Are you a fashion boutique owner or aspire to become one? We're glad you're here!
As business owners, we totally understand how it feels to invest all of your heart and soul into a brand that means the world to you, and wanting to do everything to see it succeed. And as photographers, we also understand the learning process that comes with taking amazing photos!
Part of what drives our passion for our brand is getting to work with boutique owners to help them create more engaging lifestyle photography that will set them apart and ultimately grow their business. One of the biggest problems we get asked from fellow #bossbabes is that they want to start taking better photos for their brand, but fear they aren’t good enough or prepared enough to do so. We promise you, there’s it's easier than you think!
Social media has become the main marketplace for selling your products online! But even though the competition is fierce, it doesn’t have to be intimidating! We’ve put together our best tips that will get you taking apparel photos that SELL! If you’re wanting to take your brand to the next level, look professional, AND stand out as a TOP boutique in the biz, then you have found the absolute best guide for lifestyle product photography! Keep reading!
One of the first things you should focus on even before you prep your clothing or items to photograph is WHERE are going to shoot? Sometimes, ladies... it’s all about location, location, location!
A big misconception a lot of times is that you need to have a studio space to shoot great imagery. That’s definitely false! Investing in a studio is not something that’s needed, especially if you’re not ready to make that financial or aesthetic commitment.
Great photos are created when they are organic and engaging, so the less staged they are the better. Shooting your photos outdoors in natural lighting is even preferred most times because of the natural state and relatable feeling that people get when seeing your photos - not to mention that natural lighting will highlight the photos as opposed to casting a glow that sometimes comes with studio lights.
If you are wanting to shoot indoors but aren’t ready to invest in a traditional photography studio, you definitely do have options! Look for homes or workspaces that are open and filled with natural sunlight, and that also have solid white or light backgrounds that aren’t distracting to the eye. Some great boutiques that follow this rule beautifully are Shop Stevie Hender and Rachel Parcell Collection.
Where to rent affordable, chic photo studios & spaces
- Google "photo studios for rent near me"
If you do shoot outdoors...
If you opt to photograph outdoors, here are some things you’ll want to make sure to keep in mind! Your background should stay basic and minimal so that the products stand out! You’ll want to avoid busy backgrounds that cause distraction and visual confusion, such as trees, objects, people or packed sidewalks. Avoid bright red brick walls, so that the color hue doesn’t cast onto your model or clothes and ultimately distort the outfit or product you’re selling.
Another background to avoid includes glass panels or storefront windows. These can cause unwanted reflections (including the reflection of your photographer!) and distract the viewer from what you’re wanting them to focus on, and ultimately can change the vibe of your photo.
Not every photo needs to be taken in front of the same wall or backdrop, but do try and keep the backgrounds consistent and similar so that you’re conveying the same feeling across your photos.
Great options for photographing outdoors would be white walls, or light colored stone walls, or any space that has a bright, open and airy background. This is going to create a beautiful photo while highlighting your main focus; the model and your products!
Shoot in Open Shades
Definitely look for open shade when shooting outdoors vs. shooting directly into the sunlight. Open shade is going to give you the best natural lighting for your photos without causing them to appear too bright or washed out with too much light.
Open shade is going to be an area outside that is still full of natural light but is cast in a shadow big enough to provide you even lighting without allowing sun streaks to peek through and show up in your photos.
Shooting in open shade is going to provide the most consistency in your photos with lighting and allow you to focus on highlighting the beauty of your products to secure those sales!
While there’s nothing wrong with using mannequins to photograph your clothing or items for your boutique, the trend is navigating away from that practice and moving toward using models to help represent your brand!
If you don’t already have a group of models that you work with, there are multiple resources you can utilize to find the best match. Contact your local modeling agencies (models.com, yelp or google "model agencies near me", modelmayhem.com) or even utilize Instagram to find fashion influencers that would fit your brand. Working with fashion influencers is a great option because they usually already have a platform with an audience that respects and trusts them, and may even be less expensive to work with than some agencies. Plus, you’ll be able to set the terms of your collaborative relationship!
When searching for models to represent your brand, you’ll want to make sure that they fit your vibe and will appeal to your demographic! Work with people who are similar to those you are selling to. Are your demographics college women in their late teens and early twenties? Find models who fit that age range. Or if you sell fitness apparel, find local athletes in your area. Selling a product for the everyday mom? Find those who will fit your demographic and that your audience will be able to relate to. When your customer sees someone similar to themselves, they’re going to be more likely to identify with your brand and ultimately make that purchase!
Once you have your models, work with them consistently! It’s better to have a couple of models that you work with vs. just one because it will show diversity in how the items fit and how they can be styled. Working with the same models will help build brand recognition and over time, people will start to know who you are by recognizing the people in your photos. Some boutiques who have some #boss models include Pink Lily Boutique, Lulu's, Shop Morning Lavender.
Another thing to keep in mind when you’re photographing models is to have them show a little personality. The people who are shopping from you are going to be living in these clothes or items, so they want to see what these products look like being lived in. Avoid trying to make the photo look too staged, and instead, encourage your models to move around during the shots and have fun with it!
Invest in a Professional Camera
Don’t let finding a great camera for your business stress you out. Investing in a professional camera doesn’t have to cost a fortune! Even an entry-level DSLR would work wonders for your brand aesthetic and provide amazing photos.
The highlight of shooting with a DSLR camera is that the photos are going to create a smoother, cleaner, and overall more professional finish, and ultimately showcase your products in a way that will position them to sell.
Some great examples of entry-level DSLR cameras are the Canon EOS Rebel T6 DSLR or Rebel T7i. You can even find kits that Canon customizes to sell a small photography package all in one (think different lenses, carrying bag, tripod, etc). You can usually find this type of camera or even the full kit in the ballpark of $500-$1000, depending on the type of bundle you choose.
Another option is the Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera 3 Lens 18-55mm Lens + Bundle. That may sound like a lot of confusing pieces in a title, but basically, you’re going to get a kit similar to the Canon EOS that will provide multiple lenses and other accessories you’ll find useful while photographing your items. This bundle is similar in price to the Canon.
A third great option for an entry-level DSLR is the Fujifilm X Series. While typically not sold in a bundle like the other two mentioned, this one will have high-speed shooting options available that will be great if you’re having your models move a lot during the photoshoot.
Understanding Your Camera
In order to achieve a beautiful photo, you're going to need and want to have a basic understanding of ISO, aperture (F-stop), and white balance. Before you begin creating gorgeous photos, you’ll want to adjust these three settings in your camera.
It may seem foreign but we promise it will make sense, especially the more you practice! Each camera (and even your mobile phone) will be set up a little different, but these three basic settings can be found in all!
The ISO is a setting in your camera that is either going to brighten or darken your photo when you take it. For purposes of shooting gorgeous apparel in natural lighting, you’ll want to make sure that your ISO is no greater than 600-640, max. The higher your ISO setting, the grainer your picture can actually turn out. To create clearer, sharper images, you’ll want to have a lower ISO. Using a tripod will help with this, and will help keep your ISO at about 100-200 for optimal clarity.
Aperture, or F-Stop (which you’ll see listed on your camera), controls your focus. You’ll probably see a setting like f/16, or f/2.8 on your camera.
Keep in mind, that the larger the aperture number, the more aspects of your photo that are going to appear to be in full focus. A typical rule of thumb is to set your f-stop at or higher than f/11; this will provide an equal playing field across your photo to allow all products to appear in full focus (that way, if you’re shooting a full outfit head to toe, all the items will be in focus, as opposed to just the dress being clear, but maybe the hat looking blurry).
Similar to how you want to look for open shade and natural lighting when taking your photographs, you’ll also want to pay attention to your white balance. There are so many ways to learn about light sources in photography, but a simple basic rule is recognizing that your light sources are going to have different warmths, which will ultimately create different casts that can cause your camera to confuse what’s a true white or not (for example, have you ever noticed that the whites in a photo appear bluer?) The three most common types of light sources are fluorescent, LED, and natural light.
You can specifically set your white balance in your camera settings according to the type of light you’re shooting in, or, you can set your white balance to AUTO, ultimately letting the camera choose while shooting.
Capture All Angles
It’s easy while photographing to just concentrate on the front or main angle of your subject. For example, your model is wearing your upcoming maxi dress that’s going to be gorgeous for fall! You have a beautiful photo of her head on, wearing the dress and smiling toward the camera. Perfect! But you’re not finished, yet! Don’t forget to include multiple angles and detailed shots of your products! This includes side shots, what the back of the item looks like, and some that are close-ups to show details of a pattern or fabric.
Take a variety of photos so that your customers can get ALL the details so they can know just how fabulous your products are!
Another tip we recommend is to use props in your photos! This strategy will not only make your photo more captivating, but it will also add another level that your customer can relate to.
Remember, you want your photos to represent your brand all while showing off some personality and capturing that similarity between what you’re selling and why your customer needs it. Adding movement and props is the perfect way to achieve this! Examples include having a portable fan blowing on a maxi dress or skirt to give it some movement. Have your model hold a bouquet of flowers or even a cup of coffee. Adding that real-life element is going to help you build a faster relationship with your customer because they’ll be able to see themselves doing the same thing in that same outfit! One piece of advice; make sure your prop adds to the story and doesn’t become a distraction!
Now that you have your photos taken, it’s time to edit them! Your editing style should remain consistent from photoshoot to photoshoot. Ultimately you’re creating your brand, and although products will change, your brand aesthetic should generally stay the same.
You’ll want to make sure that you’re editing your photos consistently across the board. This means using the same preset or editing style each and every time you edit those photos. Our newest Pure Lightroom Preset is a perfect option for brands and boutiques wanting to showcase their products! This preset highlights the natural beauty of each product, while brightening the photo to make it clear, crisp, and gorgeous, without changing the natural hue or color of the photo itself. You can see examples of this preset and some brands who have already tried it here!
Taking amazing photos for your brand is essential to standing out and finding success in selling your products! But don't let the process scare you. Learning to take and edit amazing photos don’t have to be difficult, as long as you’re following our best tips to help you be successful! Just remember to always plan ahead! Take some time getting to know your camera and play around with the settings! You’ll quickly learn what looks good and what you don’t like. Plus the more comfortable you feel using your camera, the more confident you’ll feel once it’s time for the big photoshoot!