Last updated: No studio? No problem: 3 ways to create product images amid COVID-19

No studio? No problem: 3 ways to create product images amid COVID-19


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What were the marketing campaigns you had scheduled for March and April? Back to school? July Fourth? Graduation season? No matter what industry you’re in, if you’re a marketer, COVID-19 completely disrupted business as usual. 

You probably scrambled to shift all your selling to online channels – the only way that shoppers can actually buy for the foreseeable future. But that also means you have a problem: no new product images.

That photoshoot that was supposed to happen at the end of March? Canceled. And if you can’t show beautiful pictures of your products on your site (or social feeds or display ads or in print) you can’t sell. So what do you do?

We put together a few ways brands and retailers can safely create product images – prioritizing safety for models and photographers – and still get the photos they need to sell online.

Leverage the power of “at-home-chic”

At-home chic is a growing marketing trend, thanks to risk takers like Zara. In early April, the company began experimenting with sending its products out to models they’d typically hire for photoshoots, and working with them over Zoom calls to recreate the studio experience. 

The models, just as eager to work as Zara was to sell its products, have adapted to become jacks of all trades: they’re the makeup artists, hair stylists, photographers, models, and lighting crew all at once. 

The move paid off for Zara, allowing it to roll out new product lines, tap into an undiscovered aesthetic, and save almost 80 percent on studio costs.

Even without a ready rolodex of models to tap into, you can replicate the process with social media influencers (who are also eager to get creative for work) or experiment with user-generated content to engage customers who already love your product, similar to Aerie’s #AerieReal campaign.

You can choose to leave the photos as they are for a “raw” look or  “professionalize” the shots by developing a quick photography and brand standards guidebook that you can send to the product models once you agree to work together.

DIY: Create product images yourself

At-home models and influencers are all well and good for products like apparel or makeup, but what if your product isn’t something that makes sense for a person to model? Luckily, it’s possible to capture high-quality photos for your online marketplace with some basic photography equipment that you can set up yourself. 

To get started, you’ll need the following:

  • A camera (or smartphone, many of which have excellent cameras) 
  • A tripod (or mount, to prevent shaking) 
  • A white background (white wrapping paper works)
  • A window for natural light (light kits are expensive and hard to use) 
  • A table or chair (to set your products on)
  • A reflector (a simple white foam board can work)
  • Tape (to hold your background in place)
  • Photo editing software (to add a professional touch)

 All told, you should be able to set up your DIY e-commerce product photography studio for less than $700 (based on some current Amazon listings.) If you use a phone you already have instead of a camera, the total will be closer to $200 – not bad!

Once you have all your materials, you’ll want to focus your efforts on figuring out what works. Don’t expect to capture perfect e-commerce images with your first few clicks. Instead, experiment with light at different times of day, positioning your products at different angles, and using different PhotoShop features. 

Try a virtual photoshoot

What if I told you that you can actually do a photoshoot without doing a photoshoot?

It’s what you might call a “virtual photoshoot.”

What you call it doesn’t necessarily matter, but how it works to create product images definitely does. The process is “no-camera-(or physical location)-required” because these beautiful images are generated from digital design files.

To make it happen, you first need to get your hands on 3D models of your product, along with any other product information associated with them. Most companies don’t have these on hand, but if you partner with a 3D design agency, they can create them using whatever product information you do have. 

Once you have the files ready, shop around for a software that allows you to upload them. Ideally, you’ll want one that can give you the ability to configure your files according to your business requirements. Even better if that software easily integrates with your ERP or PIM.

A great example of a company doing this is ASOS. The retailer’s “See My Fit” tool offers a simulated view of products on six real-life models while accounting for the size, cut, and fit of each garment. In each case, the model never once had to actually take a photo in the outfit the shopper is considering.

ASOS says the tool helps “provide customers with realistic product images in a studio setting while protecting the well-being of our models and staff.”

We’re all adapting, and that’s not necessarily bad

Today’s uncertainties are forcing every business out of its comfort zone.

In some cases, that means abandoning best-laid plans and searching for alternatives. If there is a silver lining, it’s that those willing to try new things may discover tools and processes that will transform their business positively for the long term.

At least that’s something to look forward to on the other side.

Modern business, meet revenue:
– End-to-end connected data
– Engage quickly with a great CX
– Sell anytime, anywhere

Get going TODAY.

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