Product photography, not the sexiest thing in the world. In fact, many people rarely notice it, they’re so focused on the product (“Do I want to buy this?”). But with the decline of shopping malls and the rise of ecommerce, let’s face it: product photography couldn’t be more necessary in today’s e-retail market.
It’s true, Americans have been shopping way more online. Last year, there was a 21.3% jump in ecommerce sales, according to a recent report from Digital Commerce 360, and with lockdowns, the pandemic ushered in an additional $174b in online sales in 2020.
While portraits and fashion photography will always be hallmarks of the luxury market, so will product photography. Tsour Lee Adato is the CEO and founder of Pro Photo Studio, a company based in Coral Springs, Florida. Having worked with high-end clients like Gucci, Versace, Ferragamo, Macy’s and Adidas, he and his team have become experts at seamlessly elevating luxury products into iconic product images that prompt instant clicks.
Lee Adato has an unlikely background, having worked as a bodyguard for Britney Spears from 2008 to 2010. Around the same time, he took up photography (“I always considered myself as creative,” he said), then started working towards building his company. Pro Photo Studio launched in 2015.
With two more locations in the works (one in Texas, another in California), it taps into the growing need for amazing photography for small businesses putting their products online—iPhone photos just don’t cut it, especially with Facebook and Instagram marketplace funneling sales. Just last year, ecommerce in the US totaled at $4.28b, and according to Statistica, e-retail is expected to grow to $5.4 trillion by 2022.
In a time when click and order is overtaking brick and mortar, Lee Adato speaks about creating iconic product imagery and the art behind each product photo.
What kind of photos of Britney Spears were you taking when you started out?
Tsour Lee Adato: I began working for Britney as her personal bodyguard. She saw some of my personal photography and after about a year my role expanded, and I agreed to also work as her personal photographer. At the time we were very close, and she felt more comfortable with me taking photographs of her during interviews. I photographed her during OK and Star magazine interviews and also photographed and handled some of the videography during her MTV documentary, Britney: For The Record.
Why did you decide to get into product photography?
My start in product photography began as a happy accident. At the time, I had a business taking headshots when I was approached by a potential client who asked me to take product photographs for his ecommerce business. I immediately fell in love with the work and recognized the incredible opportunity to solve a problem. There was also a need in the market. It wasn’t long before I completely shifted my direction to focus exclusively on product photography.
Why did you start your business, Pro Photo Studio and what separates it from other product photography businesses?
I quickly realized there was a gap in the market and a huge opportunity to serve a niche that was underserved. It was evident to me that businesses of all sizes struggled to find reliable and skilled product photographers and that with the trending growth of ecommerce there was tremendous room for growth as a photographer and potential to scale.
Who do you help, mostly?
Our clients range from the solopreneurs to massive corporations, like Starbucks and Bacardi. They all get the same quality, customized content they need to grow their businesses. And in this ever-evolving age of Amazon style shopping, its necessary.
Why is there such a demand for e-commerce with small businesses today?
There is big money to be made online. Clearly, online retailers understand the impact that quality photos have on their business, which is why clients are unwilling to compromise, when it comes to their image quality. Our clients know that their sales will increase when they upgrade their media content.
What kind of business do you help the most?
We help businesses in need of high-quality product photographs and videos that showcase their products creatively. From the small solopreneur to household names like Starbucks, Gucci, Ferragamo, Bacardi and Adidas, we help these businesses bring their vision to life. Our work ranges from images for ecommerce shops to high volume, sophisticated lifestyle shots, including catalogue photos and videos.
What are some of the secrets to great, high-end product photography? It isn’t like shooting a portrait.
While portrait photography requires a great deal of skill, product photography and videography require a different, specific skill set. You can generally use the same light setting for most portraits, but with product photography, you need to be a master at light control. Different lighting is required for every product, even capturing the same product at different angles. When you consider the client’s desired outcome, that adds an additional layer of complexity. I have been studying and honing my lighting skills for years to master these skills. Still, with every new product we work on, we keep learning.
Why is product photography on the rise today?
The demand for creative and lifestyle product photography is on the rise. We don’t see this slowing down any time soon. We also are seeing greater demand for various types of product videos, including unboxing and stop motion videos. Our clients want to showcase their products creatively, expect flawless images. Most of our luxury, high-end clients reach out after seeing our creative and lifestyle work on our website or in social media. Once they have reviewed our portfolio, they are comfortable and confident that we can add value to their brand.
What makes up a great lifestyle image to help a brand?
The most important factors are understanding the brand, the specific product and vision of the client. We also have to understand the demographic they’re looking to reach with the images we’re creating. Some brands have an art director, or an idea, but often, they give us free reign. In these instances, we use our own stylist. Recently, we worked with Invictawatches, the high-end watch company. Invicta came out with a new line of men’s fragrances, and as we got clear on the demographic and considering the names and packaging, we landed on a campaign that captured the essence of the product, water, fishing and hunting.
Let’s be real. What kind of photos really sell ecommerce products?
Buyers want to see products in action, from every angle. They expect that what they will get in the mail will match their expectation based on the photos and videos they saw when vetting the product. Sellers know they must come as close as possible to providing buyers with an experience that matches a traditional brick and mortar experience. We use multiple angles in our 360-spin photography. With jewelry, skincare and apparel products, we create infographics that offer a visual overview of a product.
Is product photography underrated? Wherein lies the artist’s touch?
When I first started in this business, I think product photography was underrated. In my experience, this has been changing. The value add it can create for a product is huge. Today, most sellers understand the importance and that their buyers are demanding more as they are shopping more online than in brick and mortar. Sellers understand that their online buyers are looking to experience a product as best they can, without actually being able to touch it—especially before making a click-worthy decision.