Getting More Beautiful Imagery With Efficiency

By December 18, 2019 December 29th, 2019 No Comments
Commercial photo studio in Dallas, Texas

4 Ways to Maximize Your Lifestyle Photo Shoot Budget

I’ve been on the inside at dozens of different studios, from small ones to massive ones like Amazon, Pier 1 and JCPenney.

Over my career, I’ve seen things done very efficiently, and also very inefficiently. This has given me an incredible perspective on the best ways to maximize budgets before and during production. 

I’ve seen (and learned!) a lot over 15 years…all of which I bring to my business and clients each day. And today, I want to share these tips with you!

Want to truly maximize your budget for your photoshoots? 

Here are my top four, time-tested, most impactful ways to save money and maximize your photo shoot budget:


Use your warehouse as a studio.

A dedicated studio space in your warehouse is a powerful way to save money. A lot of big companies bring in talent and shoot in their warehouse so they don’t have to transport product to studio. This saves tons of money on logistics costs! Plus, you can build walls and store them for your next photo shoot, along with your props. The savings compound.

Hire a freelancer photographer who is a specialist.

You have access to superior talent no matter where you are. You don’t have to be in New York or LA to have an amazing photography team in your studio. Freelance photographers are available—and you can find someone who is a specialist in your desired style of photography who can come to you. (My team and I travels around the country to come to our clients)!

Hire Production Assistants

Want to get the most out of your higher-day-rate creatives? Hire production assistants. This will prevent the photographer, stylist and creative director from getting bogged down with non-output tasks like repainting walls, getting merchandise and steaming fabrics. Because they get paid more per day, these are things you don’t want your photographer and stylist to be doing!

This is likely be the best cost savings tip—because it enables the higher-paid-creatives and specialists to finish their work quicker. The best photography teams don’t want to drag out a job; they want to get things done efficiently and make clients happy!


Use a Creative Directive Packet

A Creative Directive Packet is the roadmap that clearly describes the desired outcome of your photo shoot. It is all encompassing and will ensure that the shoot day runs smoothly and stays on schedule. This packet should include product info, set designs, inspirational images (go-by images), paint swatches, products silos and props needed.

When you make this packet a standard operating procedure for photo shoots, you will save days, weeks, even months of time because everybody on the team is on the same page from the beginning. It makes transitions so much faster because each set is defined in advance. The time it will take the creative director to develop this packet will pay off tenfold in savings and timeframes.

Prior to Production:

  • Build lite-duty walls out of Luan (not drywall) in a modular fashion so they can be repurposed and provide flexibility for other shoots. 
  • Ask to rent high ticket items, instead of buying them, by offering 20% of purchase price as a rental fee. 
  • It’s okay to overbuy props for the shoot—just keep receipts organized for easy return.
  • Buy props with the next two years usage in mind.
  • Have marketing materials designed prior to shoot day, or have templates ready for the photographer and stylist. This will help them compose and style the shots most effectively.  
  • Organize products on tables/shelves based on the theme or catalog page.

During Production:

  • Provide a shot list each morning so photo team can plan an efficient order to the lifestyle photos.
  • Once lifestyle photos from each set are complete, have photographer walk into set to take quick social media style images. You’ve spent time dressing this set, help it get extra mileage. 
  • Name lifestyle images based on SKUs of hero products in the scene for easy searchability for your organization.

My established process keeps my day productive and focused on creating captivating imagery.

Learn more about my process >>

Creative pros weigh in…

“Talk to your local plant nursery about renting plants for a photoshoot. Many nurseries also deliver. Time smart and cost effective! “

Kristin Green Meyer
Product Stylist: Pier 1 Imports, Neiman Marcus, Michaels Crafts

“Have a distinct plan for every shot!
Weeks before photo production starts I create a Design Directive packet to help guide the styling team and photographer so we are efficient and working towards one common vision.

Amber McGuire-Tomlin
Art Director: Container Store, At Home, JCPenney

“For set construction- build two common wall sizes: 4 foot wide x 10 foot tall and 8 feet wide x 10 feet tall– these two modular sizes will accommodate just about any set design

Construct the walls from lite-duty materials for easier to move and store in studio. Materials such as luan paneling and 1″x 2″ studs are much cheaper than building grade.”

Mario builds photo sets for home furnishings photo studios in Dallas, Texas.

Mario Sanchez
Set Builder: Neiman Marcus, Raz Imports, Urban Outfitters

The best way to maximize your photo shoot budget?
Do it right the first time!


I’ll help ensure you do.
Let’s talk.

Is better photography that’s more efficient
and more engaging what you need?

I love this problem– it is one of the best areas to prove my worth.

I’m more than a photographer, I am a collaborator that wants to hear about your problems so that I can offer solutions to take them off your shoulders.

Aaron Dougherty

Aaron Dougherty

Hi! I am Aaron Dougherty, I take photographs that create emotional connections and sell products. With 15+ years of experience, I work with home furnishings brands in Texas (and beyond!) who want amazing marketing images and an easy, enjoyable experience.