How you can optimise your photography like the big brands - saving time and money
In fashion it often seems that the bigger brands have an unfair advantage. They have bigger budgets, more resource and structure. With all that power behind them it can seem daunting stepping onto the stage with any of them.
In terms of photography this has never been more true. They simply have more, and paradoxically their volume means they have to be more efficient, and so it costs them less than it would a small brand.
However, technology is beginning to level the playing field.
The problem arises when the technology is not affordable for the small businesses.
This is where we come in. We are the only studio in the UK who offers a service to small businesses to use these machines.
We are leveling the playing field, giving small brands the same technological advantages as some of the biggest boys on the playground.
Let’s take a look at an example: Zulily
Zulily is one of the largest American e-commerce companies with a business model revolving around daily deals and offers. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, zulily sells clothing, toys, and home products.
The company was started in 2009 by Blue Nile executives Mark Vadon and Darrell Cavens. Its initial public offering valued the company at $2.6 billion and is now owned by parent company QVC.
Obsessed with bringing moms and tech-savvy women special finds every day - all at incredible prices - zulily is a fast-paced, data-driven and down to earth company with unique and challenging technological problems to solve.
They do all of their photography in house. This gives them complete creative control over what goes up on their website and allows them to develop their brand identity through the styles of photography they use.
Like clockwork, almost 9,000 new products get put up on its front page each and every day for their 700,000+ daily visitors.
This means that a huge amount of products must pass through their warehouse each and every day. It's challenge for even the most efficient photography studios.
In order to get anywhere close to the level of photographic content required for their daily flash sale model, efficiency in their shooting process is of the most fundamental areas of their business to focus on.
It also happens to be one of the hardest challenges for zulily to overcome.
That is when they discovered the StyleShoot machines, the very same machines we at UShoot have in our studio.
"We are producing about 9,000 new products per day, we need innovation and technology that allows us to move fast while maintaining our quality standards"
- Jason Gruenig, VP of Studio – zulily
Importantly for Zulily they needed a model to produce vast amounts publishable content daily without compromising on the quality.
Clients send in their product or bring it in themselves to shoot.
We have all the equipment you might need to prepare product in our studio.
Product is hung up on rails and organised, ready for shooting.
The product os shot on either our fhorizontal or vertical machine depending on the clients specific needs and instructions.
The images are exported. When possible, all images go through a rigorous quality control check.
For more complicated items further post-production may be necessary.
The clothes (and accessories) arrive at their warehouse.
Stylists unpack, then steam and iron to make the garments photograph ready.
The product is organised and hung on rails to make it easy to work through.
Zulily run an in-house model shoot.
The product then goes to the StyleShoot machine, where one of their stylists arranges and shoots it.
The image is exported to a shared online drive which the post-production team can access as soon as the item is shot and put the image through their strict quality control.
This systematic chain of events allows for a fast, and efficient output of image content.
And it looks remarkably similar to our own process...
Where/ how exactly do they save time?
They save time (and money) in two places in this process.
The StyleShoot step.
Using the horizontal and vertical machines they do away with the complicated traditional photography set-up.
The stylists can focus on what they do best, styling. Not only do they argue that it saves them time, but it also allows their stylsts to focus their skills and allows them t unleash some of the creativity.
"We might have been shooting between 80-90 shots a day on our traditional kids garment set and with StyleShoots, we've been able to style upwards of 150 [shots]..so it's been incredible in terms of production"
- Sam Hunt, Lead Photographer – zulily
The Post-Production Step
"It would take us about five to seven minutes per product type to do our retouching, it’s now virtually zero when it comes to StyleShoots…five to seven minutes adds up pretty fast!" says Gruenig.
The StyleShoots machines are all in one self-contained photography studios. This means they have consistent lighting and camera angles. Al you have to do is style and press the button. The machines then automatically removes the background from image and exports in your saved presets. The post-production team then need t only give minor touch-ups to the garments before they are ready to go up online.