How to brief a photographer

Got a new product ready for launch? Exciting! But maybe you’re short on visual assets to add to the product page and the accompanying launch campaigns – so what’s a brand to do?

Photos are a crucial part of online shopping. Consumers can’t see or touch a product IRL before they buy, so you need good pics to do it justice. In an ideal world, this means hiring a photographer who can snap some shots as soon as yesterday and having the photos turn out exactly how you wanted.

If only it were that easy. 😩 Creating beautiful product shots that help you stand out from the crowd isn't a walk in the park. There are tons of reasons why your plan for perfect product shots can fall apart, but one of the most common is not effectively briefing a photographer.

In this blog, we’re hashing out what a good ecommerce photography brief looks like and how it can help do your products justice. (And, make sure to check out our photography brief template at the end. 👇)

Why you should hire a freelance photographer

You need top-tier product shots. The kicker? You don’t have the budget (or the work) to justify hiring someone in-house and you'd rather not shoot product photos yourself. Your best option in this case? Hire a freelance photographer. Here's why:

1. It gives you a professional advantage ✅

Poor product images stick out like a sore thumb. From distracting backdrops to grainy and poor-quality images, these leave a bad impression and your potential shoppers might question your credibility.

Professional freelance photographers earn their reputation by producing top-quality photos. They know precisely how to capture your product's personality without sacrificing the quality.

2. It’s flexible ✅

When hiring a freelance photographer, you don't have to lug your products to their location as you might need to do with a studio or agency. Sure, there are some agencies that will come to you, but freelancers will definitely come to your preferred location to shoot. This gives you the flexibility and advantage to plan your day and sessions.

3. They come with bags of creativity ✅

A freelance photographer has worked with a variety of clients in the industry – they might have shot tins of tuna one day and baby shoes the next. The diversity of their work means they often go above and beyond to come up with creative ideas (and they know what’s hot and what’s not at any given time). A good photographer (like any freelance creative worth their salt) will come with their own ideas, meaning it's not all on you to bring the creativity. Think of it more as a collaboration.

Where to find a freelance photographer?

Okay, so you're convinced. Now you need to find the photographer! Here's where to look:

Ask around your network

If you work in ecommerce, there’s a chance someone you work with can recommend a photographer. Perhaps they’ve worked with one in a previous company, or they have some connections on LinkedIn.

Social media

Socials are a great place to make connections and spark conversations with potential freelancers. Try LinkedIn to find photographers in your area. Or, head to Instagram where you can find reams of professionals who often showcase their work on their IG accounts.

Freelance listing sites

There are lots of freelance listing sites across the web where photographers can go to show their portfolios. For example, Contact Agency (who just so happen to be a customer of ours 😇) is a clever booking platform that puts you directly in touch with creatives. You can search for photographers, filter by 'ecommerce', shortlist the ones you like the look of, and book in some work. Easy peasy! You can also use Contact to book models for your shoots.

Why a good photoshoot brief is important

You’ve just got an amazing product photographer on board and are eager to get started. Make sure you take the time to brief them properly or you might run into expensive hiccups later down the road.

A photography brief is a summary of your goals and objectives for the photoshoot. It gives the photographer a clear view of the project and gives them context around the products they’re shooting.

The more detailed the better when briefing a photographer. Give them all the info they need to create top-tier shots one after the other. These are the top reasons it's important you get this brief right:

1. It helps photographers understand your brand 📸

You'll no doubt have an idea of how you want your shoot to turn out. But a photographer won’t fully understand your vision unless you communicate it. Want rainbows and unicorns framing your jars of vegan ice cream? Want a diamond skull backdrop for your new range of razors? Tell them!

Knowing what your brand is about will give them the inspo they need to create on-brand shots (and give you peace of mind that you’re getting exactly what you want).

Freddies FlowersFreddie’s Flowers incorporates an on-brand rustic backdrop and an assortment of props - perfectly in-step with their friendly, rustic brand.

2. Avoid any misunderstandings 🥸

Misunderstandings happen, but effectively briefing a photographer will minimise the chance of things going haywire on the day of the shoot. For example, if you wanted a dark solid colour backdrop for your products but the photographer has gone all out with bright colours and props, you’ll know that something has gone wrong somewhere along the line. A photography brief will reduce any last-minute chaos.

3. It helps you define objectives ✨

What do you want to get out of the photoshoot? What’s the end goal? Chances are, you want a selection of eye-catching product images you can use across your site, social media, and emails, right?

While you might have several ideas spinning around in your head, putting them down on paper (in a brief) can help you solidify your brand’s purpose and what you want to achieve with a product photo shoot.

4. Keeps both sides accountable 🧐

Having a written brief to refer back to will keep both sides accountable–no more miscommunication about expectations and deliverables. Without a brief, it’s difficult to question why a photographer used diamond skulls as a prop rather than the unicorns and rainbows you were hoping for.

5. Avoid costly mistakes 💸

Having to reshoot would be a nightmare for both you and your photographer. Make sure you minimise the risk of that by covering through the points above. 

What to do before your photoshoot

The best photography briefs are detailed but leave room for the photographer to propose their own ideas. Before you start briefing a photographer, here are a few things you should do:

1. Have a defined photoshoot plan

This is where you need to think about the date, location, time, and other shoot details. If the location is new to you, consider pinning a sketch or photograph of the place so you can visualise what it looks like.

If you're shooting outdoors, include an alternative solution in case the weather goes south. Finally, outline basic details regarding the shoot's layout and schedule, as well as your expectations from the photographer during that period.

Ragged PriestThis jumper by The Ragged Priest was obviously shot on a sunny day. We’re hoping the brand had a Plan B in case the heavens opened.

2. Make sure your product shots are consistent

If you're getting lots of product shots taken, make sure you or your photographer has thought about aspect ratios and consistent lighting. This is especially important if you're shooting variations of the same product, or products that have the same dimensions. Take Touchland from the screenshot below. They've created a series of consistent product shots - the lighting, angles and ratios are all exactly the same. Now imagine if they weren't. Keep your product shots consistent or it'll look plain odd when visitors are browsing your online store.

TouchlandTouchland has a uniform series of product shots that look good enough to eat 😍 - though we wouldn’t recommend trying hand sanitiser!

2. Organise as much as you can beforehand

The last thing you want is a mad scramble the morning of your photoshoot. Get organised beforehand so you know what props you need, what products will be shot, and any other “must-haves” on the day.

One of our clients, Kelly Wynne, has nailed this. Kaitlyn, their VP of Brand, Demand and Community, says:

“We have a photographer, but I organise the photoshoots. What I mainly focus on is the necessity of what we need. A lot of times, we’re just bringing in a new colour of handbag, so I’ll take a look at the previous shoot and figure out what I wish I’d had last time.”

Kaitlyn uses a Google Doc to write down every product they're shooting along with the various model shots they need with the product.

3. Know your target audience, story, and vision

You probably have the perfect picture in your mind of how you want your product shots to look but you need to pen that down so the photographer is clued in. One of the most important parts of this is knowing who your products are for – this will help you create product shots that resonate with your people.

“Having a clear story and vision for what you want your shots to look like is key to creating great product assets,” says Alice, Marketing Coordinator at RJ Living (one of our customers). “We have a plan before every shoot about the theme and mood behind a shoot. This includes which customers we are trying to engage with for each look, and how the images are going to be used across print and digital.”

3. Iron out the technical details of the photoshoot

Help your photographer with technical details of your shoot. Here are the details you should add:

  • Lighting equipment
  • Number of backdrops
  • Any props
  • Camera and lenses according to the needs
  • Any support crew to assist during the shoot
Picking the right equipment set will help you choose the right photographer for your products and ensure you nail every photo on the day of the shoot.

4. Decide how you want to receive your files

Photo shoots tend to generate huge digital files. They can crash inboxes and take aaaaages to download.


Decide how you want to receive your files before the first pic has been snapped. A tool like Dash (that’s us) makes it easy to collaborate with multiple stakeholders, share ecommerce photography with your team, and sort through large files from your chosen photographer.

Ask your photographer to upload files straight into Dash where you can approve them with one click and share them with your team — eliminating the need for elusive Dropbox links and WeTransfer zips.

5. Find a place to organise your images

Once you've got your fresh new set of approved shots, you’ll need a dedicated space to store and organise them. You don't want to keep all the images in different folders under different categories in your shared drive — that can quickly lead to lost photos, duplicates, and general chaos.

A digital asset management tool such as Dash can be the new home for your images. You can organise your visual content with custom fields (like which product line the shots are of), search through your pics and send them to your marketing channels. 🚀

ecommerce photography storage A look at what your brand images might look like in Dash folders ✨

Dash is designed to help ecommerce brands speed up how they receive, store, organise and use their ecommerce assets. Try it out for yourself with a free trial - no-strings or credit card needed.


Template for briefing your photographer 

Now that you know what goes into a great photography brief, download our free template that will give you everything you need to ensure gorgeous product shots for your brand.📸

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Photography brief template 

Create a brief for your photographer and ensure you you get gorgeous product shots for your brand.

Download now!

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