Behind the Scenes Look

at our creative direction and how we went about capturing apparel branding and website photos for American Stable.

Location: Buckeye, Arizona


An Introduction to PreFocus Branded Imagery

Helping brands improve their website presentation has been a passion of mine since launching PreFocus almost 2 years ago. Far too many businesses overlook the impact that on-site content can have. They believe having a website is enough. They think publishing a few pages will get them found. But, even when customers find your business, you still need to convert them. The digital realm is an extra competitive place these days and failing to create a memorable first impression leaves tons of opportunity on the table.

This is why I’ve teamed up with Bluesoft Websites to begin enhancing the user experience through actuality imagery. Even though I could build your site, it doesn’t really intrigue me. I’d rather help you wow your visitors with a compelling presentation. In order to explain how we create original content for your website, here’s how my wife and I went about capturing apparel branding for American Stable.

Securing a Location and Casting.

Client communication is huge when it comes to branding and marketing. Not only do I need to understand the business, but I need to know it”s ideal customers. I mean, how can anyone expect content to be effective if it isn’t relating or speaking to the right people? With this client, the setting needed to make sense.

Since their clothing line is flame retardant, 100% American-made and mostly worn by mechanics, ranchers and welders – we decided to photograph the apparel brand on a ranch. After rounding up some local welders, their trucks with welding rigs, some blue collars dudes and a bull rider, we felt good about the shoot.

Our Shot List and Creative Direction Summary.

We kicked off the production schedule (or shot list) with the bull-rider because, well, he had to ride some bulls later on that night. I wanted to Arizona sun to be apparent in these photos so the “cowboy” seemed to be working. I also wanted to use the brim of his hat to shade his eyes.

Once the sun started going down, I wanted to start capturing some of the welders at work. I knew the flame would look bomb during the “golden hour.” After this, I wanted to get some shots of the guys wrapping up their work day while using the flare of the sun for portrait poses. Then, we planned to close the shoot with all casting together for some beers as if it was a Friday night “cool down.”

Having everyone on the same page on the front end created expectations that we ended up overdelivering on. When people aren’t standing around waiting impatiently, they’re a pleasure to capture. Here’s some details on how it all went down..

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Capturing Apparel Branding Photography.

Once we got to the cattle ranch, we easily scoped out the areas we wanted to capture. Knowing we were limited on time with the first set of casting helped us focus on three specific shots with a change of shirts for our “cowboy.”

Shot 1: Broken down tractor in the shade.

This was easily one of my favorite shots. Since the sun was still pretty bright, we knew we had to find a shaded area. This broken down tractor was edgy enough to capture some serious “break time” photos with the editing style I had in mind. Since most ranchers spend a lot of time alone, reflecting on a hard day’s work is something I felt American Stable’s target audience could relate to. I love how we were able to capture Ryan’s style and made sure he wasn’t uncomfortable being himself. It added a little flavor to the pictures. I think he owned it well for a first timer.

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We took a variety of shots in this setting so we could leverage different angles for multiple marketing purposes. When investing in a branding photo shoot, you have to make sure you’re not just capturing photos for the website. You’re going to need quality imagery for your ecommerce platform, social media, blogs, and print or digital advertising. At PreFocus, we take pride in helping you use different shots for specific channels. Keep this in mind as we roll through this article.

Shot 2: Cattle Grazing in the Arizona Sun

The next setting was a little less scripted, but required a little guidance. It was difficult for Ryan to walk naturally in space, so we had him concentrate on kicking up dust as he went. This created a nonchalant stroll that looked great in the end. It also took some of the focus off of the overwhelming amounts of dust caused by the cows. We didn’t want Ryan to walk without expression, so we had some of the other guys talking to him as he walked towards the camera.

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We didn’t have many props handy (we thought there would be plenty on-site), but we found some bolt cutters in the barn. Holding something helped Ryan pose a little more naturally during the next set of photos. This is where we executed the shot of his hat shading the sun from his eyes while looking onward. The bolt cutters solidified the shot by causing viewers to believe he’s in the process of doing something – not just posing. Small touches like this create a non-scripted perception and makes the content more believable.
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Shot 3: Adding a Little Pasteurization

For the last shot with the bull-rider, we wanted to shoot inside somewhere to accompany the lighter colored shirt. We knew that a darker background would create an attention-grab for the photo. We ended up finding an old pasteurizing station that had plenty of natural light. In order to continue the authentic trend, we focused on him exiting the stations while concentrating on turning the corner. Most of these shots will be used for blogs, social media posts and background images with an overlay.

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Shot 4: Photographing with Fire

This portion of the photoshoot was by far the most fun. To set the stage, we parked the welding trucks so that the sunlight would creep over the top of the barn. Doing so created some gnarly sunlight flares in most of the images. We started by capturing angles atop one of the adjacent tractors while the welder prepared his gear. Getting him comfortable with being photographed was our initial priority. He was a little nervous but once we got him into a routine, it was easy.

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Once we got some solid shots of the personality and his preparation, it was time to spark up the flame. We were right on schedule and the lighting was perfect. When capturing these shots, we started from further away in order to adjust camera settings as we moved closer. Without looking into the flame, we captured a handful of rad images while the welder was at work. By adding some dirt to his shirt, we were able to enhance the actuality of these photos. We also got a cool shot by asking him to engage in some trash talk with the other guys while putting his helmet on.

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After we wrapped up the welding, I had another member of casting to jump in the cab of the truck for some candid shots. I asked her to take some jabs at the welder in a flirtatious way. We positioned her in the driver’s seat like she was waiting for him to finish packing up so they could head home.
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Shot List 5: Hero Images with the Boys

Since we didn’t have a lot of time for this photoshoot, I knew we had to capture as many different settings as we could. We started off with a few guys putting on work shirts and adjusting their gear. From here, we had them pose with a different truck and a less-distracting background. Shooting from the ground up gave these guys an authoritative presence that’ll be perceived well by the ideal customer.

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I really liked one of the guy’s facial expressions, so we decided to isolate him for additional modeling poses. The dirt road really enhanced the colors of the shirt while creating a cool perspective in the background. It ended up being a perfect shot for one of the header images on the website.

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In order to capture other shirt variations, we sprinkled in other members of the cast while creating different vantage points. These are great for apparel previews (on ecommerce websites) and social media posts. We lined up all of the trucks and set up different shots that would be perceived as authentic. We were purposeful in the way we grouped casting and encouraged them to relax and act naturally throughout.
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Capturing Product Photos for the Website.

The last step of this project required us to capture pictures of the product. Although we had a number of ideas for the background, we ended up going with solid white. This causes potential customers to view the product as a high quality option. We set everything up in our studio and resized all of the images to create a cohesive look on their website’s Shopify plugin.

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I want to give Ryan McGary a shoutout for giving us the opportunity to help his apparel business grow. My wife and I had a lot of fun during the shoot and everyone involved was great. We take pride in personalizing the experience so that comfort levels are high and authentic moments come naturally. When you take the time to communicate creative direction and understand your client’s vision – the process is a breeze. Thanks for checking out our creativity at PreFocus!

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Need A Creative Strategy for Your Brand?

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If you’re located in the Midsouth or Memphis, Tennessee area, we’d love to learn more about your business. How can we really help you improve the perception of your brand? Feel free to visit our brand imagery page to learn more about our process and how we legerage originality to get creative!