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Photographing items to add them to inventory can be a slow and painstaking process. Here are a few tips we've learned to speed this up and reduce your labor costs.

Don't let perfection be the enemy of the good


The section was written for prop houses and not cleared art galleries. Cleared art galleries should use high quality photos for all of their art.

Some prop houses expend so much effort taking professional grade photos of their props that they hurt their business. It takes them so long to shoot their inventory that they miss out on lost sales because buyers can't find these items on their website. In this section we'll argue that photo quality has a low or negative impact on revenue.

Let's do some easy business math:

The average prop house has about 10,000 items that they need to photograph.

Let's assume you pay your photographer / inventory clerk $20 per hour.

Case 1: "Professional grade" photos

Let's say you want beautiful photos that take about 20 minutes to shoot, or 3 per hour.

So to photograph your 10,000 items, it will cost 10,000 items / (3 items / hour) x $20 / hour = $66,666.

That's 3,333 hours or about 21 months.

Case 2: "Good enough" photos

Now let's say you want "good enough" quality photos that will only take 5 minutes per item, or 12 per hour. This will cost you 10,000 items / (12 items / hour) x $20 / hour = $16,666.

That's 833 hours or about 5 months.

"good enough" first, "professional grade" later

Case 1 is $50,000 less than Case 2!

And your entire inventory is up on your website 16 months sooner!

These time estimates assume your photographer / inventory clerk is working like a machine 40 hours per week entering items into the system, which is not realistic. So let's say it takes twice as long because they need time off, sometimes get pulled away onto other projects, etc. That means Case 1 takes 42 months (3.5 years) and Case 2 takes 10 months. That means Case 2 gets all of your inventory realisticly online 32 months (2.67 years) sooner!

With Case 2, your buyers can find and rent your props sooner, increasing revenue.

Your buyers might not be able to tell the difference between a 5 minute photo and a 20 minute photo, or they don't care. They really just want to know what you have, what the price is, and whether it's available for the dates they want.

It makes more sense for a retailer to take 20 minute photos of their items because they only have around 100 items to photograph. Prop houses shouldn't compare their photo quality to these retailers because the business model is dramatically different. Retailers have low variety of inventory, high volume of sales per item. A prop house has a high variety of inventory and low volume of sales (i.e. rentals) per item.

In short, if your inventory is not online yet, take "5 minute" photos to make your inventory discoverable to your buyers and staff. Then go back later and take your "20 minute" photos of your most popular or highest revenue items.

Pre-print your QR code labels

  1. After you've decided on your SKU Generator and QR Code Label sizes, print off one sheet of test labels.

  2. Use a laser printer (not inkjet printer!) and verify the ink was printed within the label boundaries. Sometimes people print on the wrong label template or the label sheet is not aligned tightly in the printer. Get this dialed in before printing off thousands of labels.

  3. Stick your test labels on some items and make sure they stick well.

  4. Scan them with your smartphone or third-party bluetooth scanner to confirm they are readable by the Dashboard.

  5. Once you're happy with the results, print off several thousand labels. You can do this inhouse with your own laser printer or have a printing service (e.g. Staples or OfficeMax) print them for you.

Use a manufacturer's photo instead of your own

If you bought your item new, chances are the manufacturer already has a professional photo for that item. Consider using that instead of retaking the photo yourself.

Shoot items on an iPhone or iPad using the Dashboard

The Dashboard is optimized to make adding items to inventory on a mobile device easy. And if you have any issues or ideas on how to improve this, please let us know. We are always very interested in making adding items as easy as possible.

You can add items directly to inventory, or you can add them to inventory and an order in one step.

Create two shooting areas

Shooting Smalls on a table

You'll need one area to shoot small items, typically on a table with a white surface and background. A 5 foot wide roll of white seamless paper works great.

Here are a few examples:

Table shoot setup


Table shoot setup

Shoot Large items on the floor

You'll need another area to shoot large items, typically on the floor with a background. A 10 or 12 foot wide role of white seamles works great here.

Here are a few examples:

Floor shoot setup


Floor shoot setup

Floor shoot setup

White floors look more elegant, but they're difficult to keep clean of scratches and foot prints. Same with dark floors (like the vinyl faux mahogony wood floor in the 3rd photo, which had to be mopped after moving each prop).

We like this light gray vinyl faux wood floor because it requires minimal cleaning:

Floor shoot setup


Floor shoot setup

You can buy a 10 or 12 foot wide role of vinyl flooring like this at Lowes or Home Depot.


Purchase good warm photography lighting to do your shooting.

Position your lighting so that you have a large warm soft light to illuminate the area and an optional spotlight to illuminate the prop and provide the desired shadow.

Your lighting doesn't need to be connected to your camera shutter; it can just stay on while you're shooting.

Use a square Aspect Ratio

A square or 1:1 aspect ratio for your photos will look best on your webstore. This is also the best aspect ratio for Instagram.

Unfortunately, the in-app iOS camera doesn't allow you to choose your aspect ratio, so you'll have to crop your photos to a square in the Dashboard. See cropping photos on the Photo Editing page.