When working on a sponsored campaign, many times the brand will ask for in-store photos. Even if they don’t, including in-store photos of the product or brand helps your readers identify and connect with the product or brand, which is sure to impress the brand you are working with. That old maxim, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” really is true!
By showing your readers what the product or packaging looks like, how it may be displayed when they are shopping and, whenever possible, how your pet interacts with it increases brand awareness and emotional connection. When you connect with your readers and followers on an emotional level, you increase your influence!
But let’s face it. Stores are designed, laid out and stocked to promote the shopping experience, not to meet the needs of bloggers taking photos. Millions and millions of dollars are spent designing, testing and rearranging stores to help keep customers in the store longer, promote specific products and increase the dollar amount of purchases.
When it comes to store lighting, display sets and shelf stocking, the needs of bloggers and other social media influencers are not a priority, and understandably so. Though taking in-store photos does present a unique set of challenges, bloggers and social media influencers, especially in the pet space, are a creative people! Each of us can rise to the challenge and positively show off the product or brand we are promoting in our own authentic and engaging way.
Here are a few tips for taking the best in-store photos.
- Introduce Yourself.
When you arrive at the store, politely introduce yourself (and your pet) to the store manager or manager on duty. Offer her or him a business card, and explain what you are working on! Retail is a busy, fast-paced environment–I know because I worked retail for many years–so please understand if the manager keeps the conversation short. She or he is responsible for many moving pieces and needs to make sure they are all running smoothly. The goal isn’t to make a new friend, though that would be nice. Rather, you want to be courteous and respectful of their time and their store. If they know who you are and why you are snapping photos, they in turn will give you the space you need.
- Be Unobtrusive.
When taking photos, be aware of your surroundings and how your presence impacts the store’s customers and staff. Don’t block aisles or access to displays. Don’t let your pet make a mess or destroy displays. Bring poop bags and paper towels in case your pet as has an accident. If Fluffy or Fido does make a mess, clean it up yourself.
- Include Your Pet Whenever Possible.
When working with pet brands, the sponsor is trying to reach pet parents. Go ahead and say it. You know you want to: Well, duh, Bernard!One thing pet parents and pet lovers respond to more than anything else (okay, I might have made that up but I suspect it’s true!) are photos of your pet(s). Your readers and followers know your pet’s name, what she likes, the goofy thing he did last week and they have connected emotionally with your pet. Including your pet in in-store photos helps drive home the message of your post in a visual way. I mean, if Edison the deaf dog is super excited about that toy, then surely Dexter or Emmett will be too!
- Look for Displays.
Many times, social media campaigns are one piece of a larger marketing campaign. In these cases, the visual merchandising team at the store will create large, creative displays in high-traffic areas to help drive interest and sales. These displays are usually well lit, include signage and show the product or brand in an engaging way. Incorporating these displays in your photos is a great way to show off the brand or product in a big way!
- Look for End Caps.
End-caps are the section at the end of each aisle where featured products are displayed. LIke larger displays, end caps are a great place to stage your photo.
- Freshen up the Shelves.
Generally speaking, customers are not the cleanest people! Instead of returning something to where it belongs, many of us just leave it on the nearest shelf. A beautifully stocked section of shampoos soon has several dog toys, a box cat litter and some fish food.Before shooting photos of those shampoos, take a minute or two to freshen them up. Pull products forward so the shelf looks full. Remove that fish food. If you still have some paper towel left (see #2 above), quickly dust the products and/or shelves.There have been times when a specific product is sold out, and I’ve been faced with an empty row of products smack dab in the middle of six full rows. I have been known to move products to fill in this empty row, take my photographs and then return the items back to where they came from. My goal is to make the product display and the store look as pleasing as possible, not re-merchandise the store! If you move any products, you absolutely should return them when you’re done!
- Avoid Other Brands.
This is a big one, so please listen up! Please avoid including competing brands or products in your photo! This sends a conflicting message and is not going to make the brand happy. Avoiding other products is definitely a challenge and can require some thoughtful creativity, especially when the product you are promoting is sitting right next to a competitor.In these cases, you may need to shoot from a different angle or zoom in your lense. If you can’t avoid betting other products or brands in the photo, try to get these competing products on the edge of the photo. When you’re back at home and editing your photos, you can easily crop out the competitor!
- Be Creative!
Sometimes, the most engaging in-store photo doesn’t involve products on the shelf. Take a photo of your pet with the product in your shopping cart. Perhaps take a photo of a friend, spouse or significant other reading the bag of food or reaching for the box of cat litter. If your pet is small, have your unpaid assistant take a photo of you holding your pet and the product- then buy them coffee or a beer afterwards! You can even take photos of the product as you’re checking out at the register. I know there are hundred of other ways to be creative…and I can’t wait to read your tips in a comment below!
- Avoid Including Staff or Customers in Your Photo.
Please make sure you do not include customers or employees in your photo! Focusing on your pet and the product is the best course of action. Be aware of other people in the background and wait for them to move.
- Say Thank You and Goodbye!
When you’ve taken all your photos, make sure you say goodbye to the store manager or staff. Say thank you, especially if they helped you find a product or assisted you in any other way.
- Edit! Edit! Edit!
As with all things photography, the magic really happens in the editing room! Because the lighting in most stores is not ideal for photography and because you will likely capture other products or brands in your photo, it is really important to edit your photos! Brighten them up, adjust the color, increase or decrease the contrast or black point. Your goal is to share a bright, crisp, clear photo that shows the product or brand in a positive way- and spending a few minutes editing your photo will help you accomplish this.
What have you learned from taking in-store photos? What advice of tips can you share to help others? Let’s start a conversation with some comments below!
In addition to his role as the BlogPaws Campaign Manager, Bernard Lima-Chavez is a deaf dog pet parent, blogger and freelance writer. He shares his life with with deaf dogs, two hearing dogs and a whole bunch of cats. You can find him at Dog & His Boy.