You know you need an e-commerce product photography shoot; but do you know the most cost-effective way to bring the right team together? There are many roles required for the day to go smoothly, and we thought we’d take a minute to walk you through who does what – in terms of prep and on-set responsibilities.
Who does what on a product photography shoot?
At The Line Studios, we are often asked how to best staff a product photography shoot. We always work to strike the right balance — while you never want a team that seems to be sitting around all day, you also don’t want a set filled with people frantically racing about trying to do more than they are capable of. Having the right mix of people with clearly defined roles will ensure that the day runs as efficiently and smoothly as possible.
Unsurprisingly, different product photography shoot types have different staffing requirements. Below we have taken a look at who you need for On-Figure and Still Life shoots.
Have more questions? You can always reach out to us to talk through your unique shoot needs.
SHOOT TYPE #1:
E-commerce on Figure
If you need your product shot on model(s), this is the shoot breakdown for you. Knowing exactly which shots you need (front, back, side, 360 video, etc.) will help determine both the team and the number of shots possible per day.
Think of the photographer as the director of the orchestra. They are there to shoot, but they also determine the rhythm and the energy for the day. Surrounding him or her with the right team means they’ll be far more engaged with the shoot, resulting in a more productive day.
The digital tech is the organizational hero of the shoot. Working hand-in-glove with the photographer, they are systematically organizing all the digital photos and assets as they get captured in real-time. This requires checking the shot list is being correctly adhered to, and that all the photos are properly named and filed.
The last thing brands want coming out of a product photography shoot is a spaghetti ball of jumbled product images, that will require hours of sorting when the brand team gets back to the office. Digital techs also help the photographer set up the lighting and equipment, so they are pretty much worth their weight in gold!
With e-commerce lighting, it’s not often that there are major adjustments throughout the day. We typically leave out the photo assistant for an in-studio e-commerce product photography shoot to make sure there is no one just idling on set. However, if you are looking for multiple lighting variations or background changes, that’s when you might consider including this role.
There are two ways a brand might use a stylist:
- A brand might need someone to put together their whole collection in a marketable way for their ecom site (which often requires a separate ‘Style-out’ Day).
- Or, the brand may have already assembled its looks and just need an on-set expert to help ensure that everything is looking perfect during the shoot – checking items fit properly and are styled according to the brand’s standards.
In both instances, the stylist will be hands-on with every single look throughout the day, dressing the model and making sure each garment is fitted correctly and looks good on screen.
With the stylist laser-focused on the set, model, and images, the assistant has to make sure each and every garment is fully prepped. This includes any steaming or ironing, as well as putting things into the right order to ensure smooth outfit transitions during the shoot. The Stylist Assistant often partners with the Digital Tech throughout the day, advising on which item is being shot, and confirming file names and SKUs…. another essential role to ensuring everything is organized when the final images are delivered.
In general, hair styling on e-commerce product photography shoots is kept fairly natural and styling isn’t overly complicated. That said, it still takes a great hair stylist to make it all come together and create a look that will last through multiple outfit changes throughout the day. On many ecom sets, it’s possible to get an amazingly talented Hair Stylist that can also do light make-up. If there is more than one model, however, this is not recommended. Hair Stylists have to be super attentive to the model when she’s on-set, constantly monitoring for any stray fly-aways or shine that will make retouching more difficult.
If there is more than one model or the brand wants a more directional makeup look, then a makeup artist is needed. Also, think about what is being shot — if hands and feet are a major component of close-up shots, you may need a nail artist instead of/in addition to the Makeup Artist.
The selection of a model or models is key to a successful shoot. When we cast for clients, we are not only looking for someone who will represent the brand and resonate with customers but also someone who is going to come to set with the right attitude and energy – because this tells during the shoot, as well as in the final image. Whether you want one model or multiple models will definitely shift the overall scale of the shoot, so if cost is a concern, maximize one model for an overall smaller crew.
For more straightforward ecom sets, an Art Director isn’t necessarily needed. However, when it comes to dynamic cropping, lots of movement, and an environmental set, it’s an important role to fill.
The Art Director will know exactly what the client is looking for, help make sure the shots are captured to the brand’s needs, take decisions to keep the shoot moving forward efficiently and choose final imagery selects. Art Directors often make sense when a client cannot be on-set themselves.
To get an Art Directors unique perspective on how to get the most of a photo shoot, please check out our fascinating interview with Anne von Hemert, Creative Director of Briogeo.
SHOOT TYPE #2: E-commerce Flat Lays
If you want straightforward still-life images of your product, this is the type of shoot you are looking for. While it may seem like you could just hand off your product(s) to a photographer and tell them to get snapping, there are still a few crew members we would recommend:
Again, choosing a photographer who is in sync with the vision you have for your ultimate product shots is key. It is important to select a Photographer who has a depth of experience in your particular category (for example, just because a photographer does a decent job with fine jewelry, does not mean they will be good at shooting beauty products). Giving the Photographer a clear mood board and a defined shot list will set everyone up for success.
Most of the time you can get away without this role on Flat Lay shoots. Exceptions to this rule are:
- the shoot requires multiple set changes, or
- the shotlist includes products of very different sizes and dimensions, or
- the product requires very complex lighting. (e.g. for fine jewelry)
This role is essential for most categories and each category might require a different specialist. So if you are shooting soft goods and fine jewelry in one day, you may need specialists for each.
This is another role that may be needed depending on the shot count, product requirements, preparation, and set changes. For instance, if you’re shooting 70 SKUs of clothing, the styling assistant will help the shoot run more efficiently by steaming and prepping all those garments.
How we Staff
The Line Studios works with a combination of Freelance and in-house talent. Just like finding the right model is important, so too is bringing together the right crew. When selecting a team we look at their experience as well as their aesthetic, making sure they’re in tune with our client’s brand vision. And – equally important – we look at each crew member’s energy and attitude – we always want to make sure the set is a fun, harmonious, and productive environment.
Any questions, please shoot us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!