Zalando: The Art of Efficient Photography
How Zalando overhauled its content production and workflow to take thousands of web-ready images a day for its global eCommerce business using StyleShoots Horizontal and StyleShoots Vertical machines
In 2013 Zalando approached us with a question. Could we help them improve their mannequin photography? Luckily, it just so happened that we were already in the process of developing StyleShoots Vertical.
Through a process of bouncing ideas and testing prototypes together, the Zalando team helped us make the best product we could - a product that the team has already adopted and affectionately nicknamed The Space Cowboy (it's been described as looking like a machine from outer space).
Read on - or view the video above - to see how we overhauled their content production process in more detail.
"If you don't get images on your website, no one will see them and no one will buy them."
Philipp Böhm, Senior Project Manager – Processes, Systems & Innovation, Zalando
Balancing fashion and efficiency
Leif Sehlbach and Philipp Böhm from Zalando explain the dilemma between efficiency and creativity.
To handle the hundreds of new products needing to be uploaded onto the site each day, the German fashion giant has turned an old Berlin train station into a buzzing content creation facility where stylists, photographers, retouchers and copywriters upload over 200.000 articles per year.
Using a little maths, that's somewhere around 2 million shots each year that need to be taken! Not an easy undertaking, indeed.
What's more is that when delivered from their suppliers, each product needs to be tagged, cleaned, steamed, and styled before a camera lens even begins to focus. So efficiency is essential when dealing with hundreds of garments a day.
Because Zalando is a fashion company, they are also constantly exploring the latest trends in styling, model poses and media types. As Leif Sehlbach - Head of Content Creation at Zalando - puts it, "Photography is an art".
Zalando's process in 7 steps
Zalando uses a "production island" concept that lets them scale quickly. Each island contains an entire process with model slot, a StyleShoots machine and post processing.
1. Intake: Articles arrive by courier to Zalando's Content Creation center and are scanned into the IT system.
2. Treatment: Articles are steamed to make sure creases and wrinkles are gone.
3. Styling: A stylist puts together sets, avoiding the live models having to change pants and shoes too often to save time.
4. Model photography: A model, a stylist and a photographer work at each station. It communicates mood and fitting, but is costly.
5. StyleShoots: Each StyleShoots machine is operated by one stylist who focuses solely on making the articles look amazing.
6. Editing: In post-production images are checked for imperfections like creases and distracting shadows.
7. Uploading: After a strict quality control, the images are uploaded to Zalando's international websites.
StyleShoots as part of the team
Philipp Böhm and Leif Sehlbach tell the story of StyleShoots as part of Zalando's process.
When our photo machines were finally installed in early 2014, the users quickly adopted them. Even the founders of Zalando posed inside StyleShoots Vertical for Forbes magazine.
It's been a great journey so far, and we can't wait to take the next steps with the fashion boys and girls from Berlin. A shout-out goes to all the cool stylists and models who participated in our videos.
Stylists can focus on creativity while StyleShoots handles all the technical complexity of photography.
Zalando is Europe’s leading online retailer for shoes and fashion. Working with over 1500 international brands, Zalando presents an extensive selection of products for women, men and children, ranging from popular high street brands to much sought-after designer labels. Exclusive accessories and sportswear make up Zalando’s wide range of products.
The company was founded by Robert Gentz and David Schneider in 2008 and its headquarters are located in Berlin. Following its success in Germany, Zalando launched an Austrian site in 2009 and shops for the Netherlands and France followed in 2010. In 2011 Zalando expanded to Italy, the UK and to Switzerland. Since 2012 Zalando has also been available in Sweden, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, Finland, Poland, and Norway. Deliveries were extended to Luxembourg in 2013.
StyleShoots was founded to simplify one of the most critical parts of fashion e-commerce - products photography. StyleShoots designs and manufactures photo machines that let stylists and e-commerce companies focus on their brand while costs are cut for photographers and post-processing. In 2011 the company's first product StyleShoots Horizontal revolutionized flat photography. In 2013 StyleShoots Vertical brought the same ease of use to mannequin photography. StyleShoots' products are the result of Dutch engineering, Danish design philosophy and a fascination with sleek, useful technology.
Fashion brands and online retailers around the world use StyleShoots as their in-house photo equipment, including Macy's, Marks & Spencer, Zalando, Triumph, Toys"R"Us, Gerry Weber and Woolworths.