No supplier can do without good graphic material – especially when the products are being marketed for online channels. In an interview, Matthias Farenholtz, project manager for e-commerce at Otto-Fotostudio, explains how Cumulus supports companies with the production of large amounts of image material. How Cumulus not only provides the means to manage the images, but also optimizes the workflows involved.
Mr. Farenholtz, what are the distinguishing features of a good product picture?
In my opinion a good product picture is able to successfully compromise between the aim of presenting as much detailed information as possible and the aim of appealing to the viewer on an emotional level.
You take photographs for a number of very renowned clients. What sorts of products do you photograph and what kind of photography does the Otto-Fotostudio specialize in?
Primarily, we produce product photography of textiles for nearly all sales channels. We also photograph durable goods and small electrical appliances as part of our work. We specialize in large-scale photo productions of textiles for print and e-commerce purposes.
How did you come to use Cumulus for the management of your images?
For us, using Cumulus started with the sharp rise in production volume. In the context of examining and optimizing our existing production processes, we had to find a solution that was capable of coping with the complexities of data handling that we were facing. We compared a number of approaches and came to the conclusion that Cumulus would be an ideal solution for us.
On a daily basis, how many pictures are being handled by your Cumulus software?
In a year we produce around 1,000,000 photos. Of which, in turn around 100,000 data sets are being indexed and filed in Cumulus.
What steps of your work process are especially time-consuming, when done manually?
In principle, we are of course trying to automate as much as we can on all stages of the work, because carrying it out manually is always time-consuming. Already the production data is laborious; having to be checked for relevancy and needing to be named correctly, as well as managing the data and version handling at the filing system level. Also the transfer of files to providers of post-production, and the management of data sets in general are taking up a lot of time.
How does Cumulus help speed up these processes?
Cumulus has entirely taken over all of our data set management. That means that all production data is automatically checked, and the handling of individual files and versions is automated as well. When working together with external services, such as post-production, Cumulus handles the sending, the control and afterwards the fetching of the finished files – as well as the customized delivery to the client.
Above all, Cumulus’ search and metadata functions make it easy to find any file. That means that I can always find all relevant data sets by way of the production data, and – at the other end – I can always assign all files accordingly, export as needed or process them further.
Without a system it is nearly impossible to find one’s way around a large amount of pictures. How do you sort your photos and what information should be put into the metadata?
In Cumulus we can “tag” every indexed image with all the metadata that is relevant for production. In addition to general info like item number, or the client’s order number and the job-ID of the studio, we tag information that is specific to the image, like color, brand or production and delivery dates. Altogether, every photograph in Cumulus is indexed with more than 40 different tags attached to it. Each tag, of course is information that can be filtered and searched for.
How is the metadata on the photos used in production process?
The metadata is really important, because they make up the foundation for each step of production. By means of the data, I always know at what stage of production a picture is currently in. Is the photo processed correctly? To whom was it sent for post-processing? What kind of editing will they apply? All of this and more, I can see with a single glance at the metadata.
Starting at the shooting, how long does it take to deliver the finished photograph?
Because our work is usually very client-specific, there is no rule-of-thumb answer. But for a simple shot we usually anticipate 24 to 48 hours from production to delivery to the client.
Which departments do you have working with Cumulus? How many user roles are being employed?
At Fotostudio, almost all our subsections work with Cumulus. Among those are of course the producing role of the photographers, assistants and stylists. But also the managing and organizing roles, like that of the producer, the project manager, the image editing personnel and the product manager are working directly in Cumulus.
You have fitted Cumulus entirely to your needs – what individual adjustments and interfaces are you using?
For us, the most important integration is the interface to our production and managing program Cockpit, which has been developed in cooperation with Canto Professional Services. In Cockpit all our production and product information is created and transferred to Cumulus when they are catalogued. The other way around, Cumulus provides current image data for the text tool integrated in Cockpit.
For the exchange of data between several providers for post-production, they developed plug-ins for Cumulus. These help bundle the data to send and retrieve them in packages. Even the delivery to the client is carried out via plug-ins for Cumulus. In the process, the finished image files are even renamed to fit the client’s use and then exported to a FTP-server or a data system.
How would you characterize the collaboration with Canto Professional Services?
As very positive! It has now been 10 years of working together with Canto Professional Services and being a longtime client of theirs, Canto Professional Services is well versed when it comes to our system, as well as our working process. This way, drafting new functions together and implementing them happens swiftly, even at short notice. Canto Professional Services does not only see to the smooth configuration and the error-free operation of the system – they understand our processes and the needs that are specific to our endeavor.
Thank you for the interview!