, and that your liquids are clear. We also recommend a steamer, bobby pins, safety pins, blotting sheets, Tide to Go, handheld fans, drinking straws (keep that lipstick fresh!), fashion tape, wet wipes, a hair dryer, and packing tape. Packing tape? That goes on the bottom of the models shoes so they don't track dirt onto white sets.
This is just one of the amazing photos we received in the end!
We were thrilled with the results of our first photo shoot. We also know better what to expect for next time. Our budget will look a lot different, and we will go to the studio early to make sure the A/C is on! Do you have any other photo shoot secrets to share? Add them in the comments!