Shop-the-look product photography: Will it be business as usual for image editing service providers?

In our last blog we discussed how ‘shop-the-look’ photography influences e-commerce by attracting customers to buy into complete experiences and unique fashion statements comprised of several products combined together. This use of in-context or lifestyle photography by e-retailers has transformed the way brands and e-retailers market themselves, especially in retail fashion. Here, the brand offers shoppers an opportunity to be part of a complete look or experience rather than purchase a single item. The ‘product image’ then contains several products on a model or in a specific environment arranged to collectively portray that look, lifestyle or persona. So how is this type of marketing and the associated ‘shop-the-look’ photography going to affect those at the other end of the e-commerce chain: the image editing service providers?

Shop-the-look photography can affect the image editing industry across the following areas, among others:

Editing skill sets

In conventional image editing operations, editors work on a single product image and perform tasks like background removal, color correction, retouching, clipping path, etc. With in-context or lifestyle photographs, it is important for an editor to understand how the combined images of different products are building up the depicted moment or lifestyle. This means image editors need to appreciate the finer, creative details of lifestyle or thematic photography to understand how lighting, shadows, hues and blends, color consistency, among others, work together to create a ‘shop-the-look’ image. In other words, they need to put themselves in a creative photographer’s shoes. In a conventional, fast-paced image editing studio that processes thousands of images daily, image editors are not usually called upon to use these skills. Additionally, they may need to learn the use of new tools in existing software or new software when editing lifestyle photographs.

Studio operations

When a photo editing service provider decides to work with a high volume of in-context photographs, it can impact conventional operations in the image editing chain. For example, high-volume and quick turnaround tasks like clipping paths (a process generally used in background removal by ‘cutting out’ a standalone product image) are not be required in editing in-context images where several products arranged together make up the original photo shoot. So staff numbers and allocation according to specific tasks and skill sets can change, and stages in the process chain can also be modified according to priority and operational efficiency.

Business model

Since conventional and shop-the-look images require different types of editing and skill sets, a studio can adapt its business model depending on its focus. Factors like volume of work, resources required and revenue will inform its business model. For example, a studio can have its own full team of image editors and staff or it can have a small team that outsources all the editing work. A studio with dedicated staff can also focus on advanced editing tasks only – like editing shop-the-look photos or advanced image restoration – and outsource typical high-volume tasks like clipping paths.

As discussed in our two blogs on this topic, shop-the-look photography will influence the way customers view products and in turn require image editors to adapt to editing different types of photographs that are not just typical standalone product shots. Does your studio work with this type of photographs? What are the challenges you have faced to adapt from editing conventional product shots?

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