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Managing the Complexity of Product Photos in the Field with Kim Dirmaier of Burton Snowboards

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Full episode transcript

Daniel Jester: From Creative Force, I'm Daniel Jester, and this is the E-commerce Content Creation podcast. Kim Dirmaier of Burton Snowboards joins me for this episode of the podcast. And we discuss the role that location shoots with athletes plays into PDP imagery for Burton. Along with that process are complications that can arise, an organization required to manage so many inputs coming from all over the world.


Kim Dirmaier: So we did a kind of mixture of produced studio location campaigns, which is kind of an oxymoron, but studio team on location, as well as leveraging our existing campaign shoots. Which are following our riders at Jackson Hole at competitions, or et cetera, and sending product to them and having them model it for us while they're also going out and gathering riding shots.


Daniel Jester: Not much else to say before we jump in with Kim. So let's get into the episode. This is the E-commerce Content Creation podcast. I am your host, Daniel Jester joining me for this episode of the show. Kim Dirmaier, global post production lead for Burton Snowboards, Kim, welcome to the show. How are you?


Kim Dirmaier: I'm doing great. Thanks so much for having me.


Daniel Jester: It is my pleasure, Kim. You and I met for the first time to talk about having you as a guest on this podcast, we had not met previously. The industry can be pretty small. A lot of people's paths cross a lot of places. It's always fun and exciting to get to talk to people that haven't met before for this show. And you work for Burton, which I can't imagine that any of our audience doesn't know Burton, like legacy action sports, specifically snowboard, but I think they probably branch into a few other things here and there.


Like many sports and outdoors brands, Burton has a lot of relationships with athletes, snowboarders people who spend all of their time living on the sides of mountains. And that means bringing in a lot of images. And with you being post production lead for the entire global Burton team, I thought that's what we could talk about today. There's some unique challenges that come with ingesting images from all around the world, from all of your athletes and your relationships with photographers that follow the athletes around, or in some cases, the photographers probably are the athletes. It gets all ... It's the wild west out there.


Kim Dirmaier: Totally.


Daniel Jester: But that comes with a lot of challenges from a post production standpoint. So to kick off this conversation, this episode of the podcast, I'm going to jump right in and ask, how does the post team at Burton handle this process? Can you walk us through what it's like getting images in from the field and sorting them, appending metadata, all the things that you need to do to get them usable and ready to go?


Kim Dirmaier: Yeah, for sure. So Burton has always used team writers and brand ambassadors in our campaign content, but new this year, we've collaborated with our brand content teams and leveraged their existing brand photo shoots to also capture product photography on our team writers and ambassadors for our e-commerce product content as well. So that's been a new fun challenge. I'm not going to say that I am the expert on our long history of capturing campaign content and logging all of our metadata. We have an amazing brand photo editor who has handled that process for many years, gathering metadata on his end has been pretty essential. So he will come together and wrangle all of the on-location shoots, organize it, apply metadata regarding our athletes, the location that it's shot, by which photographer and kind of organize it in a way that it can then be cross utilized for our social channels, our blog posts.


Daniel Jester: All the places that you might need.


Kim Dirmaier: All the places of that you might need.


Daniel Jester: All these micro channels of marketing that we have now, social media is like 60 different channels of marketing. We need this specific image for TikTok.


Kim Dirmaier: Exactly. So he wrangles all of that assets and organizes them in ways, and distributes them where they need to go. And then new this year is adding product content to his list.


Daniel Jester: So it's not enough anymore just to be out there and capturing snowboarder coming off of a ... I'm sorry, I don't snowboard. A ramp, jumping? Doing a jump.


Kim Dirmaier: Sure. All of the above.


Daniel Jester: I sound so dorky and nerdy, like I didn't spend my entire high school career skateboarding or thinking about skateboarding every day, but our listeners know what we're talking about. There's the stuff that goes out in a Burton email blast, there's the stuff that gets posted out, but what's interesting, that's sort of new is okay, we're going to need to shoot specific things and pay attention to shooting specific things out in the field because we're going to start using this content on the PDP. We're going to start using this to actually sell some of this stuff. And that's kind of huge and sounds like what you're describing is there's already a layer of organization that's happening before things even get to your team. Like a point person who's collecting all of that information.


Kim Dirmaier: Correct.


Daniel Jester: I'm interested to know over the years, does Burton have a formal sort of process or training that they introduce new photography relationships out in the field to, or does this person who's sort of the go between Burton at corporate and everybody who's out in the field is that person just, they're just collecting raw data and then figuring out what works or I'm just curious, do the photographers get a brief, do they get a set of standards? Are they naming things a certain way? Are they just out there snapping, running the GoPro, getting whatever they can, and then your person out there who's of the go between is then kind of filing them into the process that gets fed into the Burton ecosystem of imagery?


Kim Dirmaier: So there's a few different project management tool to, and we have a creative director for each respective project. So in my realm, we deal primarily our e-commerce content, but in their case, they might be also receiving guidelines on a binding shoot where they need to capture a specific amount of shots. So we're pretty good about laying out the specifics of what types of images and how many need to be captured prior to a shoot. And then of course, for e-commerce, we have a pretty dialed system of, okay, we need front, full body, three quarter back, four deep.


Daniel Jester: Oh, for sure.


Kim Dirmaier: Et cetera, et cetera. And yeah, this whole system, this whole process was pretty new this year regarding capturing e-commerce content. But we have an in-house creative director who did an amazing job providing all the photographers, I think I counted, we had seven photographers in nine different locations to shoot this one collection, which is our AK collection, which is our premium on snow and off snow technical collection.


Daniel Jester: I should actually back up and ask the question, because this is purely, I'm realizing that I'm probably missing part of this from my own ignorance of how a lot of brands that work with athletes out in the field kind of work. But it sounds to me like this more recent effort, these were coordinated and planned photo shoots that took place on location.


Is there also the type of content that's being produced by Burton out there where it's just photographers are showing up at various snowboarding events around the world and okay, this person is a Burton athlete. I'm going to get shots of them during this competition during this downhill, whatever. Is it some of column A and some of column B, some of them are planned photo shoots that just take place out on location, which is very easy to understand what that looks like. I think I came into it kind of assuming a lot of it was the second one, which is like, I'm a photographer and I'm following this person who's just out there riding or is part of this competition or is performing some exhibition somewhere. And we're dual purposing the content from that event. Is that accurate? Is it more of one than the other? Or is it shifting?


Kim Dirmaier: Yeah, so that's exactly right. We have two content teams. One's our brand content team, which will capture more of our campaign assets, which can be both, okay, we're covering our team riders competing in an event or going to a team offsite or showing how they ... It can be a mixture of more planned content and more organic content, I guess you could say. And then we also have our e-commerce studio, which is where I am the post production lead, and that will capture more of our product content. So the exciting thing that we have done this year is collaborate with the two teams to produce product photography in addition to the brand's planned campaign content. So we did a kind mixture of produced studio on location campaigns, which is kind of an oxymoron, but studio team on location, as well as leveraging our existing campaign shoots, which are following our riders Jackson Hole at competitions, or et cetera, and sending product to them and having them model it for us while they're also going out and gathering writing shots.


Daniel Jester: Very cool. So when you are, you've got shoots that are being produced all over the world presumably. We've got people out there who are following the snow to wherever they can find it. What kind of complications arise for the post production teams from just all these various inputs and outputs? Our listeners of this podcast are seasoned production professionals. So it's probably a healthy chunk of the usual stuff. Missing shots, swap out decisions that were maybe made on location that didn't get communicated all the way through. What are some of the complications that you've experienced with your team, from working with a vast set of imagery that comes from all over the world from a lot of different inputs?


Kim Dirmaier: A lot of what you said was true for us as well. From a prediction standpoint, wrangling images from many locations, you have a lot of instances where there's duplicate efforts. Maybe the same jacket was shot in Japan that was also shot in Iceland that was also shot in Bald Face. And we have to kind dissect and figure out and communicate upstream to the creative director, what was the intention here? Which talent best wears a product? So a lot of back and forth communication there. And additionally having a mixture of different lighting scenarios and weather, of course, is a huge factor in an on snow, on location, photo shoot. So just being able to, from a post standpoint, retrieve the creative direction and then make sense of it with the assets that you're receiving, without having the knowledge base of like, okay, we're going for above treeline, but the shoot was totally sucked in, so we didn't accomplish that.


Daniel Jester: Above treeline sounds like an industry specific term, right?You're way up there and it's just rocks and snow.


Kim Dirmaier: Exactly. Yeah.


Daniel Jester: I mean, that makes a lot of sense though. You're getting a lot of inputs from a lot of different places, and whoever's receiving these images, especially if you're shooting the same garment or the same product in multiple locations, then needing to basically tell a coherent visual story, your customers are smart. So they're not ... Not that it's the worst thing in the world for the PDP to have something above and below treeline or in one part of the country or another in a place that's recognizable, but we are still striving to tell a coherent visual story. And that seems like that's probably a big part of your team's role when you're receiving images from all around the world is like we've got to sell this snowboard, and we want to tell a coherent story in order to get our customers to decide they need to buy it.


Kim Dirmaier: That was a big, I would say a fun challenge too, because it's like, all right, you're taking this huge body of work and then distilling it down to meet the creative direction as best that you can. So it was a lot of wrangling of images from all over the place with a lot of different photographer styles and then fitting that into a mold of your traditional e-commerce, and kind of reimagining what that looks like, because you're not always ... When you have an on-location shoot. There's so many different factors that you don't have in a controlled setting in a photo studio. So maybe you're not capturing the same 10 shots that you normally would get, or maybe your front three quarter image is cutting off a piece of the garment and letting go of our previous perception of what is acceptable on a PDP and rethinking like, okay, how can I make these photos the most interesting and tell the best story, while also assuring that all of the product data that's needed out of econ page is in there. And that looks a little bit different when you're shooting product photography on location.


Daniel Jester: Yeah, it's an interesting thought that the art directors probably have to make a lot of exceptions. When your athlete is in your apparel or whatever the product is, if it's the board, the bindings, the apparel, whatever it is, and launching themselves off of a snowy ramp at however, 10,000 feet up this mountain side, you might need to let go of this little wrinkle here, that little wrinkle there, the fact that the Burton logo is slightly obscured by their hand. Because at the end of the day, this is a dangerous process. I mean, a photo shoot can be a situation where safety needs to be paramount. And then you add into it that your talent is launching themselves either through the air or down a snowy slope. There's a lot of give and take that comes with that, I would imagine.


Kim Dirmaier: Totally. And one thing that we totally removed from the equation is our creative direction for this shoot was we want to see the product in use, how it would be utilized. So we kind of got rid of the idea of, okay, this needs to look brand new, removing wrinkles and dirt and dust, and why don't we try selling the product, showing it in the most authentic way that we can, which is on our team riders, using it to snowboard and be out in the elements. Maybe we're actually featuring the pooling of our waterproof fabric, and maybe there's some dirt on it because they just had a big crash and that's okay.


Daniel Jester: Maybe they're just covered in snow and pine needles. That would be if, I was cast as a model on one of these, I just tumbled, covered in snow and pine needles. I envisioned a world, Kim, where somebody on the team comes to you and is like, "Hey, the end of this snowboard and this whole part of the forest and this part of the mountain got accidentally cut off. Can you just rebuild that in post production?"


Kim Dirmaier: Well, time will tell, but I'm hopeful that we'll have a little bit more leniency there. And hopefully one of those 20 different scenarios where we shot the same jacket, we'll have other [inaudible 00:16:09].


Daniel Jester: Enough information. Otherwise you're just relying on content aware fill, and you're like, "Hey, whatever content wear gives you is what you get. That's the best I got."


Kim Dirmaier: Exactly. Yeah. But that is a good point of there's a lot of downstream implications too, that we had to consider as well in planning this shoot. And I think it was really important to rope post direction into it early on in the process to be like, okay, maybe the e-commerce team was more hopeful for their more traditional shots. And then being able to be the facilitator of that information of this is what's expected downstream. This is what's expected, upstream and taking on that role of where can we meet in the middle to provide the assets that will serve both parties? I think that's something that ends up falling in a post-production artist's hands more times than not.


Daniel Jester: Yeah. That's a great segue to the next question that I wanted to ask, which is what other things have you learned about this process that might be valuable to other post-production team members out there who are getting ready to embark on this kind of an effort or just might be valuable to them?


Kim Dirmaier: Yeah, I would say getting your post-production teams involved in the conversation from the kickoff point is huge, was huge for us. Because it allowed us to plan for all of those granular tasks downstream that one might not always consider when we have this cool new creative direction and rework. So an example, oh, what does it mean if we aren't delivering a consistent number of images across a category for our e-commerce teams? The discussion needs to be had on how we're reimagining exposing imagery on our website and the process of product load and how we're naming photo assets so that we're assuring that all of the work that we create actually gets displayed.


Daniel Jester: Great information and great answer, Kim, and I really don't mean the change of subject on you, but I was also just dipping into Burton's website here to look at some of the, I think I'm looking at some of the 2023 season stuff, and I'm learning for the first time here on this podcast today that snowboards have a personality. And I think that is very cool and interesting.


Kim Dirmaier: Totally.


Daniel Jester: The one that I'm looking at specifically is soft and playful, but other personality types include happy medium, and stiff and aggressive. And this is really interesting. There's terrain, there's a terrain sort of map kind of thing here. And if I'm understanding this correctly, and this might be an interesting exercise for the Burton team, 'cause I know nothing about snowboarding. So park rating is a three out of 10, which makes me think it's not well suited for park riding.


Kim Dirmaier: Correct.


Daniel Jester: Versus all mountain nine out 10 and powder four out 10. And I'm interested, I guess, powder is kind of self-explanatory curious how all mountain is different. Maybe that's just a mix of snow types on the mountain. Maybe you don't want anything too soft, but I'm looking also at a shot of this really beautiful snowboard stuck in the snow, in this kind of Alpine area and kudos to you guys, your team Kim, because the colors are spot on. The colors are spot on between the studio shot and the location shot.


Kim Dirmaier: Awesome.


Daniel Jester: And it's really cool. It's really, really cool.


Kim Dirmaier: That's great to hear


Daniel Jester: One of the things I love about creatives that work for a company like Burton that have their market segment is what an expert every person at every part of the company becomes in the product that they sell. And I imagine that most of you all snowboard. You're in ... Where are you? You're in Vermont, Kim is that ... That's not right.


Kim Dirmaier: Yeah, that's right. We're in Burlington, Vermont.


Daniel Jester: And so they insist that you're out there with a board once a week or something, right? Maybe not now, maybe in the [inaudible 00:20:07].


Kim Dirmaier: Insist is a strong word, but strongly encouraged is accurate.


Daniel Jester: Yeah.


Kim Dirmaier: Yeah.


Daniel Jester: I was thinking about this the other day. We had another conversation with another podcast guest about how I was wondering if this is unique to photography, I'm sure there's other types of roles out there that behave in this way. But an interesting thing about photographers and post production team members, if you want to use that term specifically, is that we're always investing so much of ourselves in our spare time into improving the work that we could do. I was a younger guy at another company and I was a supply chain coordinator. I wasn't going home and studying supply chain theory or anything like that. But as a photographer, I'm going home and I'm like, "Okay, what am I going to shoot now? What am I going to work on? What am I going to do?"


I imagine it's similar with retouchers. It certainly is true for me. Let me sit down with Photoshop for a while and figure out how to do something. And the cool thing about that is that in some ways it's almost like I'm not referring to photography or post production as a hobby, but it is one of those jobs that people feel really passionately about, and they really care about the craft of photography and retouching and stuff. And then you also get to learn how to be an expert in the thing that your brand sells. And I just think that's really cool.


Kim Dirmaier: Oh 100%. I mean, yeah. I could geek out on how to best retouch, whatever it is all day I'll just like go on crazy tangents. And I, as nerdy as it is to say, I could say the same thing about processes and [inaudible 00:21:36] applications and different ... Yeah. But yeah, in addition to that-


Daniel Jester: Do you ever draw workflows out for yourself? Do you ever have a notepad somewhere where you've just drawn a workflow out?


Kim Dirmaier: Oh yeah.


Daniel Jester: You were sitting around doodling and now you have a studio design?


Kim Dirmaier: That was pretty much my entire winter. We were late with our sample arrival and had a slow season and I was like, "How can I redo the whole thing? Reimagine it?"


Daniel Jester: All right. We talked a little bit right before we started recording about the effectiveness of note taking, despite the fact that I shared a story that betrays how effective my note taking is I do try to take, I keep a pocket notebook. I have been less good about it since I started working from home than when I used to leave the house every morning and made sure I have my keys, my phone, my wallet, my notebook, my pen, but I have old notebooks that I will sometimes occasionally go to reference stuff. And it's always surprising to me the kinds of random set designs that I got some kind of a bug up my to redraw the whole workflow for a studio somewhere. And you know what? That makes great LinkedIn content because that's all we are now. Content.


Kim Dirmaier: Content, content, content.


Daniel Jester: Content, content, content. Kim, one thing we're right about at time for this episode. Thank you so much for sharing your insight and the things going on at Burton. I think it's really interesting and cool. And to our listeners, keep an eye on what Burton's doing on their website. We're going to be seeing a lot more action shots, a lot more location shots in the PDP, talking about the epitome of agile imagery. We're shooting the stuff anyway. Let's use it where we can sell it.


Kim Dirmaier: Totally.


Daniel Jester: But I want to commend you. Your background is really cool to me. I loved looking at your LinkedIn. You've been at Burton for a long time. You've really worked your way up at Burton. You live where Burton is based. It's super cool and exciting and I'm just like, I can feel that coming from you, that you're right where you want to be, and you're working for a brand that you grew up around and you care about. And I think that's really cool and commendable and you had a great career and I'm happy to see you succeed.


Kim Dirmaier: Awesome. Yeah. Thank you so much. It's a unique requirement for post production artists to also need to be able to snowboard. So a fun thing about my job.


Daniel Jester: Yeah, absolutely.


Kim Dirmaier: And I wouldn't have it any other way.


Daniel Jester: Well, thank you so much for your time. Thank you for coming on the show and we'll hope to talk to you again soon.


Kim Dirmaier: Awesome. Thank you so much for the opportunity. It was great chatting with you.


Daniel Jester: That's it for this episode of the E-commerce Content Creation podcast. Many thanks to our guest Kim Dirmaier and thanks to you for listening. The show is produced by Creative Force edited by Calvin Lanz. Special thanks to Sean O’Meara. I'm your host, Daniel Jester. Until next time, my friends.

About the host

Chief evangelist at Creative Force

Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.