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May 02, 2023 (AmericaNewsHour) —
Today, the only thing that comes between your brand and your customer is a JPEG. Let’s talk about what it takes to create that JPEG. As you know, clothing photography is the most important aspect of a brand’s marketing because that’s how you communicate what your brand is, who it’s for, and what it’s all about. What I am getting at is the branding part itself. So many brands fail when it comes to branding, and their epic failure is that they fail to brand. They don’t leave an impression, and that takes money. Shooting a piece of clothing on a white background leaves no impression, has no branding value, and requires little money.
I have seen a lot of start-up brands just take an iPhone out of their pocket and start shooting whatever they have on a white background or just throw it on the floor and shoot it, and that becomes their “clothing photography” insistence. What they are doing is setting themselves up for a big epic failure like many others have. It is more to the point than start up brands before them who failed, because what’s missing is the branding. They are a start-up but they’re not a brand they don’t have any branding impression and a branding value any takeaway from their consumer to be remembered by and one of the major reasons for not doing that besides not knowing is that they don’t want to spend money and they are being Pennywise and dollar foolish.
Why Penny-Pinching Leads to Failure
You can’t start a brand and not spend any money and expect it to rise above the rest because everybody else is doing the same. And how do you expect yours to be any different than all the others?
Look at Amazon. You have the same piece of clothing, often with the same Chinese factory or Alibaba pictures floating around on Amazon just pennies apart. Why is that? Because somebody who is a distributor, who is a start-up brand, who is just selling a piece of clothing, decides to save some money by not shooting new clothing photography of that particular piece and just using the Chinese factory Alibaba photo that came with it. They are doing that, and 20 other people are doing that, and the only thing that separates them is that they are pennies apart in pricing. So 19 of them will fail, and maybe one of them is going to survive, but not even, because look at the smart guy in this pack, what he is going to do is going to take the same piece of clothing or product and then shoot his own. He is going to hire his own model, he is going to have his own stylist. He is going to create his own lifestyle photos; He’s going to show the clothing in the best light possible, in the best action, and in The best scenario, so we see who the customer is, doing what, wearing this clothing and where they’re going to be at. That’s lifestyle, okay so that gives a whole new meaning to the clothing photography, it’s not just a piece of dead fabric on a white background, no it’s being worn by models and it’s put in action. If it is sports clothing, we are going to see it in the gym or being used in sports.
The Economic Impact of Clothing Photography Done Right
It makes a hell of a lot of difference because the smart guy will also put his own brand on a tag and sew it onto the clothing. With his new pictures, he is going to create a branding value that others on Amazon failed to do. Now, his pictures are going to speak volumes to his audience. At the same time, he is shooting the pictures, he is probably shooting video clips. He is going to feed that to his social media, and he is going to be way ahead. Because he is going to take a tag, put his brand on it, and sew it onto the clothing, put it on the product, and make a completely new brand out of something that everybody else is failing at. This is what branding is, making it your own, putting your own brand on the cow. Now, for a brand to continue doing this over and over, it requires money. So initially, you are going to go negative, and you are going to take money out of your pocket.
My customers often tell me, “Hey David, this is so expensive, I am spending all this money, My money is going away out of my account, and my balance is getting lower and lower every day”. “When am I going to see a return on my profit?” And I tell them, “No, that’s not how the economics of clothing marketing, photography, and branding works. You have a bunch of cash, some Federal Reserve notes sitting in a bank, and all you are doing is that you are taking your money and converting it into photos, into JPEGs, into videos that now are going to be put to good use for you. All you did is you converted them, your money didn’t go anywhere. You still have your money, but it’s in a different form. Now, it’s making money for you because you can put it on social media, you can put it on your website, on your banner, and your advertising, etc., and it’s going to create sales. Now, you have more money coming in, and you can have a business. Because a business spends money, and then the money comes in, and you know you get that circulation going, and then you just grow that. You grow that sphere, and inside that is your effort, your branding, and your money.
That’s the economic sphere, and it just keeps going. And not because it’s fashion, it’s cyclical, it’s seasonal, it’s constantly changing, and you always have to shoot more because you can’t use last year’s skew. You can’t be selling last season’s clothing. A new fashion, new designs, new skew came in. So now you got to shoot more. The economics of clothing photography dictate that you throw away and trash whatever you did before because it’s yesterday’s news, and nobody wants to read yesterday’s newspaper.
Hiring a Skilled Photographer for Clothing Brands
“I need to go shoot more” because it’s very important. It’s not apparent that you have to be constantly doing this. So who’s going to be doing it for you? Are you going to be a surgeon for yourself and perform a surgery on you? Are you going to be your personal doctor? No, you have to go and hire the best minds in the industry, the best photographer, clothing photographer, fashion photographer that’s near me.
Do a search like that in Google, and you’ll find this guy or a girl. Then you talk to them and explain your brand, and they’ll give you a bid on a seasonal package to shoot all of your SKUs (stock keeping units). They often have to do casting, hire models, book these models, schedule shoots, work with a stylist, with hair, with makeup, and have some assistance running around holding strokes, shooting out in the street when you are doing a lookbook or lifestyle or book studios. Hauling equipment, setting it up and shooting, all of this activity costs money.
This all comes back to the economics of clothing photography, fashion photography, apparel photography, and garment photography. It’s not something that you can do yourself. I don’t advise that. And it’s a lot less expensive and a lot better quality and results if you leave this to the professionals. Their clothing photographer, the fashion photographer, who is expert at this, has been doing it for years and knows all the tricks. They are often forced to give you their best rate because of the economics of the market. They know that if they give you some off-the-cuff highball expensive rate, you are not going to take it.
There are others in the marketplace doing the same thing, often as good as they do, and they are going to give them a much more reasonable rate. Your customer will fly away and go with them. So never think that you can do it yourself when it comes to branding photography for clothing, fashion, apparel, or garment. It’s going to cost less if you try to do it yourself. Yes, I realize often time when you are a new brand and when you start up, and you open your Shopify store, and you bring in some hoodies and t-shirts and a couple of shorts and you want to sell that, you are just going to take a shot of it with your iPhone, and that’s the end of that. But that’s also the end of your growth. That’s the end of your store. You know you will often become a dog store with no traffic because you’ve got to ask yourself, Does my store have enough value in what I am showing? And all your showing is not a bunch of text, but it’s going to be a bunch of pictures. Are these pictures good enough to stop potential customers on my website and prevent them from clicking away and going to somebody else and keep looking? Rather, are they going to click on my products, my pictures, and then add them to cart and pay for it?
If you are honest with yourself and you ask that question, you’ll see that no, yours is not the best because you’ve seen well. We all know what the better looks like. That’s how you get the big fashion houses. Do they throw something on a white background and shoot it? No. Do you see flatly photography with the big brands? No. It’s always on a model and not just one model. It’s on 2-3-4 models.
Look at the Ralph Lauren campaign. How is his advertising? There’s money being spent. You see, so the economics of clothing photography dictates that you are going to have money and you are going to have some kind of budget that’s reasonably allocated to be able to prime the pump, as they say. Because you can’t pull any water out of the well unless you first put water in the pump to reach the well, and then the pump can suck it out of the well for you. But you have to prime the pump. That money has to come from somewhere, and that’s often the first big mistake that a brand makes. And when they reach me, they’ve already made that mistake. You already have a bunch of bad pictures and cheap images. You know that needs fixing, and often I tell them, “Scrap it.” You know, don’t even try to fix it. Don’t try to fix the white and turn it out of grey into brilliant white, etc. Just shoot it again.
I shoot it on models this time. Don’t throw it on a piece of white background or on the table, and don’t do flashlight.
Deliberations For The Economics of Clothing Photography
When it comes to the economics of clothing photography, you can’t say no. You have to say yes. It’s part of the cost, part of the equation, part of the business, like everything else.
If you are starting a business, this is the most important factor that you have to consider. And you better find the right fashion photographer, clothing photographer, apparel photographer, or garment photographer that’s near you and talk to them and look at their work and compare their charges with other photographers. But also, compare apples with apples and oranges with oranges. Don’t compare just the price and say, “Oh, this guy is cheaper,” because, believe me, there’s always somebody cheaper. You will always find somebody cheaper than X. It will be Y and cheaper than Y, it will be Z, and on and on and on. And there’s no end.
But are they better? No, they are not. There’s a reason why photographer A is more expensive than photographer B. Look at his portfolio, look at his experience, look at his standing in the Google ranks, look at his website, and look at the reviews. And I will tell you that he is worth it, and that’s why he is where he is, and that’s why he is charging what he is charging. Because he’ll give you more value for the same money spent. It’s not just about the amount of money, but what you are getting out of it. Spending that kind of money.
This is another important factor in the economics of clothing photography. Where are you spending your money? Not spending any money is bad in itself, but if you even spend some money but you spend it on the cheapest guy, on the worst-case photographer, and you get bad results, that’s even worse because not only do you have bad results, but you also spent money to get the bad results. It’s not for the faint of heart, this is the business of clothing photography. Because it’s not a one-time photography that you do for a product, and then you sell that product for years.
Hiring a Skilful Photographer for Price Effective Clothing Photography
Fashion is cyclical and seasonal. You have to constantly be ready to shoot more and fashion, because of it is nature, it’s not an objective type of photography where you just take a candle, put it on a table and say, “you know, here you go, that’s the lifestyle still-life shot of a candle,” and then sell it for years.
No, it’s clothing. You got to put it on a model. It’s got to fit the model. And you can’t have just one model because you need inclusion, so you need more models than one. You can’t be shooting your whole website clothing and all your garments and the entire collection with one model. It’s not going to work, right? Think about that. So, that becomes another factor in the economics of clothing photography, having multiple models because you need different ethnicities, different ages, different looks, and different body types. You need all of that inclusion, and that’s not cheap.
If you want to go with models who are coming from an agency, you are looking at the minimum of $750 + 20% agency. That’s the starting rate in Los Angeles. And then, you know the better the model, the taller the model, the more unique or demand in the model is going to be costing you more. But often what happens with my clients is that they come to me and say, “Hey David, you know why you don’t do the model casting for us?”
I’ll charge them a fee of $495, and the casting takes usually about a week. And I go through 100 models or so that reply to my casting, and I have to separate the good ones from the ones who are not a good fit. And then, you know, put them all into a database and make sure they fill the criteria. And then, that’s the list that goes to my customers. And usually, in that list, I have several models that are agency models, non-exclusive, which if you were to go to their agency, they would be $750, but I would be able to book them for $350. So, that’s another part of the economy.
If you work with the right photographer who knows the right models and knows where to get them, you can often save 50% on the model booking and get the same non-exclusive agency models for half the price, which is saving you money. So, the better photographer now is saving you money, and that’s again another part of the economy of clothing photography.
Being a Shopify Photography Expert in the Los Angeles Clothing Market
Fashion photography in Los Angeles is a very big market. We have a lot of start-ups here, and I shoot for a lot of the fashion start-ups, the clothing start-ups who are often on the Amazon or Shopify platforms. And I am a Shopify photography expert, which is a position you cannot buy on the Shopify experts’ directory. The position that’s given to you because of who you are and your background as a photographer. And, you know, I’ve achieved that, and I am there. So, that often makes it easier for the Shopify start-ups to work with me because they realize who I am, and I am recommended by Shopify.
Advantages of Starting your Clothing Business on Shopify
Now shopify, let’s talk about it. The excellent platform for a start-up because you own the site, you own the page. Unlike Amazon where Amazon owns you. This is your business and you own it. there’s nothing Shopify about it, except the backend where Shopify takes care of all the plugins, software, and managing the payments and the gateway for credit card processing, etc. They have a lot of good plugins and third-party tools that make your life as a brand easy and handle all the processing of your sales and inventory, which actually saves you a lot of money. Another aspect of the economy of the clothing business: if you try to do this on your own and build just any website and say, “I am going to go ahead and do it on my own by myself,” it will cost you a lot more money than if you were to build your brand on Shopify.
I highly recommend Shopify’s brand platform, and they will, in the long run, save you a lot of money. Yes, upfront, you know you have to give them money, and there are some costs involved in getting set up, but that’s minimal compared to how much headache they will save you as a brand. They will actually enable you to make more money and be more profit.
So, this is yet another angle to the economy of the clothing photography business, stay tuned for more on this.
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