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Creative Force: How to finally put Style Guides at the center of your photo studio—and stop wasting time


Three monitors displaying different Creative Force photo studio management software applications: digital style guides, kanban overview, client login

How many spreadsheets does it take to run a photo studio?

None. Zero. Not anymore.

What about binders? Printouts? Surely you need to print a new style guide every week to keep it up to date?

Nope.

But how are photographers and stylists supposed to know how to capture a look without conflicting books scattered around the studio, two dozen sticky notes, and a wall of pinned tears that looks like a conspiracy theorist at work?

How can a studio manager know what stage images are at without a spreadsheet to access, and how can you trust statuses without a dedicated traffic controller spending all day updating that sheet?

You don’t need minions and you don’t need macros.

You just need Creative Force.

A digital kanban board overview of a photo studio workflow in progress

An auto-updating kanban board makes studio operations transparent

Creative Force brings continuous flow to the photo studio

Large or small, every busy studio is facing similar challenges around sample intake, order tracking, consistent styling, asset approval, file naming, timely communication, and asset management. Problems compound each other and lead to wasted time, reshoots, and unhappy clients.

The Creative Force software suite is how photo studios solve those problems in order to stop wasting time.

Each module is built on the same core concepts: centralization, automation, and continuous flow.

Scanning a barcode loads a product’s style guide and shot list, with photographers performing a quick drag and drop after shooting to verify all looks have been shot, automate file naming, and send images on for review.

That means scanning a barcode loads a product’s style guide and shot list, with photographers performing a quick drag and drop after shooting to verify all looks have been shot, automatically name files, and send images on for review.

It means an auto-updating kanban board gives an overview of your studio’s status at that exact moment, with the ability to drill all the way down to a single item. How many items in S19 are on the sample rack? Have been shot? Are in post-production? What do that SKU’s images look like right now? The answer to every nagging question is at your fingertips.

Demo Creative Force

Do you want to stop wasting studio time? Schedule a demo to see what parts of Creative Force are right for you, and how much time you can save.
  • Digital style guides
  • Intake and sample management
  • Deep data insight

Continuous flow means that you don’t wait until the end of the day for an assistant to review the days’ photos, update a spreadsheet, push to a shared directory, and send a flurry of emails before heading out the door. It means images can be approved by an art director in real time, and that approval automatically renames images and sends them on to post-production.

So a retoucher can be at work on an image shortly after it’s shot, instead of waiting for it to be uploaded in bulk along with hundreds of others at the end of the day. That accelerates time to market and allows more work to be done, faster, with fewer resources.

There’s too much to talk about in one blog post, so as an introduction let’s drill down on how Creative Force modernizes a piece of the photography workflow everyone’s familiar with: style guides.

Traditional style guides are obsolete almost as soon as they’re printed—and they’re ignored anyway

A desktop app digital style guide and shot list for product photography

The style guide and shot list loads when a barcode is scanned

Style guides are essential to creating consistent imagery, but they see surprisingly inconsistent use in the studio. Far too often they’re printed out, glanced through once, and then largely ignored.

Photographers may feel that it’s too time consuming to flip through hundreds of items to find the current product’s entry, and think they already know how it should be shot. Maybe they feel the guide becomes out of date so quickly that they don’t trust it—especially if they’ve been given oral instructions that aren’t added to the guide. Maybe it’s too divergent from the shot list.

What we see time and time again in the studio are guides collecting dust in the corner, teams shooting based on experience from prior shoots, and freelancers treating the current website like a style guide.

That makes it frustratingly difficult to update styling and shot lists, leads to missing and incorrect shots, and pauses shoots while staff hunt down information. All of which slows progress and contributes to the worst and most dreaded productivity sin of all: reshoots!

There’s almost nothing more wasteful than a reshoot.

There’s almost nothing more wasteful than having to reshoot. When you don’t discover a problem until the sample or model has already left the studio, it’s not just a reshoot—it’s a total reboot of the workflow.

Digital style guides are how you get it right the first time

Creative Force’s digital style guides put all the necessary visual information in front of the right people at the right time: when they’re shooting.

Art Directors build the style guide for a season online, defining the shot list at category and/or product level, complete with example images. That information is shared with the desktop app used by the photographer.

An online interface for art directors to build a digital style guide for product photography

Style guides are built online and can be updated at any time

When a product’s barcode is scanned in the studio, the style guide appears on screen for the photographer.

An outfit confirmation screen when photographer scans a product's barcode, part of digital style guide software

A barcode scan loads product and outfit information

Now the photographer has the product’s shot list and style guide right in front of them. No searching, no doubt regarding version and accuracy.

As a product is shot, images are dragged on to the corresponding look in order to complete the shot list. It’s a super simple way to ensure no shots are missed and to sort images for behind the scenes automation.

When the shot list is complete, the photographer hits a “Transfer” button and what happens next depends on the workflow you set up. Images can be presented in an online interface with star rating and filtering functionality for art director approval, or uploaded into a DAM, or automatically sent to post-production—flexible workflows are a Creative Force feature deserving its own blog post. In any case, all activity is tracked and your shoot’s progress made easily apparent.

Screenshot showing centralized communication around imagery in photo studio management software

Art Directors (or others) can star, annotate, and send images on to the next phase

20% Cost Savings per set on first day using Creative Force digital style guides [Case Study]

We didn’t blindly develop Creative Force, or even do it based solely on our decade of experience automating post-production. We ran a “Lighthouse” program where major commercial photo studio participants could benefit from and guide our software dev. Real users, with real problems for us to fix.

For Digital Style Guides, we worked with a leading European retailer with an assortment width of around one million products. They were looking to improve their on-set, model shoot process, so we set up a trial production day.

After reviewing their workflow, we set up Creative Force digital style guides with a two-stage image selection process—meaning the photographer made pre-selects, and then an art director chose the final selects.

The trial production day, which also involved training the team on the new software, delivered:

BENEFITS

  • 53% reduction in shoot to final image selection duration
  • 100% naming accuracy and complete image suites
  • Significant reduction in utilization of the shoot team:
    • 39% reduction for the Art Director
    • 84% reduction for the Digital Assistant

Based on the new workload balance, reorganising the existing team structure (photographer, digital assistant, stylist, hair & make-up, and art director) to optimise role utilization would result in savings of approximately 20% per set, per day.

Pretty good!

And that’s just one piece of Creative Force.

What can Creative Force do for you?

Talk to a high volume photography expert to find out. See if you're a good fit for Creative Force, and learn how you can streamline your processes to reduce waste.
  • Reduce mistakes
  • Automate busy work
  • Improve flow

In coming blog posts we'll go more in depth on flexible workflows, sample handling, and how the continuous flow engine works. You can also visit creativeforce.io to learn more and subscribe to updates.