Your product images are the heart of your brand. They're the star of your online store and the bread and butter of any good ecommerce marketing campaign. Not only do they help your customers understand what you’re selling, but high-quality photos showcase the value of your products and can literally help you increase sales.
Whether you're working with your team in-house or outsourcing to a professional photographer, you need a good brief.
In this blog, we'll dive into what a good photography brief looks like and how it can help do your products justice. We include example product photography from ecommerce brands, and show you how Dash (that’s us) can help the process.
You can also grab our free photography brief template.
What type of photographer do you need for your brand?
If you don't have a photographer yet, you might feel confused about what type of photographer you should pick. Should you work with a freelancer or an agency? Do you need a commercial photographer or someone more specialised like a food or fashion photographer? Here are some options:
A freelance photographer runs their own one-person business and often has lots of different clients they work with. Freelancers can either be generalists or specialists, with varying levels of experience.
- Generalist freelance photographers: These folks have a breadth of experience in lots of different types of photography projects. They might do event photography, portrait photography, commercial photography and more. A generalist might be a good option if you sell loads of different types of products and don’t want to limit yourself to one particular style.
- Specialist freelance photographers: A specialist will have mastered the art of one particular type of photography. That could be fashion, travel, nature, interiors, food—the list is endless. This is a great option if you sell one type of product and you’re looking for someone who’s worked with brands in your industry.
Every experienced photographer will have unique perspectives and this might be what you need to get a new spin on your product photography. But it also means you’ll need to make sure your photographer is fully briefed on your brand goals and the style you want to achieve in your images.
A photography agency is a business that employs several photographers. Like freelancers, agencies often specialise in different types of photography, so you can choose one based on the type of industry you’re in. For example, Studio G specialises in product photography for small and growing ecommerce brands. Whereas Nusa Films works with a broader range of clients across different sectors like sports and fitness, pets and tech.
Your agency might have its own brief that you can fill in before each project, but it's still worth getting clued up on what to expect.
If you’ve got the budget, hiring a full-time photographer might be the way to go. Unlike freelancers and agencies, an in-house photographer will have the time and space to get to know your brand inside out. Whilst they’ll still require a good brief, they’ll have a better understanding of what each photoshoot needs to achieve and the briefing and feedback process will be quicker.
Where to find a photographer?
Now you’ve got a better idea of the types of photographers and agencies, where should you find them? Here are some places to start looking:
- Ask around your network: If you work in ecommerce, there's a chance someone you work with can recommend a photographer or agency. Perhaps they've worked with one in a previous company, or they have connections on LinkedIn.
- Social media: Socials are a great place to make connections and spark conversations with potential freelancers. Try LinkedIn to find photographers in your area. Or, head to Instagram where you can find reams of professionals and agencies who often showcase their work on their IG accounts.
- Freelance listing sites: There are lots of freelance listing sites across the web where photographers showcase show their portfolios. For example, Contact Agency (who just so happens to be a customer of ours) is a booking platform that puts you directly in touch with creatives. You can search for photographers, filter by 'ecommerce', shortlist the ones you like the look of, and book in some work. You can also use Contact to book models for your shoots.
11 things to include in your photography brief
Once you’ve found a photographer, it's time to brief them. Many freelancers and agencies will have their own photography brief templates, but it's still worth knowing what the brief might contain. And, if you want to draft up your own, make sure to download our free photography brief template.
1. Your brand values and target audience
Your brand is unique, and so are your expectations for the photoshoot. A photographer won’t fully understand your vision unless you communicate it. Is your brand personality edgy and rebellious? Or are you focused on sustainability and giving back to your community?
You'll also need to tell your photographer who your target audience is. A brand selling lunch boxes to school-age kids is going to have a very different vibe from one selling lunch boxes to professional adventurers. Take a look at these two images from Smiggle and Yeti. It's instantly clear who their target audience is.
2. Your products
This may sound obvious, but you need to be specific about what's in your shot list. In other words, which products do you want to capture? Your photographer might not know who you are or what you sell, so make sure you’re clear about what your product does. You could send them some samples beforehand so they get to feel, taste or wear your product in advance.
3. The channels your images will feature
Where are your finished photos going to feature? Perhaps you need images for your next Google ad campaign, or you’re looking to refresh your product pages. Maybe you’re hoping to produce images for multiple channels. Either way, make sure to include them in your brief.
Most online channels have different image size requirements, so your photographer might need to change lenses or tweak the lighting to ensure the photos are appropriate for the channel. Take the hygiene brand, Wild, as an example. Here are two images that look like they were taken in the same shoot, but used for different channels.
4. The type of photograph
Knowing what channels you’re going to use will help you decide on the type of image you’re after. Perhaps you need a clear product photo shot against a white background—perfect for your product pages. Or maybe you need some more candid photos like lifestyle images that are ideal for promoting in online magazines. Defining this will also help you work out whether you need extra models and props.
One of our customers, Haws, uses beautiful product shots on their website category pages. In this case, a plain background helps emphasise the quality and shine of their watering cans.
5. The ‘mood’ of the shoot
What do you want people to ‘feel’ when they look at your images? Evoking emotion in your audience will encourage them to buy your products, so this needs to be reflected in your photography.
Food photographer, Emma Dunham, suggests picking three words to sum up that feeling. For example, adjectives like ‘cosy’, ‘warm’ and ‘homely’ helped Emma turn this photo of unappetising Portuguese tarts, into something that makes your mouth water. 😋
💡If you’re a food and beverage brand, you’ll want to check out Emma’s full article on food photography tips that’ll actually help you sell more products.
6. Angles and aspect ratios
Make sure you or your photographer has thought about aspect ratios and angles. This is especially important if you're shooting variations of the same product, or products that have the same dimensions. You don't want one new flavour of your drink to be taken at a different angle than the next, for instance. That'll look odd when visitors are browsing your online store. For inspo, check out Misen who uses uninformed product shots in their category pages.
Make sure to detail the angles you need in your brief. And if you’re unsure of what you’ll need, your photographer can offer guidance.
7. Dates, location and schedule
Think about the date, location, time, and other shoot details. If the location is new to you and your photographer, consider pinning a sketch or photograph of the place so everyone can visualise what it looks like. If you're shooting outdoors, include an alternative solution in case the weather goes south.
This jumper by The Ragged Priest was obviously shot on a sunny day. We’re hoping the brand had a Plan B in case the heavens opened.
8. Props and backdrops
Are there any supporting props you’d like to include in your images? Is there a particular backdrop you want to frame your products against? This is the time to let your photographer know. Emma says:
“Different props add a different feel to the image and help bring your products to life through context.”
We love this example from perfume brand, DS & Durga, who use props to evoke a sense of danger and adventure in their latest product. We’ll let you decide whether you think the crocodile is real. 😨
9. Models and crew
Let your photographer know if there’ll be anybody modelling your product. This is especially relevant to fashion brands, as well as photoshoots capturing lifestyle shots. It’s also worth letting them know any key people from your team who'll be there to lend a hand. Giving your photographer a heads-up means they can factor this into their preparations.
10. Examples from other photoshoots
It can be hard to put into words the vision you have in your head. So provide your photographer with some images that you love from other brands. These could be examples from a previous campaign shoot or examples from other brands in your industry.
You don't need to copy your competitors, this is just to show examples of styles that you really like. Equally, you could show photoshoots that you really don't like so your photographer knows what to avoid. ❌
11. Budget, deadlines and feedback process
Finally, make sure you include all the nitty gritty admin details. That’s things like your overall budget, deadlines, contact details and how you’d prefer to give feedback. You can also include information on how you’d like to receive the photos. Do you want them sent over in an email (not recommended!) or do you have a smoother system like a digital asset management tool (like Dash—that’s us 😇) that they can upload the final project to?
What happens before the shoot?
There's a lot to remember in a photography brief, but don't worry if you don't have the answers to all these sections. Emma has some great advice if you're feeling a bit overwhelmed. She says:
"A good photographer will guide you through all parts of the photoshoot briefing process. They'll ask you questions on all of the different areas and, usually, at least one Zoom meeting will occur before the shoot to go through your expectations and to make sure everyone is on the same page. I also put together a shoot list and send it to my clients— it details everything I'm going to be working on for each image and takes the guesswork out for everyone involved in the photo shoot."
What happens after the photoshoot?
After your photographer has captured your gorgeous product photos, what happens next? You should scope out this part of the project with your photographer during the briefing stage so you’re all on the same page. Here are a couple of points to consider.
After the photoshoot, your photographer will have loads of RAW files of your product photos. This is all the data captured in the camera before it’s compressed into digital files, ready for viewing on the web. Your photographer will compress them for you, but you’ll want to check whether they include any other types of edits as part of their contract. If this isn’t something they do, you might want to consider hiring an editor or asking your design team to get involved (if they're not already).
Giving feedback to your photographer
Giving feedback is never easy—especially when working with a professional photographer. But if the finished images aren’t to your liking, it’s important to let them know so they can tweak them. It might be a case of adding filters or adjusting the composure so it's in your preferred style.
In this instance, it's really easy to give feedback using Dash.
Dash is a DAM tool for ecommerce brands. It’s the home for all your creative assets including image files, videos, brand guidelines, logos and more. As well as searching and deploying visual assets, you can use it to create approval workflows with your external partners. This is how it works:
- Give your photographer “contributor access” to Dash. They’ll be able to upload assets, and they can view folders you give them permission to.
- In their user permissions, you can select an option that means that anything they upload will require approval.
- Any assets they upload will go into an approval area. From here you can accept the photos you love, and reject the ones that need extra work.
- For the assets you reject, you can add comments and feedback.
- Once your photographer has worked on your suggestions, they can reupload a new version of their images.
Getting your images ready for your online channels
Finally, once you’re happy with your images and you’ve signed them off with your photographer, it’ll be time to get them ready for your channels. 🙌
As we’ve mentioned, Dash makes it really easy to search, organise and deploy images to your marketing channels. Here are a few things you’ll be able to do with your new product shots:
- Organise your images using tags and fields
- Use keywords and filters to quickly find your images
- Add usage rights and expiry dates—ideal if you've got time-limited contracts with professional models and influencers
- Resize and crop your photos for your social channels
- Easily drop your images from Dash into your Shopify product pages
- Create public portals so your resellers and agencies can easily grab your new product images
And that’s not all. Read all of our digital asset management features to see how Dash could be the new home for all your visual assets.
And, if you’re ready to try Dash, you can sign up free for 14 days, no strings attached.