November 26, 2013, 11:53 AM

How apparel retailer CookiesKids saves ‘serious man hours’ on product photography

It replaces about 90% of photo shoots with the iPad app-controlled StyleShoots system.

Lead Photo

An image of the StyleShoots machine.

Children’s apparel and accessories seller CookiesKids.com has cut the time to get new product images on its web site from one or two weeks to two or three days by using a table-like machine to take most of its photos rather than hiring professional photographers for the job, director of marketing Jack C. Shammah says. Called StyleShoots, the machine handles all the formatting and retouching a retailer requires to generate exactly the right picture on the first try, he says. It is operated through a StyleShoots mobile app on a wirelessly connected iPad.

Since switching from operating two full-time photo studios to using StyleShoots for 90% of its product photography, CookiesKids has saved significant time and money, Shammah says, declining to give exact figures. “Professional photographers cost a fortune,” he says. “Now anyone who knows how to use an iPad can use this machine.” He still hires photographers, but only to take photos of the odd CookiesKids product that needs special attention, such as being displayed on a mannequin, he says.

To take a photo of a pair of shoes, for example, a CookiesKids staffer would position the shoes on top of the StyleShoots machine, select the pre-set “shoes” option on the iPad and press one button to take the picture, Shammah says. The pictures are saved on a USB storage device attached to the machine which the staffer can then pull out and put into a computer to upload the images directly to the web site.

StyleShoots takes two pictures of an image lying on its surface—which operates as a light box—with both complete back-lighting and zero back-lighting. Those images combine to generate a single “background-less” image that a retailer can use with its standard, site-wide backgrounds. StyleShoots also automatically formats the images to the dimensions, color, lighting and other requirements a retailer sets beforehand, Shammah says.

“Between taking a picture manually, transferring it to the PC manually, retouching, resizing, et cetera—StyleShoots does that all in one step,” Shammah says. “It does the work of serious man hours.”

Moreover, the photos that the machine generates are of better quality than what professional photographers produce, he says. Man-made photos are never finished uniformly, in exactly the way the site needs them to be, which is why the process of taking, retouching and formatting them used to take CookiesKids up to two weeks. In contrast, Shammah says, “Every picture with StyleShoots comes out A+. It’s man versus machine.” The machine also features an optical zoom, which Shammah says is superior to the digital zoom in most photographers’ cameras.

A team of four StyleShoots employees came to install the machine in CookiesKids’ office, which took a couple of hours. That team has remained the retailer’s go-to support group, Shammah says. CookiesKids is leasing the machine to eventually own it, paying a few thousand dollars per month, he says. In terms of time and labor savings, however, he says, “It already paid for itself.”

CookiesKids.com is No. 549 in the 2013 Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide.

Netherlands-based StyleShoots is distributed in the United States exclusively by Focal Media Group.

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