Photo Jobs in the New Economy: Bonobos

Photo Jobs in the New Economy: Bonobos

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles where we look at the rise of photography-related jobs on the Internet.

There is no doubt that the number of photography jobs in traditional media has been dropping precipitously in the past decade. The rise of the cheap DSLR, microstock and the “good enough” attitude have made it increasingly difficult to succeed as a photographer. However, not all is grim. As marketing and commerce on the web continue to mature, companies are relying more and more on great photography to help distance themselves from the pack.

Bonobos started as a Stanford Business School project by Andy Dunn and Brian Spaly in 2007 with the simple mission to create better pants for men. At first glance, the idea seems silly – do we really need another pants retailers, and can a pair of khakis really be that different? In a word, yes. Not only do the pants fit better, but Bonobos tapped into a truism of modern men, namely, they hate to shop for clothing, so shopping online makes perfect sense. And photography can be used as persuasion.

As the company grew, they decided to move beyond just selling their own pants, and expanded into an etailer of like-minded brands: Gant, Jack Spade, Relwen and others – and more importantly, they positioned themselves as a lifestyle brand.

A typical, multi-angle catalog shot

Witty copy and sharp photoraphy accentuate a typical e-mail campaigns

VP of Marketing, Richard Mumby, told us that there are different utilities for photography, “but imagery is the most important indicator for the brand.” Unlike traditional retailers that have two seasons of clothing per year, Bonobos is constantly getting new pieces in on a weekly basis, so their need for photography is never ending. “The more detailed and product-specific images are how we garner confidence in our customer,” says Mumby.

The photos and copy take on a slightly snarky and playful tone, which is apropos for their demographic. “Our customer doesn’t aspire to a false ideal. We want to make sure he looks good living the life he has,” which means that Bonobos doesn’t delve into “high fashion” and $2000 boots (more of a “I’m ready to graduate from Banana Republic” mentality).

Consistency is the key to successful catalog imagery.

Mumby says that the creative team comes up with different concepts and approaches that are used for a few months at a time, and points out that being online means that they can be very data driven in their understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

There are three main buckets of photography:

  1. E-commerce images. These catalog images feature the clothing shot against white seamless with a standard set of poses. Continuity of these shots is key, and they use a regular photographer who shoots several times a week.
  2. Marketing assets. These images appear on-site and in e-mail promotions (which can be dispatched up to five times per week). They are constantly seeking out new photographers who can capture the right mood while bringing a fresh perspective to the photography.
  3. “Above the line.” Print advertising and online display imagery, which differ from the marketing assets because of lead times and volume requirements.

Bonobos "retargeting" ads use "marketing assets" imagery

Bonobos strives to create stylish imagery that blends both product and a “look.” Finding the right balance of “cool” combined with adequate product detail is the challenge. The team is always on the look out for new photographic talent, and have mainly relied on network referrals to find their next photographer.

But if you think you have what it takes, and your style of photography falls in line with what they’re doing, drop them a line.


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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 6 comments for this article
  1. Filmari Nunti at 6:11 am

    It seems that Bonobos started right from the beginning. They also have a very good management team.

    I love this part of your article Allen:
    1. E-commerce images
    2. Marketing assets
    3. “Above the line.”

    Its a good news for photographers: they need us 🙂

    Thanks Allen!

  2. Charlotte at 10:31 am

    Interesting showcase of a company. As a photographer who does this kind of work all day every day, it’s interesting to see this side of the industry being highlighted on your blog!

  3. Pingback: Today’s Links | Chris Titze Imaging - Creative Portfolio and Blog

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