Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Photo shoots - it’s all about the people, not about the money

This was originally posted to Power Retail and is part 3 of a 6 part series by Mark Capps on his experiences of leaving Google to start up a new online retail company. Click for parts 1 and 2.

We’re an online company selling prescription glasses. It’s essential we have great photos of our frames as the website is the main way customers browse and purchase. We recently completed a 5 day photo shoot, successfully shooting hundreds of photos - on multiple models, from different angles, indoors and outdoors. I thought that getting professional images in this quantity would be an expensive exercise, however with the right people, some ingenuity and a bit of determination it doesn’t have to cost much at all. I’ve described below how Sneaking Duck (and Shoes of Prey) Photographer extraordinaire Susie Adams drove the whole project.

Do you have any tips on how to run a successful photos shoot without breaking the bank?

Prepare, practice, prepare again
Having a clear artistic vision and planning every step proved invaluable. Susie knew exactly the look and feel required and did the ground work to make the days effective and efficient. Time is money, so it was key to be efficient when the clock was ticking on models and stylists. We had a detailed briefing for everyone for each day - make-up and styling required, poses that worked, timeframes and run sheet timed with sun angles. This was all coupled with the right lighting and lenses, and countless test shots to tune things ahead of time.

Beg, borrow, steal
Ok, we didn’t steal anything. But we did beg and borrow all sorts from wonderful friends and contacts. Clothing came from our personal wardrobes, generous friends and relatives and the models themselves. Professional lighting was very kindly lent to us by Rob Palmer. Our intern, Emma Zavan, kindly gave up time on her weekend to help out.

We sourced all 9 models from Model Mayhem with excellent results at great rates. They all looked amazing, were professional and reliable and were fun to work with. The secret here was to invest the hours to get the right people. We didn’t have budget for a go-see, so instead Susie worked tirelessly through thousands for photos to find a set of options that we edited down to a short list. We’ll be sharing high resolution, professionally re-touched images to help the models build out their portfolios.

Make up and styling
Model Mayhem led us to fully qualified make-up stylists towards the start of their careers. They were happy to work on a cost-of-materials basis as we will be providing them high-res retouched images to add to their public portfolios to build their careers. We did our own styling, borrowing a bit of knowledge from friends and family.

Sticky tape and plastic

We needed to remove the natural light from where we were shooting. Hiring a professional studio would have been the expensive approach, however we got the same outcome by taping plastic bags over the windows and asking the office to work with the lights down low. Thank you guys!

Do it yourself

Holding a light reflector, smoothing hair, keeping an eye out for wonky frames - I never thought this would be part of my job when working at Google, but they are now!

And finally

At the top of this post you can see just one of the hundreds of professional quality images we created without breaking the bank - we hope you like the outcome as much as we do. The key learning for me was that getting the right person, Susie, to take the lead was the most important thing, not the budget.


  1. Thanks for the insight into your photoshoot guys. I'm very looking forward to the launch of Sneaking Duck.

    Just like Shoes of Prey, I think you're onto a winner and it will completely revolutionise the optical market that our four-letter friend dominates...

    It's a great idea and I hope it works out for you! Can't wait!