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How to Plan a Free Professional Product Photo Session

by Arianne Foulks

September 15, 2016

So you want beautiful, styled photos for your website, catalogs, and social media. Most business owners know the value of investing in a professional product photo session. But wouldn’t it be great to have a low-cost way to have a constant stream of fresh new photos? If you can find a way to get professional product photos for free (and have everyone involved be as happy as a clam), that’s a winner!

Aeolidia newsletter subscribers and I have been chatting about making more sales online, as usual. Recently, the topic of getting more engagement on Instagram came up.

Sarena Udani of PajamaSutra got back to me with this intriguing reply:

Your emails are so helpful and always so timely! I’ve been thinking a lot about Instagram lately and what I really want to say.

I think I’ve found it, and it is really simple – showcase beautiful brides in their getting ready moments, and make the focus entirely on them and their special “moments before Mrs.” (I’ve made #momentsbeforemrs one of our signature hashtags).

It is so great to be able to feature work from professional photographers, whose subjects are brides at their most gorgeous (and who happen to be wearing PajamaSutra robes).

It is a lot easier – and more engaging – than me photographing pajamas on my own and promoting them without much result.

My engagement has definitely gone up and things are looking a lot brighter on Instagram!



Photo © Nicole Goddard. Robes by PajamaSutra.

Well, I could hardly let that go without learning more, could I? I asked Sarena how it was she was getting these beautiful photos. It turns out that the elaborate shoots you see above and below are a result of a super smart arrangement between her and wedding photographers. No money changes hands. She has found a way to provide value to the photographer and the bridal party, while ending up with just the photos she needs to promote her product line.

I never had getting ready photos done for my wedding – my hair and makeup artist ended up ill in the hospital the day before my wedding, and my photographer ended up not making it to the bridal suite on time to see me applying my own makeup. It is such a full-circle moment for me to be able to play a small role in each of these brides’ getting ready moments. They all look amazing and their photos are so stunning, and it means so much more to me than simply a marketing strategy – it truly is an honor and privilege!

Photo © Nicole Goddard. Robes by PajamaSutra.

I asked Sarena for more detail, and she shared this collaborative strategy:

Last summer when I began marketing to brides with the launch of the PajamaSutra Bridal line, my initial plan was to set up a photo session. That meant I needed to hire a model to pose as a bride, as well as a hair/makeup artist to actually do her bridal look AND be in the photos, then hire a photographer, as well as purchase props like bouquets, champagne, and then of course more models to pose as bridesmaids who ALSO needed their hair and makeup done…and it all started to add up.

I believed in my product and really wanted to see the robes in the photos I envisioned, but I just couldn’t re-create a wedding photo session on the budget I had at the time. I essentially needed to host a styled shoot involving many vendors in the wedding industry.

Then I had an idea – I should approach real brides to see if I could arrange a photo agreement with them and their photographer! Yes, I would lose all control on the actual direction of the photos, but the HUGE benefit is that I would have real brides in my photos. That thought was really exciting for me – to capture the real moments a bride experiences while getting ready to be married – her transformation, glow, excitement, and sheer beauty. I realized that was a feeling I couldn’t re-create with a model.

I put together an agreement and model release based on existing contracts in the entertainment industry for product placement, then reached out to wedding coordinators to see if they had any brides who would be interested in working together. I received so much interest! I was thrilled to put together custom robes for my brides, and added special touches with the packaging to truly make them feel special. Once I received the photos back from the photographers, it was like opening a gift on Christmas morning. Gorgeous images – emotional, stunning, and meaningful… all featuring PajamaSutra and a glowing bride.

From then on, sharing on social media was more like a collaboration; each post was tagged with the photographer, the bride, her bridesmaids, her hair and makeup professionals, and other vendors that made it happen.

Now PajamaSutra Bridal is growing organically, with photographers reaching out to our Instagram profile with images they took of their brides wearing PajamaSutra while getting ready.

We also include a gold scroll with every order that ends with a request to tag and share images of our brides wearing PajamaSutra and how they “Lounge Like A Goddess”

Photo © Nicole Goddard. Robes by PajamaSutra.

Sarena began this idea by sending gift cards for the bridal party:

All of the communication was done between myself and the coordinator, to make sure the contract and model release was signed and taken care of (plus I wanted to keep the coordinator in the loop). I did make sure that I would credit the photographer with links back to their website and social media.

Since the photographer already had a contract with the bride, it was another way for the photographer to make their bride happy… essentially the robes were a gift from the photographer to the bride!

I also had put together a list of suggested photos and sent it over to the coordinator and photographer. I think it really helped! I included tips like making sure all the ladies had matching footwear (or no footwear), removing clutter from the background, and a reminder to allow enough time for photos outside as well. Sometimes the ladies are so busy indoors getting ready and forget to get the gorgeous outdoor shots in their robes!

Offering a gift card in exchange for the photos was a great way to get started in the wedding industry. I no longer offer gift cards, but I do reach out to a bride’s wedding photographer after she places an order for robes; I mention that I would love to feature the getting ready photos from her wedding. I found that just asking takes you really far!

Several of the bridesmaids who received a PajamaSutra robe from the photo exchange weddings ended up placing orders for their own weddings, which was lovely, very satisfying bonus!


Visit PajamaSutra on Instagram, see her tag #momentsbeforemrs, & online shop

Visit Nicole Goddard, photographer, on Instagram & website

Thank you so much for sharing, Sarena!

Isn’t that so smart? Sarena told me, “if the cost were the same to set up a styled shoot, I would actually still prefer to feature the photos from my real brides!”

Would this work for your products? If your product doesn’t make sense for a wedding, how about baby, family, or pet photography? Birthday parties? Anniversaries? Who is your dream customer, when is she or he using your product, and does that spark any collaboration ideas of your own?

Ready to figure out who YOUR dream customer is?

If you’re not sure who you’re marketing to, or who you would want to plan photos with, download our dream customer exercise below! Print out & fill out, to create your own customer profile of your dream girl or guy. The more specific you get, the more helpful it will be in the long run. Have fun, and dream big!

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