7 Tips for Capturing Winning Catalog Cover Shots

Ninety million and counting. According to the Direct Marketing Association, that’s how many Americans make purchases directly from catalogs. So how can modern marketing strategies capitalize on the power of catalogs to draw customers into their brand story and drive purchases? It all starts with a winning cover shot.

Planning cover shot photoshoots

Focusing in advance on a plan for the shoot that is grounded in your company’s vision and mission will help you achieve a cover shot that piques interest and drives sales. As the Catalog University Blog points out, “intention always improves outcome.”

With that in mind, here are seven tips to consider as you go through pre-shoot planning:

1. Showcase your products

Product representation is the most important element of a cover shot. Even an otherwise beautiful photo will fail to engage customers and drive sales if it doesn’t present your products as relevant, relatable, and compelling. Use the prime real estate of your catalog cover to highlight the products that differentiate you and give you a competitive advantage. In designing StylePlus’ annual catalog, we leveraged this year’s cover to focus on an innovation they are introducing to the industry—their groundbreaking Genesis flags featuring a foil overlay. By adding a foil overlay to the catalog we designed a cover that stands out, creates a striking visual impact, and echoes the distinguishing feature of their new product.

2. Connect with your audience.

Customers will be engaged if they see themselves in the image, so plan shots that are relatable by showing people using your products in the same way your audience would. You can deepen the connection in a subtle yet powerful way by matching the cover style to your audience’s style. Does your audience value high-end products? Use your cover to highlight the unparalleled quality of your offerings. Do they prioritize budget-friendly purchases? Drive home your special offers and emphasis on savings. Is your consumer base sporty? Fashionable? Business-minded? Play to those styles in your cover.

3. Make it reader-friendly.

It can be tempting to want to crowd your catalog cover with images, text, and graphic elements to relay the most information possible, but overwhelming your reader will only decrease engagement. A well-designed cover is uncluttered and sharp, allowing the elements that are there to have maximum impact. It’s important as well to consider where text and logos will be placed, and to pay extra attention to the contrast in those areas so the font won’t get lost in sharply alternating backdrops of light and dark.

4. Encourage the customer journey.

Use your cover as the starting point for your customers’ journey through the catalog and incorporate elements that spark curiosity and drive readers to take the next step in the shopping process. According to the Catalog University Blog, “Something as simple as ‘25 new products—look inside!’ can make a big difference.”

5. Be patient.

Don’t rush the process of planning, or capturing, your cover shot. Allow time to hash out your strategy, and on the day of the shoot create space for the creative process to unfold. It can take half a day or longer to get the right cover shot, but the time and patience will pay off in a stunning and compelling cover if you let it.

6. Consider the extras.

Covers are a great place to spend a little more money for a lot more impact. Strategic use of special elements like foil, coatings, specialty ink, or coupons attached to the cover can be a game changer that puts your catalog over the edge in gaining and keeping attention.

7. Don’t forget the back.

Back covers are an often-overlooked goldmine of opportunity! Pay attention to your back cover and use this important space to invite customers to go back into the catalog.

By using these tips in the planning process, your cover shot photoshoot can help you create a catalog that will draw your customers in and invite them to make your brand part of their own story, setting the stage for increased sales over the length of the relationship you’ve established.

Illustrated Designs, Inc. has been at the forefront of the marketing industry for 30+ years. From design to execution, their innovative design team develops catalogs, event décor, printed materials, 3-D displays, and more.



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