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FreshDirect’s Streamlined Photo Workflow: All Your Questions Answered

When you’re selling produce, baked goods, dairy and meat online, you need mouth-watering product photography to drive sales. The creative team at...

When you’re selling produce, baked goods, dairy and meat online, you need mouth-watering product photography to drive sales.

The creative team at FreshDirect, the largest online grocer in the northeast, is constantly working to produce fresh content to keep up with their ever-growing roster of fresh products.

As the brand has grown, their demand for visual content has exploded. Senior Managing Photographer John Kelly III joined the team to manage their archive of hundreds of thousands of photos and videos, and to produce new content at a relentless pace.

In our on-demand webinar, go behind the scenes with John and his team to learn all about their strategy and workflow. Watch now!

You’ll learn:

  • How they built a scalable photo team expansion plan to meet the brand’s needs
  • Why they dug into data, surfacing up quantitative insights into creative operations
  • How they streamlined their workflow to increase the number of photos created by 150%

All Your Questions Answered

Thank you to everyone who submitted a question during the Q&A! Scroll through John’s answers below, or watch the recording above to get his full take.

I work for a smaller company and I’m a single photographer. How do you suggest bringing up the idea of the tracking sheet for the photo requests form, especially to a team that’s not used to pre-requesting anything? They operate more on an, ‘I’m telling you I need it now’ type of request.

It’s interesting because I think it’s really an assessment of who’s within your team and what their comfort level is. But also, especially if you’re working on your own, you really have to be your own best advocate in that case. Sometimes as a creative person you feel like, “Oh, I should really just be dedicating my time to actually shooting things and I really shouldn’t have to worry about all this administrative work.” But in point of fact, if you don’t, there’s no other person externally who’s going to recognize that you’re having an issue or that it’s causing you more trouble than it’s worth.

If it’s something that’s important to you, you really just have to encourage it and enforce it as much as possible. And it may not be something that happens overnight. People may not be willing to adopt it within a matter of days or weeks. We’re an older company, we’ve been around 15 or 16 years, but I found that people who are used to working with you over a longer period of time and they feel like they have an inside track and they don’t necessarily need to follow any particular process, will try and skirt around it. But as time goes on, as new people are brought into the fold, the newer people don’t necessarily know what your process is, so really those are the people who help be at the forefront of any new process that’ll help you. Because you educate them from the very beginning as if it’s something that’s always existed, and then they just just run with it.

I think that’s definitely been very beneficial for us, is just to train people, as soon as they come into our organization, and treat it as if this is the gold standard of our process and that we’ve been doing it forever. And eventually those people will be the best at staying close to that process.

Did you develop any governance around the keywords you use? Do you have a metadata policy? Do you have any rules about spelling or anything like that?

There’s some things internally that we use that we add to all of our images, just based on things that are relevant to our organization. So for example, a lot of our products on the website are broken down into different departments and sub-categories and things like that. So we will borrow those specific things from the website directly so that they, everything can be very easily cross-referenced.

Beyond that, I’d say limited access, honestly, is probably our best friend because we don’t really make it open to a lot of different people to add the metadata. Usually the people who are adding the metadata to the images are either myself or Emerald, and both of us are on set at the time that most of these images are taken, so we have a very good handle on what the actual content is.

Beyond actually tagging the content, I’d say we’ll just try and add some generally descriptive information. Like if it’s a Halloween shoot we’ll say “holiday” or something like that. Or “autumn.” Something that provides some context of the seasonality. Just trying to get a little bit, I guess broader understanding of what someone might be looking for if they’re trying to find this image. But beyond that, I’d say there aren’t a whole lot of rigorous rules. It’s essentially just to stay fairly literal to what’s in the image, and then extrapolate a little bit based on what we think people might be looking for.

Wow, 200,000 photos!?! How did you apply it? Did you use batch metadata? How did you go about that process?

It was basically batch applied. I think because of my experience, I’ve tried to be much more disciplined about how we structure also our library itself. Because the library as I found it when we first started, there were basically a lot of versions of the same thing in a lot of our galleries. So actually that really made that part of the process much easier because you might have 20 or 30 slightly different angles of the exact same content, so that made it very easy to batch process.

However, now we try and much more curate what we’re actually placing in the library so that we don’t, so that we only have at most, maybe two or three different versions of something. So that we don’t have 200 slightly different angles of the same image. So because of that we’ve been able to keep our library much smaller, and also too, we exert a little bit more control over what people are able to pull.

Because in our experience too, especially without any particular guidance, whether it be a design team or someone in a completely different area of our organization, people will just have a tendency to pull down whatever they see available. If there are outtakes or things that we don’t think are necessarily appropriate for people to be sharing internally or to be using for any reason, we try and make it a policy just not to include that our library whatsoever. So this really makes sure that we’re, for the most part, only showing the best possible versions of everything that we have in our library.

Do you work with the marketing team to understand what kind of photos work best for performance?

We don’t always get a ton of feedback, but the one thing I will say, at least generally speaking, the one testing that people have pointed to from our experience, was an A/B test between using either composites of product images or just straight use of silo-product imagery in an email for promotional purposes versus lifestyle photography. I think when that test was done they found, pretty much overwhelmingly, that lifestyle photography was much more engaging and much more successful for people who were opening those emails.

So I think that, on a very basic level, has been the biggest point of feedback and has been a big driver behind why we continue to do, execute our lifestyle photography. Beyond that, in terms of specific tones or composition of images or anything like that, we haven’t had a ton of feedback. For the most part I’d say, best case, someone will tell us that a promotion that we created an image for did really well, and maybe they’ll give us some credit for that, which is always a bonus. But yeah, beyond that we don’t have significant data, at least getting more granular in terms of how the images are composed or what’s included, et cetera.

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