10 tips for doing a photoshoot on a budget

/ By Jacqui Ma

When you are a small brand and bootstrapping your business like me with Goodordering, you need to constantly watch the budget. But you also CANNOT afford NOT to create fresh content regularly. I'm definitely proposing that you should use professionals where you can and for those important campaigns, but lets face it, sometimes you need to do it yourself. 

Here are some of my tips that have been useful in producing photographic content on a low budget. 

1. Milk every last drop out of  professional photoshoots 

When you are doing a photoshoot make sure you get the most out of it. This includes getting someone to snap behind the scenes stills (it could be yourself or an intern), someone to get some video footage for Instagram stories and if you can afford it, someone to shoot some actual video footage to create a short film to sit alongside your stills or to be used as a marketing campaign in its own right. Here is a film that i commissioned during the photoshoot of our Goodordering Eyewear look book. It is a lot cheaper to piggy back off an existing shoot than to set up a brand new shoot for a video. You might not get exactly what you want but if you are on a budget it is a good option.

Goodordering Eyewear Shoot video from jacqui ma on Vimeo.

 2. Use friends (and family) as models

Although real models are damned good at their jobs, sometimes you can look to your wider circle of family and friends for people who could model for your brand. For Goodordering, it is a key value of mine to portray real life. Some of the values of Goodordering include cultural diversity and i didn't have to look much further than my own son and his friend Zuli as models for our Goodordering kids photo shoot. I don't think i'd be able to use my son otto much more as he really hates being in photos now that he has wised up to my ploy, but it was great whilst it lasted! 

Otto and Zuli for Goodordering kids photoshoot by Sarah Winborn

3. Street cast models

When i did our photoshoot for Goodordering Eyewear recently, i put a message out on Instagram asking whether anyone would be keen to model. I made the ad lighthearted and humorous and opened up about doing a shoot on a budget. In the end, i was lucky enough to get Peter's mum volunteer her son - who was shy but amazingly professional and photogenic. It was a great experience for him to be in front of the camera and great for us too. The tip here is that we had Amanda modelling alongside him who is a professional and experienced model. She was able to show him how it was done and he was able to learn by watching and experiencing it at the same time. If you do use a new face or inexperienced model, its important that everyone is really patient and encouraging. Our shoot was fantastic because Jake Lewis (www.jakelewis.co) our photographer, was amazing. 

Peter at the Goodordering eyewear shoot

Streetcast model Peter Scheybeler

4. Use friend's location or shoot at home

I invested a little while ago in some lights and some basic colour colouramas (backdrops) so i could do some basic photography myself at home. It is a right pain to set it all up, but if i do have to get some specific photos that don't need to be professional quality, but demonstrate for example a certain function or a certain view i have found that it is a real time and money saver. The photoshoot below was done at Wusi Space which is a flexible creative space that you can hire. It also happens to be where my office is located so i can use the space for free if no one else is using it. Being flexible is key for saving money on locations.  I did have a decent camera that my brother gave me to use which is a Canon DSLR but the lens that i used is a standard basic one and the lights were bought on amazon and were not that pricey either, maybe £40-£50. Below are the photos that i ended up using on my Goodordering ecommerce website to demonstrate the functionality of the bags. When it comes to conversion rates, and the practicalities of making money, the photos don't need to be press quality but they do need to be functional and informative. 

Rhona showing the handlebarbag and rolltop backpack Goodordering

5. Be imaginative with props

When it comes to image making for social media and promotion, when you don't have a huge budget its the optimum opportunity for using your creativity. Its not just a matter of looking around your house and putting things together that might compromise or clash with your brand's DNA, but... you can convey strong and interesting messages using props that don't cost a lot of money to source. These images below are from a set of three images taken by creative Dani Greenwald. I gave her a bag and a loose brief and she created these images on a shoestring budget. This is another sub-tip which is to ask other creatives if they can make images for you. It often leads to creative results that you may never have imagined and can be really inspiring and inject new creativity into your brand and content.

Goodordering image styling by Dani Greenwald

6. Use natural light

If you don't have much equipment you can use natural lighting to your advantage. For this shoot i needed to wait for the right cloudy kind of day so i could get some even light. Keeping the set and concept really simple is my recommendation when a) you are not a profressional photographer and b) you don't have whizz bang equipment. For the image below i needed some photos to show the bits and pieces that come with the Goodordering market shopper/ bicycle pannier. So showing the change mat and the drawstring bag was the key reason of the photo. It was to send off to a potential stockist and i needed to do at quite a short time frame hence, the DIY. The one thing to expect when taking photos yourself is that you might need to take 50 shots to get one that you like !

Goodordering market shopper with baby change mat

 7. Collaborate

Sharing the cost of putting together a shoot with other brands is a good idea if you are short on cash. Apart from sharing the cost of the shoot itself, the images that come from the shoot have the chance of being more widely shared by both brands and reaching a wider market. For the photoshoot below, I did a shoot together with electronic company Retrak who make retractable headphones and other products for the mobile office. The concept behind the shoot was that the practicalities of the multi-pocketed Goodordering bags goes with the practical, quick to pack away and non-tangling products from Retrak. We shared images on our social but i was also able to get photos of my products alone by simply taking away the Retrak products from the photos. This way i shared the cost of the shoot with Retrak but got a great professional result for my own brand.

Goodordering backpack with laptop and retrak products

8. Create useful images

If you don't have much budget, it is important to make your images work hard for you. By this i mean that they should serve many functions within the one image (a bit like my bags:) The image below may not be a show stopper but it serves a few purposes that has made it worth the time and money spent doing this shoot. This image shows the multiple functions of the handlebar bag / bicycle bag in one shot that can be used as a banner image, printed for a postcard, cropped in for product shots and also used for advertising. Sometimes it is better to shift the focus from saving money to increasing functionality. 

Goodordering dads photoshoot

9. Be Opportunistic and always on the ready

My family are sick of me bringing along Goodordering bags wherever we go. You never know where there will be a cool wall or cute kid! Fortunately many of our friends are also owners of Goodordering bags and don't mind me snapping away. This image below which i used as part of a series of photos from a day out in south london could never have been planned. Being ready with a camera on days out is the perfect way to get photographic content completely free.

Goodordering mini on otto and friends in South London

10. Pay in product or barter

You would be surprised at how much people are willing to help out brands for very little pay or payment in kind with either product, or, in this case below - Pizza! Simply asking for help can result in amazingly loyal customers, great times and new friends! This image was spontaneously taken by our photographer for the day Jake Lewis whilst Mia, otto and I were carrying home 20 pizzas to share with friends after they generously gave up their sunday morning to be in our Goodordering family shoot in East London a few months ago.

Pizza payment Goodordering with founder Jacqui ma, mia wallden, and son otto

In Summary

Images are key in today's internet based world! Here is the summary of my key tips for creating images on a shoestring budget

1. Milk photoshoots for many different kinds of images
2. Use friends and family where possible
3. Street cast models, using social media to advertise for volunteers
4. Use friend's locations and think outside the box when looking for shoot venues
5. Be imaginative with props
6. Use natural light
7. Collaborate where possible to share the costs of a shoot
8. Create useful images that have multiple functionality
9. Be opportunistic and prepared with product and camera on regular days out
10. Barter and pay in product



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