In one of our previous how-to articles, we discussed doing pre-production for your marketing imagery for either a commercial photo shoot, or video production, and how to narrow your target audience and plan for images that would appeal to them. If you haven’t done that step, please look back at that article. You can do that part alone, or with your photographer, if they specialize in marketing strategy. For this discussion, we’ll pretend that you’ve already given some thought to your ideal client, and the imagery that would appeal to them, so we won’t recover much of that ground.
Look At That Fabulous Toaster!
Let’s start with the premise that you’re selling a toaster. It’s a nice looking toaster with advanced features that might be found on a more expensive toaster, but this one is made in China, and is pretty affordable for what you get. You want to sell a bunch of these, and need professional images to help. As a first step in planning a commercial photography shoot, you’ll meet with your photographer to share your image specifications and stylistic vision with as much specificity as possible. Not only will this help the photographer to get a mental image of what you’re trying to create, it will also allow the photographer to determine what staff and equipment will be necessary to complete the job. This should allow him or her to provide you with an accurate bid.
Planning A Commercial Photo Shoot
In order to guide us through planning a commercial photo shoot, here’s Schnebly Hill Media’s pre-production worksheet that you can download and refer to. Let’s go through this step by step. The first thing to note, and one that many don’t initially think of is, when do I need these images? Am I on a deadline? This can affect your budget for sure. Remember the old adage that there are three elements to every production scenario: “THERE’S FAST, CHEAP, & GOOD. YOU CAN ONLY HAVE TWO OF THE THREE.” If you absolutely need these images yesterday, it’s likely that you’ll need to sacrifice on either price or image quality. Hopefully you won’t be in this position, cause you’re a planner! As part of our production overview, we also like to take a look at who are the stakeholders in this production. If you’re a single owner/operator with a spare bedroom full of toasters, this is you and only you. Or, perhaps your husband or wife should be included in the mix, to look over the images when completed, to help you spot issues you might miss. It could be that you’re a marketing assistant who is handling your first commercial photo shoot, and the Director of Marketing has ultimate authority, along with the Director of Sales and the Director of Product Development having some advisory role. These are good things to note to your production team. It might be a great idea to have the photographer loop these team members into communication going forward to get their input on the process and specs. They might catch something you missed!
Target Your Audience
The next area where we like to focus is on identifying the target audience, their characteristics, and their beliefs regarding our product. As we’ve already covered this pretty thoroughly in a previous article, and this usually happens more thoroughly in a second meeting, we’ll only say a few things here. As a commercial photographer, it’s immensely helpful to me that at this early stage, clients can briefly share with me their target audience and what makes them tick. I’d love to see sample images that show the look you’re going for in regards to both the product and who is your potential client. Does your toaster need to be featured on a pure white background? Does it need additional space around the image for text or graphic work? Is the toaster polished chrome? If you want lifestyle shots of your toaster in action, how to envision these images. All of these details make a difference in setting up and planning a commercial photo shoot, so anything you can share will help. However, I digress. This is something that can be developed more in the second meeting, but having some ideas at this stage is great.
Commercial Photo Distribution & Specs
One of the next key considerations for the commercial photo shoot is, where are the images going to be used? Sometimes people will need images for selling that fabulous toaster on Amazon, where the image specs might be quite different that what you’d present on the company’s Web page, or even a blog post or Etsy. What if you get an opportunity to sell these toasters in a retail store? Will you need images that can be enlarged to poster size? Print resolution sizes are quite a bit different that what you’d need to upload to the Web. Make sure you plan for that. Think of every potential use for these images and what styles you might need. Perhaps you’ll need square cropped images for some things, but portrait or landscape for others. Sometimes you only have one item for sale, but would like to add others in the near future. If your branding is unique, or you just want to be consistent in the look of your images, let your photographer know. If you decide to add more images later, your photographer should measure distances and setup details very carefully so that the process can be repeated. Better to plan ahead!
Photo Shoot on Location?
A final thing to talk about with your photographer when planning your commercial photo shoot is where the session will take place, and who will be involved. You might need product shots on white, but you’ll also want lifestyle shots with the product being used. Can the product shots be done in the same place as the lifestyle shots? Will you need a studio space, or can this shoot be completed on location? This is where you’ll need to begin to pay attention to some details. Will the model who appears with your toaster be an actual model? Will it be a staff member? Friend? Who will do the model’s hair and makeup? Will they be responsible for that themselves? What about clothing and style considerations? These are all details that will need to be worked out by you and your photographer before you begin. It’s these little details that make the bulk of difference between your commercial photo shoot and one completed for a major brand: details. They all matter, and getting them right on set saves time and money in post production work.