A guide to improving your fashion e-commerce content
We share 5 basic tips to create better videos, packshots and live model photography for selling your products online
Running a fashion e-commerce site can be extremely demanding when it comes to content. Today, customers have higher demands for what they want to see from their favorite brands and online shops where they buy their clothes.
This covers everything from videos of your products to packshot photography - where the product is shown alone on a white background - to model, and editorial content.
In this tutorial, we’ll be showing you how to improve your product content. This includes finding ways to make it cheaper, achieving higher production values in your live model photography and taking better flat lay and ghost mannequin packshots.
Any or each of these five tips are useful for brands needing to get the most out of the resources they use to create fashion content.
1. Align your brand values, audience and message
Your brand story needs to be told in every element of your content. This covers your photography - and even extends to the copywriting and the user experience on your site. All of the decisions you take here define what models you’re using, what kinds of product images you need, and ultimately what style they have.
If you're a new brand, it can be a good starting point to look for inspiration in magazines and lookbooks - even other brands you admire - and put them down into a moodboard. The idea here is to inform your marketing from the top down so that all decisions you make are aligned with your brand values.
Already have content? Make sure to keep things consistent
If you're an already established brand, all of your existing marketing material needs to be matched to your visual content. Of course in fashion, brands seldom stay static, so every new campaign or piece of content needs to reflect your evolving brand aesthetic - whether it's campaign based or for the. long term.
Product imagery will always benefit from being easier for viewers to compare styles. There's a lot that online shoppers look at, and they'll stay on your site longer if it feels easier to browse imagery. Reshoot or recreate content to match everything so your brand retains a high quality feel.
Think about what kinds of images your audience responds to
Think about your target audience and how your brand fits into their lives. Ask questions like 'Are they sporty?'; 'What magazines or blogs do they read?'; 'Where do they spend their free time?' to create buyer personas.
This helps everyone in the process
A photographer will be able to take better photos if he or she understands a brand's values more clearly. A stylist will be able to mix and match outfits that have greater appeal to your audience. A model will be able to express a look in a way that creates a more desirable response in viewers.
Once you have defined your key brand values and aligned and briefed your marketing team, it becomes easier to make stylistic decisions in every production. It also helps keep your brand more recognisable and consistent.
2. Add more to your content mix
All of your products will need packshot images and in most cases, images of models wearing them. But these days, customers need to see details of the product, how an outfit is put together, and how the garment moves and feels when worn.
Flat lays can be a cost-effective method for showing a wide range of products - and even combined into one image. They are particularly useful when it comes to kidswear and lingerie, but have some downsides. For example products like jeans and shirts need extra care when styling to make sure the fit is represented properly.
Ghost mannequin packshots are great for showing how your products look when worn. Blazers, coats, shirts and workwear tend to benefit from these types of images. Adding a ghost mannequin to your studio is a wise investment to cut down on the amount of time to create these types of images.
Live model photography
Model photography adds a higher quality feel to your site. Customers can see how the clothes look like when worn and combined as an outfit. Remember to consider your choice of model and how it reflects the clothes you're selling to your audience in line with your brand message.
It's in the details
It's better to add extra images showing how the product looks from the back, front and highlight any interesting or unique features. This helps customers make a buying decision and helps cut down on return rates.
Video is also becoming increasingly important for fashion retailers. More younger shoppers are used to seeing video content as they have grown up with YouTube and Instagram. According to one study, 73% more visitors who watch videos of your products will buy them. Video also has the added benefit of showing exactly how a garment moves and interacts with light.
How does it help?
The more visual content you have to show your products, the more likely customers will be to spend more time on your site and purchase them.
3. Create a photography style guide
A photography style guide is one of the most important elements for producing better content. It gives a visual guide as to what images a photographer and stylist must create and ensures that all of the content on your site remains consistent in look, feel and quality.
The idea is to have a visual reference manual for any of the creatives you are working with, ensuring the your content remains consistently on-brand. A photographer for instance would use it to set the correct lighting and framings. A stylist would refer to it for instructions on how to style a shirt - for example unbuttoned or with a tie.
What does it cover?
Your style guide needs to cover what images are needed for each product type. It must also cover how the model must pose, how products are styled (flat lay or on a mannequin), what lighting and setups are needed, what framings are required and how files are named. Other elements you need to consider in your style guide are things like backdrops and retouching guidelines.
Remember to keep your style guide comprehensive and easy to follow. Even if you work with the same team all the time, it's important to speed up on-boarding and training new creatives - the fashion industry is no stranger to having a high turnover of talent.
What does that achieve?
Having a higher quality and more consistent look to your site makes it much easier for your customers to compare styles, colors and all of the products you're selling.
Next to this, your content production workflow can be dramatically sped up. A style guide helps reduce the amount of reshooting you may need to do, and arms your creatives with all of the information they need at a glance when producing content for your e-commerce site.
4. Put together a winning team
Your team of content creators is the most important part of getting things right on the day of a shoot. Depending on the size and scale of your brand, you will have a number of resources each working on different areas - from the actual photography and styling to organizing the shoot, all the way to retouching.
It helps to be confident in what you're looking for on your roll of creatives - whether they're in-house, freelancers, or from an agency. So to do that, you must have a strong understanding of what each resource does, and how to get the most out of working with them.
What to look for in a photographer
A good photographer will have an eye for visuals as well as a strong technical understanding of the equipment they use. On a fashion e-commerce shoot, a photographer and stylist will generally work side by side to ensure the images they are capturing are of a high enough standard.
When shooting a model, the photographer's main job is to direct the model's pose - whereas in packshot photography, it's more about setting up the environment and lighting to enable the stylist to do their thing.
What to look for in a stylist
A stylist is the most 'well rounded' person on your shoot. On a model shoot, they have to be able to put together the right outfits and then constantly be on the alert for styling the model and removing creases etcetera.
When it comes to packshot photography, a stylist needs a strong ability to present the clothes as perfectly as possible - this helps make your clothes look better and gives less work for retouchers to do.
Models can be found from an agency, and again, you should have a very keen sense of picking the right one for your brand. They are what your customers will be seeing most of after all.
Get them briefed properly
When it comes to bringing all these people together, ensure they have a style guide to adhere to, a smooth production workflow and have been briefed clearly on what they need to achieve. This will help cut down the amount of problems you may run into and leave you more time to create better photos of your products.
And if you're struggling to find the right people? Or low on resources? You can always look to train your existing resources using online tutorials. Or even training courses designed to teach your in-house staff.
5. Refine your production workflow
Why this will save you money
The longer your products remain un-published to your site, the less time they are in front of customers. This means it's important to create a smooth, efficient process in how you photograph them. Worse, if your production workflow is difficult or mismanaged, it can lead to poor motivation.
Who does what - and how much?
First it helps to consider pre-production. How many items do you need to shoot a day? A week? A month? At this point it's important to work out how long your models, stylists and photographers need to be on each set. Ensure you have a call sheet that has a detailed list of the items you're shooting and who is doing what at what time.
Increase the efficiency of a shoot
On the day of a shoot, there's lots of things you can do to speed up your workflow. First, make sure your rail is organized, and all items are prepped well in advance. This means steaming, removing loose threads and putting together outfits and accessories all ready to be photographed.
It's the small things that count
There's a lot of small things you can do that add up. For example, shooting a model wearing a product and then combined with an outfit, it's better to shoot, then layer over to avoid the need for re-steaming.
It also helps to have a changing room that's close so that your model doesn't have to spend too much time changing outfits.
When it comes to packshots - it can be useful to group your items by light or dark for example. This helps your photographer spend less time changing their exposure settings.
Purchase useful equipment
Using a ghost mannequin can also dramatically reduce the time it takes to produce 'hollow man' effect images as there's less post-production involved.
You may also have a lot of equipment that can break at any moment. Ensure your gear is serviced regularly and you have backups ready to go.
Workflow - model or mannequin first?
Consider the way your products move through your studio. Retouching a model image usually takes longer than a packshot image, so shoot a product on your model set before it goes to a flat lay or ghost mannequin set.
Then, ensure that as soon as the model images have been taken, they are reviewed and sent to retouchers for the fastest possible turnaround time.
These are only a few examples of how, and your own workflow will differ depending on your content needs. So spend some time considering the ease and speed of your production workflow. It will help to improve the quantity and quality of your content.
Get the book
Model photography: A guide to photographing your brand's clothes
A 120 page guide on how to produce better fashion content. Includes detailed visual posing guide - even for video.