What's an embedded photography studio? An interview with PureRED's Kent Fleming
Recently, StyleShoots and PureRED created the world's first embedded studio for ecommerce product photography. Sitting within a warehouse and distribution center, an embedded studio allows products to be delivered straight to them, shot and ready to be published online the next day. Too good to be true? We speak to Kent Fleming, Director of Digital Services at PureRED to learn more.
An embedded studio is a photography setup that is located physically in-house, but where the administration and operations are run by an external party. This gives the client all the benefits of having an 'in-house' studio, but without having to worry about equipment, staffing or logistics.
Through using StyleShoots machines within the embedded studio instead of a traditional digital photography set, PureRED have been able to ramp up their photo production capacity by as much as three times as Kent explains further...
In your words, what’s an embedded studio? And what would you say are the key benefits of running one?
We coined the term 'embedded studio' to refer to an encapsulated space set aside in our client's facility that PureRED equips and manages autonomously ourselves.
There's a lot of benefits to be had - from the top of my head: quicker time to site, reduction or even complete elimination of shipping costs, and a fully dedicated team focused on a single client.
So what inspired you to come up with the idea of running an embedded photo studio in the first place?
Our first 'embedded studio' opened in 1995 inside a client's primary US distribution center which also happened to house the company's headquarters. This allowed our studio team to work directly with our client's marketing and creative teams - allowing us immediate access to all stocked items and quick access to new items before they hit the stores.
The client creatives especially liked the fact they no longer had to travel across town to get to a photo shoot, they simply walked downstairs!
And the biggest challenges when running one?
Operating with the right mix of permanent staff and freelancers is always the largest challenge in keeping costs controlled and image content consistent.
We work hard to be a place that freelancers want to work; this helps us maintain a consistent core of individuals that are well versed in our processes. Luckily StyleShoots machines are so easy to use, these individuals can get up to speed and comfortable with the technology after completing just a couple of shots - I've seen someone get used to the machine after just 15 minutes, which is really remarkable.
You work with a number of big US retail clients, what other kinds of brands and retailers would you say are best suited to running this model for their content production?
The model works best if the client has a main distribution center through which every item must pass before going to stores or other centers of distribution. - whether they're eCommerce fulfilment centers or regional distribution centers.
This eliminates any additional shipping requirements as items can be plucked right from the distribution stream to be shot and returned to the stream as if they were never taken in the first place.
This also tends to be the earliest plucking point for live merchandise. allowing the most lead time without requiring one-off product samples.
This is the first time you've created an embedded studio specifically for product photography. Having recently just added StyleShoots to your studio workflow, what other ways do you imagine the model could be improved?
This is our first embedded studio created specifically and only for eCommerce content. StyleShoots brings large efficiency gains while reducing the space requirements needed to accomplish our client's work.
Gaining adequate studio space in the right location is often one of the largest challenges early in the process. Having the StyleShoots systems as part of our model allows us to offer more production capacity in less space for future installations.
We're continuing to evaluate each of our clients' needs and the further potential for StyleShoots integration. We can't wait to get our hands on further advances from StyleShoots, which will open up these machines for use with a broader range of products and shot requirements.
Your stylists say they now have the freedom to get on with their work with StyleShoots machines. what other benefits have your stylists mentioned since they started using them?
Stylists no longer have to be tied to a photographer or wait for them to complete a previous shot before moving on to the next one. They can work completely independently.
Of course to maximize efficiency in the shooting process, one of our stylists is often paired with an assistant stylist that feeds dressed and pre-prepared items. This allows them to spend as much time being productive on set as possible.