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Chapter 1


What We'll Cover

In this guide, we'll talk about specific photo studio KPIs (key performance indicators) and how to build reports to measure them. We'll talk about the reporting needs of different roles–studio managers, photo producers, directors of production, stylists, chief marketing officers, and sample managers–basically anyone in the orbit of photo studio management.

Senior leadership will likely want to see certain types of reports and we'll cover those specifically. But this KPI guide's real goal is to empower people working on the front lines in photo studios, to help them better understand the entire ecosystem of their studio. Leadership will always be a few steps removed from the day-to-day operations of a studio, and that’s where this guide comes in. We want to help studio management proactively create KPIs and reports that will improve their performance, create a culture of improvement in the studio, and enable teams to make data-driven decisions – which is something that will make both senior leaders and “on the ground” studio warriors happy.

Along the way, we won't forget that not all studio metrics are obvious. It's not always about speed or cost necessarily (though we'll track those things). Creative work needs to be measured thoughtfully.

In the “ Reports ” section of this guide, we'll provide specific guidance on reporting in your photo studio–for brands, online retailers, and commercial studios. But at a high level, nearly all of the reporting we’ll talk about supports the following three goals:

The 3 Goals Your Reporting Should Support

1. Improving Operational Efficiency

2. Creating Better Content

3. Reducing Time to Market

With that in mind, we'll start off with some overall context about KPIs and reporting, with specific focus on the photo industry. We’ll discuss what these terms mean in the context of a modern high-volume eCommerce photo studio, how to define your goals, and how to measure your studio’s success in pursuit of those goals Chapter 2: Setting the Right Goals to Make Use of Your KPIs .

We'll also talk about how to get all your data in one place, so that you can immediately start making more powerful, useful reporting using data that spans the various software and departmental divides that photo studios exist within. We’ll get specific about data and reports – and how they tie back to your studio’s Chapter 3: Systems & Data .

This guide is intended to be an actionable tool for those working in photo studios and an educational asset for people both reporting into or managing photo studios. To that end, we’ll dive deep into the weeds and get specific about reports we’ve found useful, how to create them, and how to make smart decisions based on the information they reveal Chapter 4: Reporting .

Why Your Photo Studio Needs KPIs

Effective, on-brand photography is at the heart and soul of any photo studio.

Without product photography eCommerce grinds to a halt. And without high-quality imagery, brand identity dilutes into an online sea of generic content.

But what about the brains of a photo studio, the engine that drives its decision-making? You could make the argument that the brains of a photo studio are in its reporting.

Sight, scent, hearing and the body's other senses supply the brain with all of the crucial information it needs.

Like a brain, the photo studio functions on a wide range of incoming, real-time, relevant information, in the form of data and updates from various systems. This incoming studio data can come from all kinds of varied sources: camera systems, creative briefs, production calendars, budgets, and more.

The brain needs our senses to survive; the studio needs data (and strong reporting) to thrive.

This data, rolled up into reports and displayed on intelligent dashboards tracking KPIs, allow a studio to manage day-to-day creative production efficiently, while also making informed decisions and forecasting future opportunities.

Automating the boring stuff and measuring what's important. Spending more creative energy on, well, creative. Showing your value to the larger organization, proving cost savings and uncovering new opportunities. Reducing subjectivity and guesswork. These are all reasons that your studio needs KPIs.

There are also some advanced tricks of the trade that we'll get into at the end of this guide - automations, integrations, and software triggers, all based on the results of your reporting.

But first thing's first.

Everyone who has ever worked in a photo studio will tell you that it is constantly evolving. Processes and technologies change over the years, systems of record come and go. If you’re doing things right, it is a system of constant improvement, of constant evolution.

This evolution begins with a goal.

“Intelligent dashboards, tracking important KPIs, allow a studio to manage day-to-day creative production efficiently…automating the boring stuff, measuring what’s important, and spending more creative energy on, well, creative.”

"What gets measured, gets managed–even if it shouldn’t."

Measure Right, Manage Right

There is a clichéd quote that is often (mistakenly) tossed around by management: “What gets measured, gets managed.

The idea being if you can’t measure something, how can you manage it? And more to the point: how can you make a plan to improve something that is unmeasurable? How will you know what is working, what isn’t working, or if you’re even on the right track?

This viewpoint is not uncommon, as evidenced by the myriad salespeople, solutions providers (and sometimes coworkers) showing off largely unhelpful pie charts and data points–all of which look professional enough, but don’t actually help you do anything.

Part of the problem is that they’re getting that old cliché I mentioned wrong.

The accurate quote is: “What gets measured, gets managed–even if it shouldn’t.”

What’s interesting about this quote is that it challenges the very idea of what everyone in studio management is being asked to do these days: measure everything!

In the quote’s full context, the intended meaning becomes more clear. It could be rephrased as: “What gets measured gets managed—even when it's pointless to measure and manage it, provides no help to the studio or the business, and may harm both.”

This is why KPIs (key performance indicators) are so important.

You don’t want to drown in meaningless data.

You don’t want to measure things for the sake of measuring them.

And you don’t want to make decisions without goals in mind.

A studio needs to have clear goals that are aligned with its larger organization and leadership. Clear goal-setting and organizational alignment are absolutely essential to running–and optimizing–a successful studio. You need to know your company’s goals so that you can set studio goals laddering up into them.

You need to measure the right things, with the right goals in mind, in line with the goals of your larger teams.

Clear goal-setting and organizational alignment are absolutely essential to running–and optimizing–a successful studio. You need to know your company’s goals so that you can set studio goals laddering up into them.

You need to measure the right things, with the right goals in mind, in line with the goals of your larger teams.

Lets make an example

For example, a brand’s stated goal may be something like “increase the quality of our brand’s photography so that we can use product imagery for both ecom and marketing (emails, social, etc).”

If your studio is measuring and prioritizing a common studio KPI like “cost of photography per product,” not only may that KPI be useless – it may be harming your studio and brand.

While you watch your “cost per product” KPI dashboard drop with each month, hiring cheaper stylists, outsourcing photographers, cutting additional angles, and pumping up productivity, the quality of your creative will likely be taking a nosedive. Images are less consistent, the styling is more rushed, styled less effectively, and you have less variety in your shots. Your brand was trying to invest in one thing (“more versatile assets, for use across eComm and marketing”) and you delivered the opposite (“less costly but less versatile assets”).

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