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This week, we caught up with Nisa Zulkifli, one of the founders behind Speak, a conscious skincare company based in Malaysia.
Read about how she and her partner switched from doing it all in-house to outsourcing the product photography and image editing.
Getting started: Taking initial product photos
Like many ecommerce entrepreneurs, Zulkifli and her partner did everything in-house when they first started. Their DIY approach involved borrowing DSLR cameras and equipment, followed by taking a photography class to get a base knowledge, learning Photoshop and Illustrator, purchasing props and eventually investing in a photo lightbox.
“It took a lot of time,” she says. “And you could tell that the pictures were DIY.” They did this for a year before they needed to look for an alternate solution without sacrificing their vision for the photos.
The product photography started taking away from the business, rather than helping it. “One of the huge disadvantages was that because we were so busy, we didn’t have time to do as much as we wanted,” says Zulkifli. “I also ran operations, running out to the suppliers, managing emails, and having calls.”
As a result, photography started falling to the wayside. “It was at the bottom of the list because it wasn’t something I liked to do,” she says. “That impacted our social media, because we weren’t posting frequently enough and were using low-quality filler posts.” They knew it was time to find a different solution.
At the end of 2018, Zulkifli was browsing on Facebook when she saw an ad for a product photography package. The company ended up being local to her in Malaysia, and she decided to give it a try.
The duo went into the arrangement blind. “We didn’t really have an idea what it would cost, because we had only worked with two photographers before,” Zulkifli says. The company works on a project-based basis, so they opted for the package with one white background shot and three lifestyle concepts for each product.
The first shots they received were great, and Zulkifli and her partner quickly engaged their services for the rest of their products, as well as any new ones they add to their store. “They did an amazing job, and I would have nowhere near the capabilities to do what they’ve done,” she says. “They helped to elevate the look significantly.”
She’s also noticed an increase in social media engagement since using the professionally shot images. The company’s shots have also been the creative for Speak’s top-performing paid ads.
Tips for outsourcing in your business
If you’re looking to outsource your product photography and editing, there are a few tips to consider before you do. This can help you avoid wasting your time and money.
Vet your options
Before you hire a product photographer, you want to make sure they’re the right fit for your brand. Zulkifli did her due diligence and carefully researched the photography company they hired. “We checked out their social media and had a conversation with them, and the price point was attractive enough for us to jump in,” she says. “
Provide creative direction
Like Claurete’s Kabbabe, Zulkifli kicks off each photoshoot with a lookbook for the photographer(s). “I can get quite specific in terms of the look I’m trying to achieve,” she says. Zulkifli created a Google Drive folder with photos and examples of the look they’re after. This helps the photographer execute as close as possible to the original creative vision.
Trust the professionals
Outsourcing is, in a way, relinquishing control. And Zulkifli had to overcome that at first, as many business owners do. “Initially there was a concern if they could really pull it off,” she says of their first engagement. Now, she’s realized that putting trust in trained professionals has helped to elevate her business. She’s even looking to outsource more in the business.
Maximize your investment
Cost is one of Zulkifli’s biggest concerns when it comes to product photography. That’s why she looks for ways to repurpose the images for use on other channels. This has helped with filling out content on the Speak website in particular. “Because we have this base of photos, it has helped [build our content library] quite a bit,” she says.
Moving forward with your product photography
Whether you want to do everything in-house or outsource it all — or something in between — check out these resources first: