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Asset Production 101

A major part of digital advertising is asset production, whether that’s photo or video. With the thousands of photos and videos we’ve produced since our founding as a food-and beverage-focused agency, here is a guide to what we’ve found to work.

Starting Off

It’s important to start your shoot off right and that begins not with you, but with your clients. You’ll be needing some important information from them, including:

  • Asset Usage – this will determine what angles and styling you’ll need
  • Recipes or Subject Info – it’s helpful to the food stylists to receive these ahead of time if recipes are involved, and it will help you plan how much time you need between each shot
  • Potential Shoot Dates – book your production crew and location around these dates (and remember, never confirm a date without being 100% sure about it or you’ll incur cancellation fees down the line)

It’s important to gather all of the necessary information before you begin planning with the rest of the crew. Once you’ve nailed down the basics, you can put together your estimate, timeline, and Pre-Production deck.

A Good Pre-Pro Deck

A good Pre-Production deck (or, pre-pro) includes all of the details for your shoot – starting with logistics. Make sure to include where it is, when it is, who needs to be there, and any other important info such as parking or directions.

Pre-pro decks also include a shot list that goes over the different photo angles or videos you’re capturing, as well as recipe information and specific style guides for each shot. This is put together by the creative team. Based on the purpose of the shoot, they decide which angles and props are needed. This is why it’s important to get your base information early in the process – so your creative team has enough time to put all of this together.

The last thing your pre-pro needs is a shoot matrix. This is the schedule of the shoot that outlines which shots are being taken and when, how long clients have for approvals, and what time you need to wrap. While the creative team puts together the style and propping guides, it’s the account manager’s responsibility to put together the shoot matrix.

It’s good to have a meeting with all participating parties before the shoot. This includes agency partners, clients, and the production crew. The creative team should present the shot list and style guide for each recipe, and you’ll get final feedback (or approval) from your client.

Day of the Shoot

Now, you’ve done all your prep work, the pre-pro is approved, and you’ve arrived on set. Here are some tips on how to keep things running smoothly:

1. Setting Expectations

It’s important to make sure the production team and the clients all know the schedule for the day so they know how long they can spend on each shot. If your schedule is tight, it may be a good idea to designate one person in charge of all client approvals.

“Sometimes clients can get hung up on little things, and we have to remind them that our photographer can easily make a lot of changes in post.” – Elise Adkins, Account Manager

2. Anticipating Needs

Being considerate of your team can really help a shoot stay on track. If you are sitting around waiting for the next recipe to be made, try to find something else that can be done in the meantime – for example, set the props for each of the shots aside so your photographer can grab them easily, or wash dishes while the food stylist continues their prep.

3. Taking Notes

As you go through each shot, keep track of changes that need to be made in post-production. For example, reducing the shine on bowls or adding stickers to fruit.

4. Stay Positive

Photoshoots are much more enjoyable when everyone is in a good mood, so do something to brighten your team’s day. Maybe you can offer to pick up coffee or breakfast if your shoot is starting early in the morning. Maybe you can put someone in charge of playing fun music. Maybe you can catch up with the crew or your clients during your lunch break. Maintaining a positive attitude can keep everyone’s energy up while you work.

Post-Production and Editing

After you’ve finished your shoot, all that’s left is to retouch and edit the photos and videos. Whether this is done in-house or freelance, it’s important to make sure your editor knows what’s expected of them.

“Clear and concise retouching notes help bring the final images and design together” is what Kyle Pennington, Freelance Photographer, noted as what’s most helpful for him in the post-production process.

At the end of the day, the biggest tip I can give you is to be over-communicative and trust in your team. When everyone knows what’s expected of them, that’s when a shoot runs the smoothest.



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