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Why FreshDirect Invests in Organic Lifestyle Imagery

PhotoShelter accelerates pace of creative work at FreshDirect.

FreshDirect makes it easy for people to buy everything from fresh produce to locally baked cupcakes with just a few clicks. But how do you build trust with your customers – and show them how fresh and delicious your products are – when they can’t check them out in the store?“We rely very heavily on our visuals to do the selling for us,” says FreshDirect Senior Managing Photographer John Kelly III.

John and his team capture hundreds of photos and videos at a relentless pace to keep up with FreshDirect’s ever growing product list. Their work fuels the company’s e-commerce website, promotional emails, social media and editorial channels, and ultimately has a powerful impact on revenue.

But it’s the data-driven strategy behind the team’s bright, organic photos that makes all the difference.

Watch the video to go behind the scenes!

Behind the Scenes with the Storytellers

With the right strategy and the right tools, FreshDirect’s creative team has more than doubled their output.

“Working with PhotoShelter has been vital to our success and I’ve been a strong advocate for the platform since bringing it to FreshDirect,” says Chris Kopsachilis, FreshDirect’s Director of Creative. “Moving through this amount of creative work without it at this pace would simply not be possible.”

Let’s take a look at their step-by-step workflow.

Creative Brief

When the FreshDirect team tested straight product photos against lifestyle shots in email campaigns, they found that lifestyle images were better for driving sales. Of course, producing lifestyle photography is much more time consuming. The images often include more products, require props, and need to be styled on set.

John and his team were getting requests from teammates as simple as “take a photo of (requested item) and make it look pretty.” This left too many last-minute details to be decided during the shoot, which wasted everyone’s time.

Now, John uses a creative brief to keep everyone on the same page. Teammates submit a creative brief as far in advance as possible, ideally a week before the shoot. It covers everything from the product details and deadlines to inspiration images and the shoot’s end goals.

Creative briefs save time, make shoot day efficient, allow the team to meet deadlines, and ensure that the images meet their goals.

Photo by John Kelly III, food styling by Emerald Chan, FreshDirect.


John and his team pump out as many as seven different shoots in a day.

Associate Editorial Photographer and Food Stylist Emerald Chan makes everything they need in a kitchen built into their studio. She styles each lifestyle shot with “bits and bobs” to give it an authentic, lived-in feel.

Everything you see in their photos is edible and delicious, because they want to make you feel like you could reach out and take a bite. They often try the food they’re shooting – something John says is true to form for FreshDirect’s culture. The whole team shares a passion and a curiosity about food. (Note: I tried the blueberry muffins Emerald made for the brunch shown in the video above, and they were out of this world.)

When they’re in the studio, John shoots tethered for a lightning-fast workflow.

Edit + Upload

The team has a service level agreement with everyone in the company that promises they’ll have an image live on the site within seven days of when a request is submitted. Often, John and his team turn requests around on a much shorter timeline.

As soon as they finish a shoot, John edits the photos and uploads them to PhotoShelter, FreshDirect’s cloud-based media library and go-to place for visual media. Before, everything was stored on a physical server that was both expensive and difficult to access.

Now, everyone on the team has quick and easy access to images so they can use them to engage FreshDirect customers.

“It’s really created a lot of peace of mind for me,” says John. “Once I upload a finished, edited photo, it’s more or less out of my hands at that point.”

Photo by John Kelly III, food styling by Emerald Chan, FreshDirect.


John’s teammates can run a quick search to find what they need for a campaign, whether they’re looking for an image John shot yesterday or an archive image from any time in the past decade.

Before they switched to PhotoShelter, people across the company would get frustrated looking for images. They wasted hours searching for the right photo, and John was inundated with image requests.

Now, all of the images are tagged with metadata, so team members can type in “bagel” and return a whole range of options. Access and permissions don’t have to go through IT, so John can add new users to the library quickly and easily.

John is saving hours a week, getting back to shooting instead of wasting time pulling images for other people. Plus, everyone can find the perfect image for a project, instead of settling for something that’s not ideal, but easy to find.

A Workflow for Everyone

Before switching to PhotoShelter, people across the company wasted time looking for files and asking John for help. Plus, the company was wasting money on an inconvenient, expensive system.

“We had a lot of buy-in early on, especially with our internal IT department because our IT department used to have to manage server space for our old system,” says John, adding that the IT team had to have a consultant on board to manage the creative team’s Mac based operating systems. “It became a really expensive proposition just to be able to maintain a system that used a physical server for us, so when they saw the cost comparative to what was already being spent on that, I think that was a very easy decision.”

The team’s new system doesn’t require maintenance from IT, and it’s much easier to use than the old servers. John no longer receives complaints about the difficulty of using the system, and the number of photo requests on his plate has plummeted.

“Just having it be as hands-off and requiring as little maintenance internally as possible has been extremely helpful,” says John. “It’s taken very little convincing to prove the return on investment on the system because it’s just proven itself to be extremely beneficial.”


While John and his team’s work is beautiful and creative, it also has to serve concrete business goals.

“We have to find a way to translate what we do on a regular basis into data that people will understand,” says John.

To provide a quantitative view of the team’s work, John built a tracking system to measure all product photo requests, turn around times, and overall output. These metrics have provided valuable insights that helped them identify trends, strengths and inefficiencies. Now, when the team needs to make the case internally for new equipment, tools, props and even team members, they have the data to back it up.

Photo by John Kelly III, food styling by Emerald Chan, FreshDirect.

Return on Investment

FreshDirect’s efficient creative workflow has a powerful return on investment.

People across the team have timely access to photos and videos to fuel their campaigns. They have peace of mind that they can give John and his team an idea, and get a beautiful, relevant image back within days.

These creative projects turn into campaigns that drive the business and draw in new customers. The images stand out in email inboxes and social media feeds, allowing FreshDirect to beat out the competition. Plus, their authentic style allows the company to create real, lasting connections.

And as the company grows, the creative team’s agile workflow allows them to scale and keep up with the demand for new content.

Can’t Get Enough? Watch the On-Demand Webinar!

Want to steal FreshDirect’s workflow secrets? Watch our on-demand webinar, The Strategy Behind FreshDirect’s Streamlined Photography Workflow. You’ll get a look at the team’s creative brief, understand how John built his content tracking system, and walk away with tips for how to streamline your team’s workflow.

Ready to transform your team’s creative workflow?

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