Email Marketing Best Practices to Boost Every Campaign (2021)

Email Marketing Best Practices to Boost Every Campaign (2021)

Email marketing is easily one of the most effective ways ecommerce store owners can drive sales. It’s one of the few marketing channels where you own your audience—they’ve already opted in to hear from you—and it doesn’t cost you to reach them. So it makes sense that email is a high priority for many new and growing online stores.

But it’s all too easy to forfeit email as an effective and profitable channel by sending uncompelling emails to the wrong people.

Great email marketing is timely, relevant, and personalized, so a good place to begin is by understanding the core types of emails you can send to customers. By and large, there are three main categories of emails you can send:

  1. Transactional emails, which include receipts and other post-purchase updates
  2. Promotional emails, which include sales emails, new product announcements, and newsletters
  3. Lifecycle emails, which are based on a customer’s behavior (e.g. sending an abandoned cart email to customers who didn’t complete their purchase)

Watch the full course

For anyone new to creating an email marketing strategy from the ground up, creating and optimizing all of these potential emails can feel overwhelming. And it’s true that, within each category, there are many possible variations to the emails you can send—even a cursory glance at the campaigns run by established businesses reveals just what kind of variety is possible.

But it’s important to remember that the emails you send mostly have the same working “parts”—a subject line and preheader, body content, visuals, a call to action, etc. By understanding a few tried-and-true best practices, you can start getting better results from (almost) every email you send.

Learn More: How to Write an Effective Welcome Email

Before-the-open elements that matter

Focusing solely on the body of a marketing email is a common mistake. The content of your email is important, but before any of your subscribers see it, you have to convince them to open your email in the first place.

Getting subscribers to open your email comes down to three big things:

  1. What you write in the subject line and preheader text
  2. When your email hits their inbox
  3. How you segment your subscriber list to send relevant emails to the right people

    Subject lines that get opened

    The subject line of your email has an important job to do. It’s perhaps the single most significant factor in deciding whether a subscriber opens your email. If the subject line doesn’t compel people to action, even the best email in the world will become buried in your subscribers’ inboxes.

    That’s why subject lines deserve more careful consideration than many businesses give them. Luckily, that importance means email marketers have done a lot of research on what makes for an effective subject line. Here are our tips:

    • Be clear before being clever: Your subject line should tell subscribers what they’ll find in the email and not rely too heavily on vague, opaque copy (although a little intrigue is OK). There shouldn’t be any room for misunderstanding.
    • Keep it short: Mobile email services begin cutting off subject lines after 55-70 characters, so ensure your message isn’t getting lost by staying roughly under that maximum character count.
    • Clickable, not clickbait: You want a lot of people to open, so it’s easy to fall into the trap of overselling your email’s content. But open rates are only as useful as they lead subscribers toward your call-to-action, not mislead them into unsubscribing.
    • Ask questions: Studies have shown that subject lines phrased as a question tend to engage subscribers.
    • A/B test: When in doubt, test. By running A/B tests on your subject lines, you can better understand what actually works for your audience.

    Email subject line

    The best time to send email

    In some cases, when you send an email is just as important as what you send. Finding the right time to send email campaigns starts with knowing your customers and testing to see what works.

    For online stores, the best starting point for marketing emails is to find out when your peak purchase times are. When during the day does your store sell the most? That information gives you a window into your customers’ habits and schedules, so it can inform your email marketing strategy.

    You can track peak purchase times with Google Analytics, as long as you’re set up for ecommerce. If you aren’t, check out our article on using Google Analytics for ecommerce.

    Transactional emails (like an order confirmation) are best sent immediately after the purchase is made. Lifecycle emails—which are sent based on specific behaviors a customer exhibits—require a little more testing to get right. The best time to send an abandoned cart email, for example, can vary based on the reason for abandonment and your strategy for recovering those orders.

    Email segmentation

    Email segmentation may sound complicated, but it boils down to breaking up your email subscribers into smaller, more targeted groups. Plus, most email marketing services make it easy to segment your list.

    Segmentation enables you to send more personalized emails to the right people at the right time—so each email has a better chance of converting that subsection of your customers. You can segment your email list based on several factors, including:

    • Customer type
    • Interest in certain topics or products
    • Location
    • Level of engagement

    For example, you might create an email segment for brand new subscribers who haven’t made a purchase yet. Your goal for that segment is to build trust and get newbie subscribers to buy for the first time, so you might include first-time discounts in these emails.

    You can have another segment for the opposite end of the spectrum—long-term, loyal customers who buy frequently and spend a lot of money with your store. You don’t need discounts to get those customers to buy, so you can focus on showcasing your appreciation for them and promoting products they may be interested in.

    Email content best practices

    Now that your emails arrive at just the right time, to the right people, and with a compelling subject line to boot, the body of your email needs to live up to the promise of the subject line. That comes down to more than just what your email says. It’s also about how you say it and the format your message takes.

    Crafting body copy that gets read

    The body copy of your email is where you fulfill promises made in your subject line. No matter how compelling the subject line, an email will ultimately fall flat if its contents can’t keep the subscriber engaged.

    To start, the body of your email should always be compelling, concise, and on brand.

    Your copy needs to convince subscribers to act on the prompt or call to action featured in your email—and in a relatively short timespan, too. That’s why it’s important to use a deliberate hierarchy of information—putting the most important information (the bottom-line reason for the email) upfront and go into more detail later on.

    It’s also important to format your email copy to create concise, easy-to-read sections:

    • Start with one, simplified offer
    • Write short paragraphs, leveraging white space for more inviting copy
    • Use bullet-points, headings, and clear content hierarchy to make text scannable
    • Don’t be afraid to use your formatting options strategically, like bolded phrases or highlighted text to draw attention to key phrases

    Incorporating images that add value

    Images can be a good way to get your message across. But they can also increase email load times and cause formatting issues on mobile devices. The key is to use images only when and where they truly add value to the email—when an image conveys your message better than text could.

    When that’s the case, use small image files. Many email marketing service providers recommend images no larger than 1 MB. Some email providers block images from senders that aren’t in a subscriber’s contacts, so you should always add alt text for any images. This ensures recipients know what an image is and they can click to view it if they’re interested.

    Free Ebook: How to Grow Your Ecommerce Business with Email Marketing

    Whether you’re just getting started or dreaming up your next big campaign, this email marketing guide will provide you with insights and ideas to help your business grow.

    Mobile optimization and responsive design

    Responsive email design for mobile devices is now table stakes. As of early 2019, mobile email opens account for about 60% of all opens, and that percentage is only set to grow. Not to mention the concurrent rise of mobile commerce—by and large, shoppers are quite comfortable browsing and purchasing products on their phone.

    Fortunately, nearly every email marketing platform makes it really easy to design responsive emails, often by either choosing a responsive template or selecting an option to automatically optimize for mobile.

    Using effective calls-to action (CTAs)

    Calls to action explicitly suggest the next step you want the reader to take after reading your email, along with the means to take it (usually a link or button). The CTA represents the driving goal of each campaign. It’s what your emails are driving subscribers to do, whether that’s purchasing a particular item, reviewing a recent purchase, or something else entirely. Here are our tips for email CTAs:

    • Prioritize one CTA per email: Every campaign should focus on one central action. Each additional call to action runs the risk of distracting or confusing the reader.
    • Use action-oriented words that create urgency: Like anything else, getting customers to act is all about creating a sense of urgency. That could mean emphasizing the “limited time” of a specific sale, the “limited number” of stock for an item, and phrases like “Buy now” or “Get started today.”
    • Use a noticeable button image: Your CTA needs to stand out among the rest of the email copy. Using a button image (instead of a text link) and bright, contrasting colors can keep it from getting lost. It’s also good practice to place the button in a area with plenty of white space, and preferably not at the very bottom of an email.
    Email marketing call to action
    Civic makes use of playful copy that still nudges a subscriber toward action.

    Measuring email performance

    Measuring your email performance is one of the most important best practices to implement, because it’s really the only way to improve your email marketing campaigns. Conveniently, tracking the performance of your emails isn’t complicated. It all comes down to monitoring the right metrics and understanding what they mean for your emails.

    Here are the four core email marketing analytics you should track:

    • Open Rate: The percentage of subscribers that opened an email
    • Bounce Rate: The percentage of emails that don’t make it into a subscriber’s inbox—either because of a technical error, spam filter, or a subscriber’s email being inactive
    • Click-through Rate: The percentage of subscribers that click a link (any link) in your email
    • Opt-Out Rate: The percentage of subscribers that unsubscribed from your email list

    At the end of the day, the only email marketing metrics that matter are yours. That said, it can be helpful to understand where your own performance falls when compared with other ecommerce businesses so you can set intelligent, reasonable goals to better it.

    Tune-up every single marketing email

    As a business owner, you might send all kinds of email marketing campaigns, each with their own unique goals and methods. But the tips and best practices above are near-universal—you can apply them to just about any email campaign to supercharge your performance. That means better emails, smarter campaigns, and more sales.

    If you want to promote your business with email, Shopify Email is a great marketing app for building an email list and managing your campaigns. 

    With Shopify Email, you can send branded emails to subscribers from your Shopify admin dashboard in just a few clicks. The app has a variety of pre-made templates that pull your logo, product images, descriptions, and more from your store. You can also customize the text and buttons in minutes.

    Get started with email marketing

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Why Rejection Is Actually Good for Business — Entrepreneurship

Why Rejection Is Actually Good for Business — Entrepreneurship

Kit Founder Michael Perry wrote down the name of every investor who passed on his idea. He did it in permanent marker, on the wall. Author Stephen King, at the beginning of his own career, nailed every publisher’s rejection letter just above his writing desk. These rituals served as daily eye-level reminders to keep on keepin’ on.

For Michael, rejection was repurposed as fuel. Every time someone wouldn’t take a meeting, didn’t believe in his idea, balked at his experience, or turned down an offer to work for him, he was ever more determined. Perseverance paid off for him when Shopify acquired Kit this year.

(And Mr. King? His manuscript for the novel Carrie inspired this rejection before selling a million copies in its first year: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”)

Spend just two minutes with Michael Perry, and you know he’s a special breed. A born entrepreneur, if you will. He’s optimistic, thick-skinned, teeming with energy. I suspect it would be hard to say no to him, but many did. More than 50 investors over two years, in fact.

Even for someone as resilient as Michael, rejection hurts:

“I was just a blue collar boy trying to make it in Silicon Valley. I wasn’t going to let them say, ‘You don’t belong here.’ It hurt. I really wish that I could sound strong-headed and say I didn’t care. But I remember pulling over on the side of the road and just screaming at the top of my lungs in frustration.”

michael perry kit shopify

I wasn’t going to let them say, ‘You don’t belong here.’

In fact, rejection hurts like a kick in the shin. Studies show that the human brain responds to social rejection in the same way it responds to physical pain. A team at the University of Michigan tracked the release of chemicals in the brain during simulated social rejection. They noted the same opioid response linked to physical pain.

The trigger is perhaps an evolutionary leftover, explains Dr. Guy Winch, in an interview with The Mental Illness Happy Hour:

“When we were hunter-gatherers, to be ostracized from the tribe was pretty much a death sentence. You could not survive alone. So we developed an early warning mechanism, which is what rejection is. People who experience rejection as more painful had the evolutionary advantage, because then they would correct their behavior, not get ostracized, and survive to pass along their genes.”

Rejection doesn’t just feel bad, though. It’s a slippery slope that can lead to anger and aggression, and can temporarily affect self-worth, IQ, and sound decision making.

Here’s the thing: rejection as an entrepreneur is unavoidable.

From the moment you have the idea for a business, you’re relying on the acceptance of others to help you make it happen: investors, customers, wholesale clients, press, social audiences, and influencers. In 2014, only 1% of startup funding came from VCs and only about 3% from crowdfunding. Inability to get bank funding accounted for 41% of failed startups that same year. You can almost hear the collective “NO”.

In this post, we’ll discuss how to make rejection work for you and your business, as well as coping strategies for entrepreneurs.

The upside to rejection

Rejection may trigger unpleasant pain sensors, but ultimately, the experience can be beneficial if you can learn to see the bright side, or turn it into a powerful motivator.

1. Reaffirm your goals: Are you still as passionate about your idea after repeated rejections from investors? Are you pushing forward with building your business, even though you’ve yet to make a sale? Your answer will help you decide, Michael says, if you should stay on track or switch gears:

“If you walk away just because you’re rejected, maybe you really don’t want it that bad. Either you’re going to decide the outcome of your life or somebody else will. If you’re willing to let somebody else make the decision for you after two or three or four no’s (which is not really a big deal) you either don’t want it that bad or it’s not the right thing for you.” 

2. Appreciate the wins (no matter how small): In On Writing, Stephen King explains that before publishing his breakout novel, his manuscripts were the victim of rejection after rejection, while his family was toeing the poverty line. Small winsshort stories fetching a few dollars from magazineshad a big impact in comparison, and encouraged him to keep writing.

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn’t bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” ― Stephen King

Hardship similarly allowed Michael to see the thin silver lining that was the slow growth of Kit:

“Even though I kept getting turned down, every month, we were making progress. I was selling my car, maxing out my credit cards, taking loans from family, my wife was working two jobs, I was selling clothing, I was doing whatever it took. But my business was growing.”

Even though I kept getting turned down, every month, we were making progress.

3. Stay sharp: Complacency breeds mediocrity. Rejection reminds us that we have room to grow, engages the competitive spirit, and, when harnessed, can provide motivation to persist.

“The ‘no factor’ is a motivation factor. Every day, you constantly have to prove yourself. You’re proving yourself to yourselfalways remember that. The day you wake up, and you say, ‘Man, I’m already good on piano, I’m already good on guitar, I wrote 50 songs, I don’t need to write any more,’ that’s the day you’re finished… Whenever someone told me ‘no’, it was always a motivation for yes.” – Wyclef Jean, via The #AskGaryVee Podcast

michael perry instagram

4. No fake friends: An emotional or career rock-bottom have the advantage of sifting out the people in your lives—who are the friends that really support your entrepreneurial journey, even when you’re at your lowest? “I think what’s interesting,” says Michael, “is that failure and rejection are really wonderful filters.”

Failure and rejection are really wonderful filters.

How to deal

In the case of pitching your business idea to investors, showing your lookbook to a new wholesale client, or sending your press release to media, it’s possible to work through some of the effects of rejection before it happens.

First, perfect your pitch. When approaching investors or press, know your audience and do your homework. “It’s not you, it’s me.” is an easier line to swallow, when you’ve brought forward the best you.

Next, ask yourself about the likelihood of rejection in each case. What are the odds of receiving funding or landing press? Brace yourself—balance confidence in your business with a realistic understanding of the potential outcomes.

So you’ve been rejected. Now what?

1. No pain, no gain: Reframe the rejection. One of Michael’s response emails stated that “Messenger apps are dead”. “I knew they were wrong,” he says, “Now, I want to print and frame that and put it up in the office.” Visual reminders of the pain of rejection can serve as motivators.

“By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.” ― Stephen King, via On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

2. Learn from it: Why were you rejected? A “no” answer is an invitation back to the drawing board. Was it your pitch? Are you marketing your products to the wrong audience? Read every rejection letter, every negative customer email or review, and find the constructive criticism within them.

“In the very early days, I’d try to recalibrate because I wanted so badly for them to buy in to me. That was a huge mistake. At the end of the day, you have to believe in me. Do you think I can win the race? Yes or no? This is what you get. Instead of trying to hide it, now I embrace it. I say, ‘You’re right: I didn’t go to some Ivy League school and I didn’t come from wealthy parents, but you know what? I have a very good work ethic. I have a lot of dedication.’ I think that people try so badly to fit the mould that they lose their own identity. I learned that you have to be authentic.” – Michael Perry

At the end of the day, you have to believe in me. Do you think I can win the race? Yes or no? This is what you get.

3. Invest in self-care: Because rejection can trigger more serious emotional responses, self-care is incredibly important. As we’ve suggested with loneliness and procrastination, exercise can have benefits beyond the physical and mindfulness meditation can help improve communication with yourself.

Try daily affirmations, says Metaphysician, Elaine Dundon. In her TEDx talk “Reject Rejection”, she suggests a new mantra for dealing with rejection: “reflect, reboot, reject”. Reflecting provides insight and learnings, rebooting is a chance for a do-over, and rejecting refers to the feelings brought on by the rejection and the importance of letting them go.

“The market – the world – was telling me that I wasn’t good, and everything inside of me told me I was going to be good. I don’t think you can win unless you love yourself first.” – Gary Vaynerchuk, The #AskGaryVee Podcast

4. Don’t kick yourself while you’re down: This advice seems obvious, but it’s a very common human reaction, says Dr. Winch, author of Emotional First Aid: 

“You would never sprain your leg and decide, now I’m going to run a marathon and make sure it’s broken! But psychologically, we do it all the time. We take a wound and make it worse.”

Shopify merchant, Adrienne Butikofer of Skinny Sweats understands this pattern all too well. “You get into a slump of a few days with no sales,” she says, “And you’re like, oh my God, what am I doing with my life?”

5. Remind yourself that you’re supported: Dr. Winch suggests, in the wake of rejection, surround yourself with the people who do support you:

“Let’s remind you of the people who value you, who love you, who enjoy you, who think you are fun. Reinstate that right away. As soon as possible. And that is a very important thing to do, in terms of rejection.”

6. Grow a thick skin: the idiom “practice makes perfect” also applies to taking rejection. “I started selling cars at a really, really young age,” Michael tells me, “You deal with rejection a tremendous amount when you’re selling cars. You help five hundred customers a month, maybe you sell ten to fifteen cars? I was used to a lot of no’s.”

Shopify merchant Rachel Thompson, used her past career to help cope with rejection when she founded Hampton’s Glow:

“Selling websites door to door was pretty much one of the scariest things I had ever done at the time since I was really shy. Having had that experience made me pretty fearless about cold calling current sales accounts and bouncing right back to the next one after a rejection. It also helped me when sourcing packaging. Many suppliers don’t want to work with smaller quantities so I heard many, many no’s before finding one who would work with me. I never once got discouraged and never thought ‘I can’t make this happen’ – I just continued to press on.”

7. Don’t Reject Yourself: remember that when pursuing your dream, the opinion that matters most is your own. “You can’t be rejected if you don’t reject yourself,” says Mastin Kipp, Entrepreneur and Author of Daily Love.

Ultimately, even the most successful entrepreneurs have experienced the pain of rejection. But those who refuse to take no for an answer eventually won’t have to.

Additional reading and resources:

“Whether you’re building a software company or you’re an artist or a musician or an actor or you’re wanting to start a cupcake store – whatever it is – real entrepreneurs close their eyes and they see the world that they want. They’re the people who will adamantly create that world at any cost. They’re the people who are okay with realizing that they’re going to hear a lot of no’s before they hear some yes’s.” – Michael Perry, Kit

Real entrepreneurs close their eyes and they see the world that they want. They’re the people who will adamantly create that world at any cost.

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Life With Meaning + Purpose: A Conversation With Tony Robbins

Life With Meaning + Purpose: A Conversation With Tony Robbins

BossBabe is a global community of unapologetically ambitious women. With over 14.4M uses of our trademarked hashtag #BossBabe + well over 2 Million followers on Instagram + a profitable 7-figure company, Natalie Ellis & Danielle Canty have built one of the largest online communities of ambitious women & female entrepreneurs.

Together, they have worked with over 5,000 entrepreneurs – from brand new entrepreneurs looking to make their first $100 to those at the 6, 7, and 8 figure mark start, grow, and scale their businesses.

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Take Beautiful Apparel Photos (2021)

Take Beautiful Apparel Photos (2021)

High quality product photography is essential for apparel ecommerce. For many customers, you need more than just a great product description—your images will determine whether or not they buy your product.

But essential doesn’t have to mean expensive. The difference between professional and amateur is only experience.

If you have an eye for photography and a modest budget, read on. This guide walks you through how to photograph a piece of clothing, with photography tips to keep in mind during your shoot.

Clothing photography equipment

The equipment you use in your shoot depends on your budget. You can keep spending low by buying a few low-cost items. Or you can buy more pricey gear if you want special lighting or displays.

Let’s look at the equipment you’ll need for your clothing photography shoot:


You don’t need the most expensive DSLR camera to take pictures of your clothes. New clothing retailers can manage shoots with a smartphone also. Use whatever camera you have handy, be it a digital camera, a point and shoot, or a smartphone. If you have a budget for a new camera, check out this thread on Quora that discusses the best cameras for product photography.


A tripod eliminates camera shake—accidentally shaking your camera during a shoot. (It happens to everyone.) Simply attach your camera to the tripod, frame the product, and take the photo. It’s easy. Tripods are not a one-size-fits-all thing, so find a tripod that’s compatible with your camera.

Lighting source

You need light to take photos of your clothes. If you have a room with a window that welcomes natural light, you can shoot there. If you don’t, you’ll need artificial lighting, like a softbox. You can find artificial lighting products on Amazon.

Note: don’t get mixed up in all the photography lighting kits you find online. You don’t need the LED lights and reflectors right away. Keep your setup simple, and once you get comfortable behind the camera, you can introduce new elements to your shoots.

Foam boards

Whether you’re shooting with window or artificial light, there’s always a shadow side of the product. It’s normally too dark to produce a good image. You can place a white foam board to reflect light back into the shadow to brighten it up.

Clamps or tape

If you decide to shoot on a table, you’ll want tapes or clamps to keep your foam boards and sweeps in place.


Get a white background for your shoot. If you’re going to shoot a lot of products at once, consider buying a paper white sweep. Paper sweeps are huge rolls of white paper. You can use them to create white backgrounds to photograph your clothing on. If the sweep gets dirty, you can cut the dirty piece and roll out a new clean one.

An alternative to white sweeps is a poster board. You can find them at your local drug store or online for cheap.

Mannequin or model

Mannequins are a nice-to-have in clothing photography. They can cost anywhere from $90 and higher. An alternative is asking a friend or family member to model the clothing for you.

The alternative is a flat surface or table to take photos on. It’s popular for brands shooting flat lay clothing. This means your clothing is laid on the surface and you’re shooting from above at a 90-degree angle.

Free Guide: DIY Product Photography

Learn how to take beautiful product photos on a budget with our free, comprehensive video guide.

7 steps to photograph clothing for your online store

Now that you’ve got your equipment, let’s look at how to take photos of your clothes:

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Shopify Academy Course: Product Photography

Photographer Jeff Delacruz shares how you can create your own photo studio and take beautiful product photos for less than $50.

Enroll for free

1. Prepare your clothing

Your products should look their absolute best in your images. It’s an unfortunate fact that clothing can become wrinkled, creased, and begin to look worn from storage and transport. Clothing samples face a particularly rough time, as they often cover a lot of miles and may not have been perfectly constructed to begin with.

Preparing garments to be photographed is a crucial starting point for photographing your products, yet many photographers skip this step and rely on Photoshop or free photo editing software to fix wrinkles, stains, and other visible defects. Don’t do that. Photoshop isn’t magic: it takes time and expertise to master advanced editing techniques, and excessive editing risks compromising image quality.

Try to capture your garment in a state as close to perfect as possible and use Photoshop only to add final touches and color correction.

preparing shirt for apparel photo shoot

Steaming will help your product look its best before photographing it.

Thoroughly examine your product from top to bottom, inside and out. Are there any tags, stickers, or other types of identifying materials that need to be removed? Do so. Has the product become wrinkled or creased during storage? Iron or steam it. Repair damages and remove distractions; for example, use lint rollers or tape to remove dust and strings.

2. Set up your photo studio

With a few items, you can turn nearly any room with space into a photography studio. You can get by with a camera, tripod, white wall, C-stand, duct tape, and natural light. If you have a little more to spend and want control over when and where you shoot, it’s worth investing in a few more pieces of equipment.

studio set up for clothing photography shoot

Studio setup with camera, tripod, C-stand, seamless paper, mannequin, monolight kit.

Make sure to clear all clutter from your area. You’ll want a clean space to stay organized and do the best work.


Always use a white or light grey backdrop to prevent distractions and ensure you capture colors as accurately as possible. Seamless rolls of white paper are ideally suited, cheap, and readily available at any photography supply store. If you have one, get a backdrop lighting kit for under $100.

Sweep the roll to the floor so that it is curved, preventing creases and distracting shadows, and fasten it with tape.

Using a stand will give you more flexibility in where you position your background, allowing you room to maneuver around the studio. If you’re on a bootstrapped budget, you can tape the seamless roll to the ceiling or a wall.

Position your product on a model or mannequin in the middle of the backdrop and directly in front of where your camera will be.


Your camera is a vital part of your product photography, but don’t make the mistake of assuming it alone will determine your success. It’s just one piece of the puzzle, and you don’t have to put your entire budget into it. We recommend you use a DSLR that has, at a minimum, manual exposure and aperture settings, or using a very inexpensive alternative right at your fingerprints: your smartphone!

Use a tripod. The stability will eliminate camera shake and ensure your shots are consistent, while also freeing you to use your hands on other tasks. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a tripod, but it’s essential that you use one.

Position your tripod and camera so that it directly faces the product. Most of the time, you will not move the camera throughout the shoot. For different angles, move the product.

camera set up for apparel shoot

Mount your camera on a tripod and directly face the product.


Natural window light is an inexpensive and high quality light source for any apparel photographer. If you have a large window and abundant natural light, great! It may be all you need. However, if you have the means, we highly recommend that you rent or invest in an easy-to-use lighting kit.

Having artificial lighting equipment at your disposal will enable you to shoot when there simply isn’t enough light coming in through the window. The added versatility can dramatically increase your efficiency, while consistent lighting helps you set a professional standard. For a single light setup, you’ll need a light head, softbox, C-stand, battery pack, and pocket wizard.

The “light head” is what you might think of as the light itself. We suggest you start with a mono strobe light head, called a “monolight.” This may be the most expensive portion of your kit—possibly more expensive than your camera—so take some time to research and find your best long-term fit.

A softbox is necessary to diffuse light and capture your product in an evenly lit and appealing manner. The C-stand will hold your light head and the softbox around it. A pocket wizard will sync your camera and the light, essentially turning your light head into its flash.

3. Position lighting

If you’re using natural light, position your product near a window where it can get even, indirect light. If you’re using a monolight setup, below is a diagram of a bird’s-eye view of an effective lighting setup.

 lighting set up example

Place light source and softbox at 45-degree angle to the product.

Place one light source and softbox or umbrella at a 45-degree angle to the product so that the lighting on the product is soft and even throughout. Keep your camera directly in front of your subject. If you have placed the product too close to the background, you may get some shadowing. If this happens, simply move the subject farther away from the backdrop to achieve a clean, white background. Set your light source’s power to about half.

Manually exposing your image properly is usually just a matter of using your camera’s light meter, which you can find by looking through the viewfinder and adjusting settings to make the meter notches reach 0.

It isn’t so simple when you’re using a strobe, since there is no lighting for the camera to read until the flash fires.

Start with your shutter speed set at 1/200 or below and your aperture set at f-11 or higher. From there, you will need to take test shots and tweak your camera settings to achieve optimal exposure and focusing.

Allow time for recharging between flashes. Depending on the strength of your battery pack, your light source may not fire on time if you shoot too quickly.

4. Styling


Models are desirable because a live body helps a customer relate to your product and adds a higher degree of professionalism, but it can also make for an unpredictable process. Models make clothing come to life, but professionals are extremely expensive.

styling a model for clothing shoot


Mannequins are great because they’re affordable, consistent, and easy to work with.

styling a mannequin for photo shoot

Style your product so that it fits properly.

Take time to style your product on the mannequin; if your garment looks too big, try fitting it closer to your mannequin by pinning it and tucking it until it fits properly.

ghost mannequin product photo

You can create the invisible mannequin effect in post-production processing.

If you’re concerned a mannequin may be distracting or cheapen your product, you can use the ghost mannequin technique in post-production processing. A few additional shots of each product will allow you to remove the mannequin from your product images and present a 3D image that demonstrates shape and fit.

Flat lay

“Flat lay” refers to arranging objects on a flat surface and taking the photo from above. It’s also called bird’s-eye view. Flat lay photography is a great alternative to mannequins and models and can help you create beautiful product photos that sell.

It’s a technique used a lot for social media photos. But you can use it for your website content as well.

 flat lay clothing photography example

Flat lay is a good option for standard clothing that people can see themselves in:

  • T-shirts
  • Sweaters
  • Blue jeans
  • Sport pants
  • Beanies
  • Socks

More complex apparel like sports or outdoor gear may require a model or mannequin to show the fit. Test flat lay with your products and see how it works.

Hanging apparel

Hanging apparel is used to show products at eye level. It’s budget friendly and is faster than the other techniques mentioned above. Hanging apparel involves hanging clothing on a hook against a wall or white background, then taking the photo.

hanging apparel photography example

Shooting hanging apparel works best for pieces made of lightweight materials, like silk. Once the clothing is prepared, it won’t wrinkle.

5. Set your camera

If your camera settings are wrong, then no amount of Photoshopping expertise will be able to make your images look professional. Make sure you understand ISO, aperture, and white balance before you photograph your products.

setting up your camera


Make sure your ISO is no greater than 600–640. Higher ISOs produce distracting “noise” or “grain,” which is grayish or colored speckles that make photographs look more filmic. The higher you go, the worse the noise will be. At higher ISOs the camera can’t capture as much sharpness, so details begin to look soft. Using a tripod will allow you to keep your ISO at 100 or 200 for optimal clarity and sharpness.


Aperture, which is represented by the f number of your camera settings (e.g. f-16, f-2.8), controls focus. Generally, the larger the aperture number the more aspects of the image will be in full focus. Make sure to set your aperture higher than f-11; this will allow for all aspects of your products to be in complete focus.


aperature graph for clothing photography shoot
Source: John Rowell Photography


White Balance

Have you ever looked at a photo that seemed like it was taken through a blue or orange filter? The white balance was probably off. Light sources have different warmths, creating what’s known as a color cast, which makes it difficult for your camera to determine true white. Your white balance setting controls how the camera interprets the colors it records.

There are many different types of light sources, but the most common are tungsten, fluorescent, LED, and natural sunlight.

You can set your white balance specifically according to the type of light source you’re using or set your white balance to Auto and let the camera decide. Whatever you choose, don’t forget about white balance or you may find yourself hard-pressed to try and recreate accurate colors in Photoshop.

6. Take the photo

At last, it’s finally the moment you’ve been waiting for! Direct your camera at your subject and press half way down on your shutter release button, allow your camera to focus on your subject, and then snap the shot. Adjust your camera settings throughout the shoot if you notice your images need more or less light. The more you shoot, the more instinctive your adjustments will become.

shooting clothes from multiple angles

Shoot your product from every angle.

Shoot as many images as possible. You may want to shoot the front and back, 45-degree angles, left and right sides, and any details. Test some close-up shots to highlight any special details about your clothes.

Include multiple photos for all your apparel. If you have embroidery or bedazzle, show it off! Take close-ups of what makes your product special. It’ll communicate the same value to shoppers who are about to buy it.

The more shots, the better. You want lots of options to select your final images from, and having more images per product on your website has been demonstrated to increase sales. Customers will be able to trust their impressions of the product if it’s backed up in multiple photographs from multiple angles.

7. Finalize in post

After shooting, it’s time to prepare your product images for the web. The goal of post-production processing is to make your images look as professional as possible while maintaining optimal performance.

This is the simplest and most beneficial step to outsource, since digital assets are easily transferable and the time and cost savings are significant.

If you would rather do it yourself, you should ensure your post-production process addresses alignment, cropping, background removal, and color correction in order to maintain a consistent and professional appearance. Keep a record of your processes so you can develop a standard set of specifications for both shooting and editing.


Make sure that your products are all the same size and are centered within each image. You want all of the angles, corners, and edges of your products to line up in relation to one another. The easiest way to ensure that your alignment is spot on is to create guidelines in a Photoshop template.

alignment example in apparel photography

Perfectly aligned products images give a cohesive and beautiful look.


Much like alignment, you should crop product images identically so your customers have a seamless online shopping experience. If you use guidelines for alignment, then cropping consistently and sizing images according to your website’s image specifications should be no problem.

cropping example in apparel photography


We used a white background, which is a recommended practice and even required by some marketplaces. You can take it a step further and completely eliminate possible distractions by removing the background. Removing the background will allow you more flexibility in web design and modestly decrease file size.


Even with careful attention to white balance, some colors—like neons, reds, and pinks—are difficult to photograph correctly in camera and often need to be tweaked in Photoshop.

Inaccurate representations of colors can leave customers frustrated and dissatisfied, so take a few extra minutes to ensure that the colors of your garments are accurate. The bottom line is that you want the customer to see exactly what they will receive in the mail should they order your product.

There are a number of ways to tweak colors, so get to know Photoshop’s offerings and choose your favorite tool. After you have fixed the colors, make sure to convert your images into SRGB format so different browsers, computer screens, and websites won’t change the accurate colors you worked so hard to create for your customers.

Improving your apparel photography shoots

Doing it yourself is a big challenge. It won’t be perfect the first time, but that’s OK. Your goal should be to improve with every shoot and to take the best possible product images. Better product images mean more sales and more opportunity for people to enjoy your product.

Remember the seven steps to taking beautiful apparel product photography and you’ll be fine. Prepare your product, build your studio, position your lighting, style your product, set your camera, shoot, and perfect your images in post-production processing. If you follow these steps, you will have high quality product images you can be proud of.

For more, check out A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Sales: How to Take Gorgeous Product Photos For Beginner’s.

Illustration by Till Lauer

Ready to create your business? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

Clothing photography FAQ

How do I photograph clothes?

For clothing photography, you’ll want to shoot at a high f-stop, between f-8 and f-11. It’ll help focus only on the apparel and highlight its best details. You’ll also want to set your shutter speed to around 1/125.

How do I create a photoshoot for a clothing line?

  1. Get the right photography equipment
  2. Prepare your clothing
  3. Set up your photoshoot studio
  4. Position lighting
  5. Style your clothes
  6. Set your camera
  7. Take the photo
  8. Fit it in post

How do I take pictures of t-shirts?

There are many options for taking pictures of t-shirts: you can take pictures of t-shirts on a mannequin or on a model. You could also test flat lay or on a hanger. Or test different lifestyle shots of people wearing shirts in real-life situations.

How do I take good pictures of clothes with an iPhone?

Take your photo near a window with natural light. Use a solid white background and make sure nothing else is in the picture. Set up your clothing, be it flay lay or with a model, and take the photo. You can always edit the image with software after taking it.

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Fanjoy’s Journey of Being the Merch Powerhouse Behind Top Social Stars — Podcasts (2021)

Fanjoy’s Journey of Being the Merch Powerhouse Behind Top Social Stars — Podcasts (2021)

Merch has become a way of expression, a declaration of fandom, and a token of belonging to a community. 

With the rise of the creator economy, social stars are taking center stage, and fans are rocking their merch. An early entrant into this new economy is Fanjoy. Founded by Chris Vaccarino in 2014, the merch market now powers more than 100 creators, from TikTok star Addison Rae to YouTube legends The Try Guys. In this episode of Shopify Masters, Chris shares how he discovers new talents, the transition from print-on-demand to finding ideal production partners, and the expansion into retail. 

For the full transcript of this episode, click here.

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Show Notes

From merch tables to a direct-to-consumer platform

In 2014, Chris was touring with his brother Chad King’s band and working the merch tables. “I saw the passion that the fans had for my brother and the band and wondered how else we could connect them with the band, A Great Big World on a more personal level,” Chris recalls. He had the idea of launching a subscription service that would provide fans with some of the band’s favorite products, exclusive merchandise, and signed items. And within the first month of launch, they received over 200 subscriptions. The initial sales gave Chris the confirmation that “maybe there’s a bigger business that can be made around music stars,” and Fanjoy was born. 

Addison Rae wearing her Love Y’all sweats set by Fanjoy.
TikTok talent and singer Addison Rae’s merch and store are managed by Fanjoy. Fanjoy 

As Chris and the team went on to work with the likes of Mariah Carey, Pentatonix, and Hilary Duff, they noticed the rise of social creators. “I would see these 16 to 20 years olds getting a hundred thousand likes on pictures on Instagram, and that was what was sparking my interest,” says Chris. In 2016, they tested the waters with Maddie and Mackenzie Ziegler, who were popular from the reality show Dance Moms and had a significant social following. “We did a package with them, and they crushed it,” says Chris. “So I started reaching out to some more Instagram influencers. And we started signing a lot of them.”

Mukbang star Stephanie Soo wearing her merch of an oversized red hoodie.
The jump from musicians to social creators proved to be a fruitful one, helping Fanjoy to 30x their sales within one year. Fanjoy 

The pivot to social stars proved to be the right move: in 2016, Fanjoy was working with one influencer—by 2017 they’d jumped from one to $30 million in sales. The stellar growth links to the nature of social creators as their work is constant and ongoing. “The ability for [content creators] to sell products was just so natural because their abundance of content allowed them to have those moments of plugging their products,” says Chris. “Versus traditional celebrities have been a bit more cautious of the amount of times that they’re promoting something.” 

Discovering new creators to partner with

The critical part of Fanjoy’s success is its selection of creators. Choosing who to partner with has been vital—large followings do not always translate into sales, and it might be difficult to know whose fans will be interested and willing to purchase merchandise. Chris says, “We’ve had our fair share of talent that’s come in with 6 million followers on Instagram, but their ability to sell products is difficult.” 

 Color Me Courtney wearing her merch created by Fanjoy.
Courtney Quinn the creator behind Color Me Courtney rocks her Mint Positivity sweatsuit set. Fanjoy 

The Fanjoy team looks at Youtube, Tiktok, and Instagram data to understand a creator’s demographic, engagement, and how much traffic they drive. “As a creator, if you can drive traffic, ultimately you’re able to sell a product,” says Chris. The team on average sees a two to four percent conversion rate from creators. “We just do backward math of every creator that we work with and ultimately make an estimated guess,” Chris says. Beyond the creator’s own data, Fanjoy’s team also keeps a pulse on platform trends like who’s the top of the list on the trending charts on YouTube, who has the fastest growing TikTok accounts. “This way we’re able to target the people that have the potential to sell products and also start with the top [of the list],” Chris says.

 Food creator Newton Nguyen wears his Parsley crewneck sweater.
Newton Nguyen is a food creator whose videos took off on TikTok. He is one of Fanjoy’s newest partners. Fanjoy 

Aside from the analytics, content and its virality also allow Chris and the team to discover talents organically. During the initial wave of COVID-19, more and more users started to watch TikTok videos. Newton Nguyen, a food creator, pivoted onto the platform from Twitter and his quick cooking videos with funny commentary caught on fire. “Newton is a very good example of a creator where I was just scrolling on Twitter and I started to notice Newton’s videos,” Chris recalls, “He was getting over 500,000 views on Twitter alone on his videos, and I had never seen that before.” In addition to TikTok, Newton was able to port his following onto Instagram and Youtube to further expand his reach. “Now we have multiple platforms to promote and sell products, and also to distribute his videos to grow his brand in a bigger way,” says Chris.

From print-on-demand to ideal production partners 

Like many other merchants on Shopify, Fanjoy started with print-on-demand. This allowed Fanjoy to test out product designs and ideas without the need to invest in inventory. The team used a slew of Shopify Apps, like Printful and Teelaunch, in their early years. “Shopify’s print-on-demand resources allow anyone to get something up and running and into testing mode in no time,” says Chris. 

  Girls Supporting Girls merchandise worn by a model.
Trying out different apps for print-on-demand, Fanjoy was able to test product ideas without heavy investment in inventory. Fanjoy 

As the team scaled in 2017, their sales grew 30 times, and it was time to enhance Fanjoy’s shopping experience. “We were at a point where we were doing $150,000 in sales per day,” recalls Chris. “That’s when we came across all these apps that Shopify had, not on just the production side, but how do you compress your files? How do you make your store function a little bit better? It is cool to see how we utilize Shopify in a bigger way.” In addition to enhancing Fanjoy’s store, Chris also took the time to find a set of production partners. “In 2017, we made a shift to domestic production out of Miami and Los Angeles,” says Chris. “It’s important that the manufacturing partners that we have are able to keep up, but also that we’re not solely reliant on one partner.” 

The Try Guys from left to right: Keith Habersberger, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer, and Zach Kornfeld all wearing their color block squad sweat sets.
The Try Guys, Keith Habersberger, Eugene Lee Yang, Ned Fulmer, and Zach Kornfeld rocking their color block squad sweat sets. Fanjoy 

This expansion also meant Chris needed to grow the team and hire experts in different areas. “Back in 2015, we were on Alibaba just randomly picking manufacturing partners that we saw,” says Chris. “But that’s not the best way for us to move forward. So then we brought on a sourcing expert in our production team now, who can create any kind of product that a creator wants.” From doing everything himself, Chris is now learning to let go of responsibilities and build out a team that can execute the overall vision and strategy. “I try to step back when it’s not my area anymore,” says Chris. “Now I’m focused on the bigger picture of what is that overall strategy and how do we take Fanjoy to the next level.” 

Expansion into retail and the future of Fanjoy

2020 was an unpredictable year for many, for Fanjoy, that meant letting their newly leased office sit idle while adapting to working from home. But despite the logistic challenges with social distancing and shipping restrictions, Fanjoy was in the middle of the perfect storm. Being an online platform mixed with consumers shifting towards lounge apparel and the growing consumption of digital content, Fanjoy was able to carry on its momentum. “I’m not saying we’re pandemic proof, but we were able to still grow the company while being remote and selling product DTC [direct to consumer],” says Chris. 

Cartoonist and animator Tooty McNooty’s plushie merchandise.
Cartoonist and animator Tooty McNooty took a different approach to merch and created plushies. Fanjoy 

Building on this growth momentum, Fanjoy recently announced a partnership with Mad Engine, a leading wholesaler of apparel and accessories, to expand into retail. “We have a lot of data that can be translated into retail because we know which creators can sell products, and we also know where they can sell products,” says Chris. “With Shopify’s dashboard and reporting, we can get all the analytics needed to present to any retailer and bring creators to retail.” Aiming for fall activations, Fajoy wants to mobilize fans to physical pop-ups and retail chains like Target to have the various communities come together. 

Aside from the retail expansion and physical pop-ups, Chris hints at new products and areas that Fanjoy wants to explore. “We are just trying to find other ways to support creators,” says Chris. “It’ll be really cool and interesting to see how we take a creator who sells merchandise well and build-out of a much larger brand outside of apparel. Because these creators are amazing at what they do and we just want to support them in all their entrepreneurial endeavors.”

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