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How to Plan a Photo Shoot for Your Clothing Brand

How to Plan a Photo Shoot for Your Clothing Brand

Planning a photoshoot for a clothing brand is as exciting as creating the apparel collection itself. To make sure the process goes smoothly, especially for first-timers, we have compiled this step-by-step guide.

Liz Kasian

Apr 27, 2021

Months of creating concept, designing, choosing fabrics and manufacturing are done. You have your beautifully crafted, stylish pieces. Just a final step has left – a photoshoot, and your apparel are ready to win your future customers love! A proper photoshoot may multiply on the glory of your new fashion pieces or take away from its grandeur by failing to highlight its strengths and understate its softer spots.

To make sure the process goes smoothly for first-timers and experienced ones alike, we have compiled a step-by-step guide on how to plan a photoshoot for a clothing brand. For extra insider immersion, our client, Ms. Gina Gargiulo from American Exchange Group has kindly shared hacks and tips from their own experience while working with photography production. Please, meet Gina!

We need new photos every time we have new or key styles, and images are used and posted across multiple channels. So, product photography made professional is crucial. And we always love seeing how our products turn out!

– Gina Gargiulo, E-Commerce Coordinator at American Exchange Group

Photoshoot for Your Clothing Brand: 101

Is boosting conversion with product images real?

Imagery has gained incredible social and commercial weight in all realms of our lives – and only video can compete in its selling power with photography when it comes to ecommerce. But due to file size restrictions on product pages, we know for sure, that product photography will hardly ever be replaced by video.

This is why planning a photoshoot is one of those skills, that every marketer and fashion industry business owner must have as default settings. Great photography is needed for product pages of an online store, for social media, for blogs, for press releases. Professional product images are proven to increase sales and conversions.

Particulars of a photoshoot process for a clothing brand

Every industry has its own rules when it comes to product photography. Fashion, namely clothing, shoes, and accessory business, is no different. Let’s quickly enumerate the particulars of the clothing brand photoshoot:

Particulars of the fashion photoshoot:

  1. Often involves models for lifestyle and editorial photo sessions.
  2. Must have a theme, strict adherence to the brand book and mood of the collection.
  3. Requires props in the specific stylistics and color scheme.
  4. Preferably has out-of-studio shots (street, nature and public spaces images)
  5. Goes all the way from the smallest detail to group photos of the entire collection of bird’s view images of a model in action.
  6. May need a lot of team members to make it happen: make-up artists, stylists, hair-dressers, photo-editors, assistants, etc.
  7. Fashion photographer rates may vary greatly from $30 per image to a few thousand per images – the only industry, that sees that big a gap in hourly rates depending on the folio and reputation of a photographer.

Fashion store example
Great example of tastefuly used product photography: Ditto Africa fashion collection

Types of Photoshoots for Clothing Online Store

To properly plan a clothing brand photoshoot marketers must have an exact idea where the resulting images will be used: on product pages, in a fashion blog, in social media or an article.

The purpose of the session also helps to understand which type of shoot best fits the bill. Ask yourself just how much story you want to convey with the images? Below are a few examples of potential scenarios when professional product photography comes handy to a fashion brand:

  • To tell a story of a new fashion brand launching on the market.
  • To advise existing clients of a new apparel/shoe/ accessories collection.
  • To provide information on the social initiative involvement, upcoming event or a fashion show participation.
  • To accompany an informative article on a website blog with original purposely-made content.
  • To communicate with your audience on social media & strengthen brand awareness via visual content.

Whatever is your purpose, understanding it is important to best select the type of clothing product photography most suited for the function. So below we list 3 major types of a photoshoot:

Product photography against background

Usually done in a clothing photography studio against a white or light homogeneous background. Products are positioned flat on a table (lay flat mode), shot on a ghost mannequin or shot at an eye-level while hanging or pinned.

Fashion creative directors and marketers usually use this type of product photography to provide content for showcase on a brand’s website, for product pages in an online store or use on social media with some extra text or graphics incorporated into them.

Lifestyle photoshoot

In this type of a photoshoot, the focus of the photographer is still on the product itself, but more context is provided for the featured item: a model, real-life backgrounds, props. This is a fantastic way to outline, pinpoint and bond with the target audience.

Editorial photography

The editorial shoot speaks beyond the product but goes up to a more abstract level: the level of the brand essence. The editorial photo session is about storytelling and creating the image, the soul, the karma of the brand. Editorial photo sessions are the priciest ones, require a lot of planning and resources to work as a point of differentiation of a brand among thousands of other similar brands. So they are placed at the very top of the clothing product photography pricing. Editorials are used for a fashion magazine interview or a first-page commercial, a brand launch is also a good time to choose this type of a photoshoot.

product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Costs of a Photoshoot for a Clothing Line: Pricing Principles & Rates

On the US market, which is one of the most advanced markets in terms of ecommerce and the biggest amounts spent online, product images start with 25 dollars per image and go all the way up to thousand dollars per image. We have elaborated on a topic of pricing in product photography in detail in our blog, but are happy to recap some major points below in case you have not read the article yet:

  1. Photographer’s experience, reputation and portfolio play one of the major roles in terms of both: pricing and the quality of the resulting images.
  2. Team, studio rental, shipping are all-important cost centers to take into consideration when planning a photoshoot.
  3. The product images are classified into Single product photos and Group product photos. Group product photos are images where 2 and more products are pictured in one shot. So the more products there are in one image, the bigger the rate per image.
  4. Depending on the type of shoot, complexity level and number and quality of the team involved, a clothing photo session may be charged:
    - by the hour / by the day
    - by the image (usually – the more images, the deeper the discount)
    - by the product (more difficult to shoot/retouch – more costly)

Look at the example below: we picked products of different complexity categories, plain T-shirt laying flat is much easier to shoot and retouch than transparent mesh top:

product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

Guide and Tips for Photoshoots for Beginners and Small Brands

For smaller or younger clothing brands photoshoot will be one of the major costs after the design and production of the merchandise.

While many ecommerce platforms, like Shopify, provide free website builders, it is cheap and easy to make a decent-looking website with payment systems all integrated.

The only thing left to be done to fill in the online shop with brand identity is to produce professional photo content.

  • Look to organize a clothing photoshoot in the low season, where professional photo studios are likely to be more flexible with discounts: after Xmas is a good idea before Xmas is not.
  • Look for photographers on Instagram, not Google. It is likely, that beginners may not have yet established a website presence, but are using hashtags to attract customers: #ProductPhoto, #ProductPhotography #ProductPhotographyNY #FashionPhoto #PhotoStudio. While they may lack the experience to take your online store from zero to hero with their images, newbies are usually very motivated and keep their prices way below those of the market of pros.

Here is a little hint, how we do it at Squareshot:

  • Make sure to bring all of your merchandise for the shoot together in one batch – if you ship it or drive it yourself – it is cheaper to do one go. And the discounts apply depending on the number of products to shoot – so you will see a better price per image if you shoot 50 items in one go than 20+30 orders.
  • Plan and book all services in advance. The early bird rates may apply in studio rentals as well as in shipping services. The more urgent or express the service is the more expensive it is likely to get.
  • Even as a first-timer, you can facilitate a much smoother process and ensure a better outcome by planning the shoot thoroughly in advance. Proper preparation is half of the battle and as a beginner or a smaller brand, you can compensate for a lot of gaps, if you devote plenty of effort to prepare.
product photography for ecommerce product photos for online store

Guide and Tips for Photoshoots for Established Brands

Established brands in the fashion industry face fierce competition – whatever segment they represent: luxury, mid or mass market. They are competing for different metrics – average check, loyalty, return rate, brand mentions, or quantity of items sold, but the competition is tight across all price segments.

Tips for the established clothing brands on organizing a photoshoot:

  • There are no savings to be made on product photography – vice versa, a poorly executed product photography is too expensive for any established brand.
  • Choose a studio with state-of-the-art equipment over the closest to your office. You may not feel the difference between the different brands and models of the photography equipment, but it is real. It is as real, as the difference between different car brands and models. And you can see that difference in resulting images.
  • Copycat. Yep, it’s OK in the below context. If you loved a session made by your competitor – go ahead and hunt the same very photographer. Her / his creativity will shine through differently with your apparel collection. We don’t advise to steal from your competitors. We advise learning from them by looking closely at their successes and failures.
  • Experiment. As the established brands only keep their momentum by re-inventing and setting the trends. Be the one to lead the market into the new, the fresh, the unorthodox and the experimental.
  • Stick with the same professional studio if you found "the one": you will save a lot of time and finances on organizing a shoot. Plus, that way you could maintain esential consistency in shots, to keep up with your brand image. Look how we've done it:
product photo for online store product photography product photography for Shopify

Photo inspiration: designing a mood board

While commissioning any kind of visual works: be it web design, video, makeup, tattoo or product photography – it is paramount to show some referential work to your service provider of choice. Finding some images , that you like and you think hit the target with your target audience is vital to pass your vision to the executor of your ideas.

In order for a photo service vendor to pick up on your idea, on the message, you want to bring forward to your audience, it is best you find images that resonate with you and your brand. Make sure to provide a brand book, if this is available. If not – advise the provider of the service a color palette, values, describe your target audience in detail.

Mood board a.k.a. inspiration board is the best way to approach this task. Pinterest is very handy when it comes to creating and sharing mood boards.

How to plan a successful photo shoot: a step by step guide

1. Create merchandise

It is easier for established clothing brands and tougher for fashion design beginners. Ideally, you will have produced enough items in different colors and sizes to work with any models best fit for the job. Once the collection or a line of products is ready, the next step is to make some decent imagery of those pieces.

2. Make a list of products to be shot

In order for a photo studio to process your order in the most orderly manner, it is highly advisable that you prepare a list of all items for the photoshoot. Each product, that you need images of, needs to be enlisted, so that to make all stages smoother: from taking it out of inventory, shipment, shooting, to editing and filing them.

Every product on the shoot list should contain the following info:

  • Category /cloth, shoes, accessory/
  • Subcategory /tops, bottoms, duffel bag, slipons/
  • Color /red, blue, beige/
  • Size /M, S, L/
  • Preparation /Wrinkles need to be ironed? Assembly required/
  • Positioning: lay flat, ghost mannequin, pinned
  • Background /white, dark, color, street/
  • Number of images & angles /close-up, front, side, shoe sole/

This list will also come handy to estimate the price for the works and to do a shop around when looking for a photographer.

Our e-commerce team always prepares line sheets of the products so we have the style information and reference images. We also made our own photography protocol handbook to follow exactly which angles to shoot for which types of product, along with edit feedback so the products are positioned and retouched correctly. Thus, we’re ensured we will like the result.

– Gina Gargiulo, E-Commerce Coordinator at American Exchange Group

3. Find models for the photo session

If you’ve decided to go with the on-model photoshoot, this part would be one of the most time- and resource-consuming. Depending on your budgets the models for your shoot may be sourced from your close friends and family circle or from the top modeling agency in New York.

Things to remember when booking a model for a shoot:

  • make sure to book in advance – you will have more options, as best models get booked out long in advance
  • make sure to negotiate with the agent – there might be flexibility
  • look for wannabe models & influencers, that match your profile in Instagram – if budget is of concern – hiring an amateur model might be a good option
  • opt for diversity – glam has yielded the spotlight to diversity and natural looks these days
  • check out the Facebook Groups and Instagram hashtags for models in your area, using search “city+models”
  • share your mood board and any other requirements, that you have highlighted for the shoot
  • send a list of clothing/shoes/ accessories you need a model to wear during a shoot if you are not providing some part of the look
  • hire a make-up artist & hairstylist in advance
  • remind your models about the shoot 1 week and 1 day before the big day
  • exchange contacts within the entire team (photographer, makeup artist, models, hairstylist) before the shoot to precipitate communication.

4. Design a mood board / create references set

Sharing it with the entire team helps to set the expectations and standards of the shoot for all parties involved. Pinterest and Instagram are the best resources to go through while hunting for the most inspiring images for the mood board.

5. Find a location for the photosession

For most of the product photography, a well-equipped studio will do all the job. Well, an important part of it. But an editorial photo session and lifestyle photography may require some more busy background or location. Favorite locations for luxury clothing brands:

  • castles
  • museums
  • galleries
  • city squares /especially those in Milan, Paris, Dubai, New York/
  • rooftops
  • nature
  • helicopters, jets & yachts

Great locations for mass-market clothing brand photography:

  • streets
  • nature
  • abandoned building sites
  • dilapidated buildings
  • shopping malls
  • hotels
  • cinemas

While looking for the right location, it is important to make sure you get all the permissions and arrangements with the administration of the property. If shooting in the public space, make sure to take into account privacy – opting for the early morning will reduce the crowd size. Look how our client Ditto Africa combined product photography and editorial photo session on their website:

6. Find a photographer

To find a photographer to do your clothing photography for ecommerce is a multi-faceted mission, that involved many important factors:

  • you need somebody closer to your warehouse – to cut the shipping costs
  • you need somebody experienced – to guarantee top results /check website, Facebook page for content, number of fans, reviews to estimate professionalism & expertise/
  • you need somebody available – this is a huge filter if you are looking to execute on an urgent order
  • you need somebody within your budget – this may be a filter for younger businesses, with all established fashion businesses knowing the ROI on photography services is proportional to the investment.

7. Plan a photoshoot day

Having a schedule, a shoot list, equipment, coffee breaks all organized and ready to go will make this day less stress-full and more enjoyable. Make sure the entire team is on board with the schedule and models know where and when to arrive. Reminders may seem offensive to professionals, but they also signal professionalism on behalf of the organizer of the shoot.

8. Execute photoshoot

When the day comes, one can only work with what has been arranged beforehand. This is why we have gone to the trouble of compiling this guide on how to plan a photoshoot – so that the process is easier for all the new creative directors, marketing managers, and clothing online store owners.

Sometimes reading a good manual takes a newbie up to speed and helps to foresee all the small nuances, that cannot be fixed on the day of the shoot.

The preparation is probably the most exhausting part of the process. It’s a lot of coordination with different teams to receive the samples on time, then finding inspiration images, and figuring out timelines as to when the products can be posted with these images. Still, if all the preparation was well thought-through, it’s always worth it and works out in the end.

– Gina Gargiulo, E-Commerce Coordinator at American Exchange Group

9. Editing images

Depending on the budgets, purpose, complexity, type of photo session, editing may take anything from 10 minutes per image to a few hours per image. Count that time in, when planning a new collection release, so you can take care of other tasks while the retoucher is working on your images.

10. Sharing images with your target audience: best practices

Sharing the ready-made images is a process that has a best practice page of its own:

  • start sharing the content of the clothing brand photoshoot in live mode during the session – give your followers a taste of what’s coming
  • share in batches – do not release all the content at once – portion it throughout the period of time
  • ask models not to release it without your content – or orchestrate their social media activity for best results
  • diversify channels, edit styles, mix and match with graphics and text – the same very images may come in different forms and render different messages.
The most exciting part of the whole process is definitely receiving the final images. You can’t have sales or an item live online without incredible product images, and that’s exactly what Squareshot delivers. Then the fun continues from there to upload them all to our multiple channels and see how our consumers react to them.

– Gina Gargiulo, E-Commerce Coordinator at American Exchange Group

Preparation is half the battle. It involves lots of people, it involves lots of funds, it involves lots of creativity. No wonder many creatives in the fashion industry may feel frustrated and lost when tasked with this mission. This is why we've set these principles and nuances of the planning process for you.

If you need more insider info or have a specific question – drop us a line: about apparel retouching, bags product photography, best angles for your jewelry – we'll be glad to help you out. And keep an eye on our blog for more useful long reads!

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