Complex photo shoots and time-consuming post-production
For Phillips Collection, product photo shoots were multistep, complex productions that had a lot of moving parts. “We had to decide if we wanted to use Nikon, Canon, or Sony cameras, then we had to buy matching equipment. Lenses would break as things were getting moved around the warehouse, things would get dirty, and we’d be working with big reams of paper to create a sweep — and that was all just on the photo-taking side,” said Jason Phillips, Vice President, Phillips Collection. “The editing of the photos was another pain point; that’s handled by a team in Romania. While the process was about as efficient and well run as it could be in this industry, it was inefficient and haphazard.”
Additionally, Phillips Collection carries a number of unusually shaped, oversized pieces of furniture that can be not just difficult to photograph, but difficult to edit in post-production. “One of the biggest challenges we have is that some of our pieces are very irregular,” said Grace Mott, Marketing and Ecommerce, Phillips Collection. “So after taking a photograph of them, the editing is incredibly difficult. There are a lot of nooks and crannies and it takes someone going into Photoshop with an eraser brush to really go into every detail to clean things up.”
Phillips Collection was open to alternatives to make their work easier. So when Outward reached out to Edi Muresan, Marketing and Digital Transformation at Phillips Collection, to introduce the company to the Aperture Platform, he was intrigued. “Edi gets pitched a lot of tech platforms and passes on most of them. So when he came to us and said, ‘This product would completely overhaul how we do photography but it’s worth looking into,’ we knew this was something to consider. Especially because Edi’s the one we usually have to convince to adopt certain things,” said Jason. “It was ambitious. We were one of the first to adopt it but we considered it a risk worth taking.”
The Aperture difference
New and improved workflow centered around the photo rig
Prior to using Aperture, Phillips Collection would segment their photo taking by furniture category, photographing all consoles in one batch, all tables in another batch, and so on. Now, the team photographs everything immediately as it arrives in the warehouse — which is where they’ve set up their photo rig — enabling them to get those items on their website faster than they previously could.
Intuitive, time-saving technology
Phillips Collection has one team member running the photo rig, who does not have a background in photography but has been handling photography for Phillips Collection for years. He was able to quickly learn how to operate the rig and can handle moving most furniture in and out of the rig himself to photograph. Likewise, Grace, who has some experience with photography and Photoshop, was able to learn how to operate the rig in a few hours. Their editor in Romania handles the post-production editing and no longer has to pore over irregular shapes and crannies in Photoshop to edit out the background, which took about half of their processing time — now Aperture cleans the background automatically.
Consistency was difficult to achieve with traditional photography, but thanks to the rig’s templates, enclosed space, cameras and lighting that can be set at the same angles from photo to photo, and much more, Phillips Collection can now get consistent shots every time. “A great photographer on their best day couldn’t control shooting in three different warehouses without an enclosed studio as well as this booth does in its sleep. That’s huge for us,” said Jason. Grace added, “Before, something like a decorative bowl in six finishes, shot from the same angle at the same distance, was a challenge. And they’d all get shot at different times and we wound up with all six of them looking different in the photographs. Now they all look the same and it’s really nice.”
Getting more products online, faster
When products would sell almost immediately after reaching the warehouse gallery, Phillips Collection didn’t have time to photograph them. And when they would receive shipments of hundreds of items, all of them one-of-a-kind, they wouldn’t have time to photograph all of them upon arrival. “When you have hundreds of new tables coming in that are each one-of-a-kind, and only 350 of the 450 are online, it would result in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of products not being sold due to human error,” said Jason. Now with Aperture, Phillips Collection can photograph every piece as they arrive in their warehouse, even the ones that sell almost immediately, so they can keep a record of what they’ve sold and get more products online.
Improved workflows and increased Sales
3x faster time to market, 2x more photos per piece of furniture
With traditional photography, it used to take Phillips Collection around one to two weeks to get photos live on their site; with Aperture, it now takes about two to three days. “It’s sped things up by a factor of at least three,” Jason said. They’re also able to take at least twice as many photos per piece of furniture than they were able to do before, capturing detail shots and other angles to give customers a more complete view of every piece they sell. And now that they can get more products on their site, they’ve seen an increase in sales.
Eventually, Phillips Collection feels they will be able to have both their photo taking and photo editing handled in-house by the team using Aperture, saving them money on the costs of outside post-production.
Phillips Collection has streamlined its workflow and freed up time for the team to focus on other critical business needs. While they were already a market leader prior to using Aperture, they’re even better positioned now to serve their customers’ needs and showcase their entire collection of global finds online.