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Today on my blog, I’m going to share my process for planning an ecom photoshoot for products. I have a good number of clients who own product businesses, and use shopify and etsy to sell their products! This post is all about how to plan and run a low budget or DIY photoshoot, with models!
Plan an Ecom Photoshoot
This post is specifically written for creators who are leveling up and investing in photos, but they’re still being scrappy with a $1K- $5K budget. If you want a post about how to plan a fully-blown-out product photoshoot with signed models, photographer, HMUA team, stylists, etc, let me know! I’m happy to share that info.
Let’s get started with ecom photoshoot tips!
Pre-Work: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Build the Team
Ok, so before we dive into planning, here’s a list of team members for the shoot that I recommend:
- Photographer’s Assistant (this person will move lights, hold a reflector, etc. This can be someone the photog brings or one of your besties who volunteers)
- Creative Director: For some product shoots, the Creative Director (CD) is often the brand owner or founder. The job of the CD is to make sure everything comes together and looks good. This person makes final decisions and directs other professionals on set.
- Stylist: A stylist’s job can vary. For the purpose of this photoshoot, the stylist will pick clothing items for models (or tell them what to bring), as well as style the day of the shoot. There are a variety of stylists (from food stylists to interior design/set stylists to fashion stylists). For our purposes, this person is responsible for planning outfits and making sure the products look good in the shot.
- Models: Models are critical for the success of a product shoot! There should be bathrooms, snacks and a place for models to sit and wait for their time to be photographed. There should also be a private space for them to change.
- Production Assistant(s): I recommend having 2-3 folks onset whose job it is to get lunch, move stuff and be gophers. i like to have a PA in charge of taking behind-the-scenes (BTS) video for social media and candid shots.
- Model Assistant: For higher end product, it’s a good idea to have an assistant for each model. The job of the assistant is to make sure no one ruins the model’s hair or makeup, as well as to keep track of the product that the model is being photographed with. Photoshoots are hectic, and it’s easy for product to end up on the floor or damaged as a model rushes to change, etc. The model assistant’s job is to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Hair & Makeup: Hair stylists and makeup artists are worth the investment, in my experience, because makeup looks much different on film than in real life. Depending on the number of models you have, you may need multiple HMUA professionals.
- Security/Safety Person: Photoshoots can get chaotic, and it’s easy to misplace expensive tools – or have a creeper in the vicinity if you’re shooting outside. For this reason, I recommend having a more-intimidating looking human onset to keep an eye out and block the vie of creepers.
Step 1: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Creating a Mood Board & ~Vibe~
For any photoshoot, I recommend creating a mood board of images. These images should capture the color story, model attitude and overall vibe of the shoot. I recommend using Pinterest, and I also recommend going to your local thrift store and getting art books to cut photos out of! Old magazines can also be great, as well as your saved photos and screenshots on social media.
I recommend making the mood board IRL, printing images in color. Seeing it IRL does something that digital can’t touch.
The mood board should make clear the color palette, story, model types, etc you want to use. I recommend taking the mood board and using it to write the creative brief! (More on that in a moment.)
After your mood board shenanigans, it’s time to choose a space for your photoshoot!
Step 2: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Choosing a Photographer
The photographer is arguably the most important component of a photoshoot. Some brand owners actually take on the role of photographer, so they can frame the shots they want.
Some business owners work out trades with a photographer, in addition to payment. When looking for photographers, I honestly do it via Instagram. I look for hashtags for my city, and I inquire for rates.
Step 3: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | LOCATION! LOCATION! LOCATION!
When it comes to your first ecom product photoshoot, my recommendation is to take photos in a photo studio. Outdoor photos can be amazing, but inclement weather, organization (ie bathrooms) can be a challenge!
I recommend using Peerspace to find locations for a photoshoot, or googling the city name and “photo studio” to see what comes up.
I’ve done product photoshoots inside of well-lit apartments, and other indoor spaces.
Pick your top 3 spaces and have your photographer review them. The time you choose to book is critical, as the light in the space will change. Be sure to tour the space before booking, and always get the contact phone number of the person running the space. I once got stuck at a location for an extra hour, because I had to wait for the photo studio owner to come and lock up. I didn’t have their number and it sucked.
Step 2b: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Choose a Date & Book
I recommend booking a photoshoot 1-2 months out, so you have enough time to gather everything you need.
Step 3: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Model Call & Selection
Next up is choosing models! A signed and professional model is going to have a day rate of MINIMUM $1K, and that’s outside of big cities.
I recommend using your top customers as models, and you can also run a model call to get submissions. Be sure to have models sign a release so you can use their images. Some brands don’t pay their models, and this usually blows up in their face.
Either find folks who are looking to do trade photoshoots to build their portfolio or call in favors with your besties, lol.
Not everyone knows how to move for a camera, so I recommend screening for folks who have had performance training. Theater or dance experience usually means the person will move a bit better in front of the camera. Bloggers and influencers can also be a great pick, as we take a lot of photos (lol).
The model call should detail:
- Time commitment
- Day of shoot
- Photographer name
- Photo release contract
- Payment terms
- Accessibility info
if you choose to have a makeup artist on set, be sure that they have a “full kit” and can do makeup on all skin tones. I’ve met fake-professional MUAs who ask models to “bring their own concealer.” This is NOT what a professional MUA does.
Step 5: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Creative Brief & Shot List
Next up on our journey is to write a creative brief. This document outlines the goal of the shoot, mood, shares imagery and aesthetics. The brief should detail outfits, makeup and poses for models. It should also include a specific shot list.
“Wait, a shot list?”
A shot list is a list of images you want to get from the shoot. I recommend listing exact images you want, as well as including example images for your photographer.
Organize the shot list by model.
Model Name: Jessica X
- Product Name: X earrings
- Shot Framing: Model in profile, photo framing shoulder up, selling X earrings.
- Specific Shots: Get headshot, shoulders up shot, just ears and model looking over shoulder.
- Outfit: Model is wearing white top and dark wash jeans with bare feet.
- Expression/mood: Model’s expression is calm and reposed.
- (Attached example image showing a model for another brand in a similar pose).
I like to print out the shot list, and mount the shot list on poster board, to be hung in the space (sometimes I’ll bring easels if shooting outside). Knowing the flow is critical.
It’s also helpful to outline how much time each shot should take to get. Don’t spend 2 hours on one product if you need to shoot 30!
Step 5: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Create a Schedule for Day
From here, you’re going to want to create a photoshoot schedule for every team member. This should include arrival time and what they’re doing.
Here’s an example of a makeup artist’s schedule:
- 6AM – 6:30AM | Arrive on location and set up space. There will be 2 outlets available with power strip, as well as a chair for talent.
- 6:30AM – 7:30AM | Model #1
- 7:30AM – 8:00AM | Model #2
- 8:00AM – 8:30AM |Break
- 8:30AM – 9:30AM | Model #3
- 9:30AM – 10:00AM | Touch up // add to Model #1
- 10:00AM – 10:30AM | Touch up // add to Model #2
- 10:30AM – 11:00AM | Touch up // add to Model #3
The schedule should include a break every two hours, and note a time for lunch and the time the shoot will end for that team member.
Sometimes, a MUA will do everyone’s makeup, and then spend the rest of the day touching makeup up. Other times. the MUA will start with the most simple face and then add to it. (For example, for my alien photoshoot, we did more glam/natural faces in the morning, and added in the blue makeup in the evening.)
Step 6: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Photoshoot Prep
From here, you’ll want to create a list (are you seeing a trend here) of everything each team member and model is bringing. If you need models to bring specific shoes or have clean nails, this should all go in an email titled “Photoshoot Prep & Packing List.”
Here’s a blog post I wrote with info on what models should bring.
The week of the shoot, you’ll want to make sure all products are ready. Keep everything organized, and I like to pack different looks or products in suitcases. I like to assign a suitcase to a model, so I know everything that I have for that model is in that suitcase (roller suitcases also make clean up easier).
Step 7: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Photoshoot Items to Have – Packing List
A photoshoot can feel like planning for a freakin’ intense wedding, and here are items I have onhand:
- Tide To Go Pens (Pack of 10)
- Clorox Bleach Pens
- Product tools (If a product breaks, you need your tools onhand to repair or hack a repair! This could be pliers for jewelers, a sewing machine/kit, etc)
- 2 steamers for clothing (1 might break)
- 2-4 gallons of distilled water for steamer
- Sharpies to check off shot list
- Snacks // Water (3 bottles per person on set, minimum)
- Charging banks for phones (Also ask team members to bring these)
- Extra phone chargers (I like the squid chargers for different devices)
- Wet wipes
- Folding Chairs – 1 for each person
- Table(s) to put out products for shots – I like this folding table because it’s lighter weight than a regular folding table
- Table(s) for MUA. // The MUA will likely bring this, but you need to check
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet Paper (A lot of people using 1 bathroom can mean TP runs out!)
- Micellar Oil
- Disposable cameras for selfies // content to use later
- Garment Rack for clothing (collapsable)
- Nail polish remover & cotton balls
- Clothes pins
- Fan/blower if needed for photos // Can probs rent this!
- Tampons & pads
- First Aid Kit
Step 8: Ecom Photoshoot Planning | Day of Shoot
When it comes to a photoshoot, I recommend doing the most important stuff FIRST. For example, if you need to get shots of specific products for a launch, prioritize those shots.
A photoshoot is a lot like a wedding, in that things WILL go wrong. Go with the flow and also know when to stop everything to get what you need.
Need help planning your ecom photoshoot?
I offer 1:1 sessions with creatives to help them plan their photoshoot day. A Pick My Brain session can be used to get my feedback and insight on your current plan, or I an make a schedule and creative brief with you in a Strategy Session. More info on these sessions here!
Helpful Blog Posts
Here are a few blog posts that I think you should read next!
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