How Studio Managers Can Build a Cohesive Photo Studio Team

As a Studio Manager, you know the secret to your eCommerce studio’s success are your colleagues - so how do you build a great team you can trust?

This blog post is a part of The Studio Manager Series.

Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing tips and tricks from our upcoming Studio Manager Playbook. And we’re kicking off by focusing on your studio’s most important asset: its team. In this article, we’ve collected some best practices for Studio Managers on how to build a strong, cohesive, and trust-filled team that does great work - and what to look for in your next hire.

Why Cohesive Teams Are Critical to Success

A studio could have the best equipment in the world, an incredible space, and the perfect location, but if it doesn’t have a cohesive team, none of that matters. Most studio managers know this, but it’s good to be reminded that a cohesive team supports effective collaboration, communication, and adaptability while fostering a positive work environment and ensuring high-quality work. Ultimately all of this leads to a happier work environment, better reputation, increased client satisfaction, and long-term business growth, which we’re all looking for.

How to Hire Picture-Perfect Candidates

Recruiting the right people for the right roles is crucial for your studio's success. You need an effective team that can adapt to the ever-changing eCommerce landscape while maintaining a high level of creativity and professionalism. So, where do you find these profiles? Let’s talk about 4 key ways to find great future colleagues. 

  • Referrals 

Never underestimate the power of referrals. Ask those around you if they know anyone who could fit the position you’re hiring for. Your current team members likely have a network of colleagues that they’ve worked with in the past or know through industry events that they’d love to connect you with them. Encourage your team to spread the word about open positions, and if you’re struggling, consider offering a referral bonus as an incentive.

  • Industry Events

There are events popping up all over the world that are specific to creative operations and photo studio teams. Tap into them for a double win; learning about the industry at the event itself while rubbing shoulders with your potential future colleagues. Another positive about finding employees at events is that it takes some of the initial stress out of those first talks.

  • Studio Website and Social Channels

If you’re not posting the jobs you’re hiring for on your webpage and social channels, you’re missing out. It’s bound to bring in a lot of applications - so take note that it may take some time to review them all. 

  • Talent Agencies

Depending on your location, you may be able to find a plethora of talent in local talent agencies. That being said, remember that while it’s a great option, you’ll also pay for it with the talent fees and the agency fee. If you’re in a pinch and speed is important, a talent agency might be your best decision to fill roles quickly.

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The Interview: What to Look For 

Once you've gathered a pool of qualified and diverse candidates, it's time to dive into the interviews. Remember, you're not only looking for technical skills but also for personalities that will mesh well with your existing team. Here are some key points to focus on during the interview process:

  • Technical Skills and Experience

No question about it, this is the top focus for every candidate. They must possess the necessary skills (or most of them) to perform their roles effectively across photography, editing, retouching, lighting techniques, etc. It’s also a big plus if they have experience working in an eCommerce setting and are familiar with industry-standard software and tools.

  • Creativity and Innovation

Depending on the position, these skills will vary. There are those skills that need technical specifics and others that need to bring looser creative needs. The field of eCommerce photography relies heavily on creative visuals to entice customers. Look for candidates who demonstrate a flair for creativity and a diverse portfolio, showcasing their ability to produce eye-catching and engaging imagery. An incredible follow-up question for any candidate is how they’ve used new tech or innovations in their last position. Depending on how they answer, you’ll see how they’ll bring the same to your organization. 

  • Adaptability

The only constant is change and the eCommerce landscape is constantly evolving. You need to trust that your team members will be able to adapt to new trends, roles, technologies, and client demands. Seek candidates who are open to change and continuous learning, and who can demonstrate adaptability in their work history. This doubles down on how they’ve used innovations. 

  • Culture Fit

Last but not least, think about your team's culture. How will the person you’re interviewing fit with them? Team dynamics are crucial for an effective photo studio team. During the interview, explore how candidates handle conflict, work under pressure, and communicate with others. Ask about their preferred work styles and what they value in a team environment. Ask about their previous work cultures and how they felt about them.

And most importantly, ask your current team to be involved in the hiring process. Let them chat with the most-likely hires, before hiring. What do they think? Do they think they mesh with the current team culture? Find out early. 

Training and Onboarding

Congratulations, you've found some exceptional talent! Now it's time to integrate them into your well-oiled machine of a team. Proper training and onboarding are critical to setting the stage for success. Let’s take a look at 4 specific ways to bring them into the fold. 

  1. Make a Plan Prior to Their First Day

This may sound silly, but it’s so important. Nothing can turn a new hire off more than entering a role without a plan. Make sure that every hire has role-specific technical training on the tools they’ll be using. The more they know coming in, the less that they’ll need, but make sure it’s planned before they arrive. 

  1. Hands-On Training

People learn in a lot of ways, but one thing that should always be considered is direct, hands-on training. Audio, video, and written training will allow new hires to learn in the way they learn best, but being able to ask questions live will always be incredibly helpful. 

  1. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Document and share your studio's SOPs with new hires. This will ensure that everyone is on the same page and that processes are followed consistently. Make sure to keep these documents up-to-date as your business evolves.

  1. Mentorship and Shadowing

Pair new hires with experienced team members who can guide them through the ins and outs of your studio's processes. This not only helps newbies learn the ropes but also fosters strong relationships among team members.

  1. Open Communication Channels

Establish open lines of communication from the get-go. Encourage new hires to ask questions, share their ideas, and seek feedback. While this is often explained, make sure that the team really understands that questions are welcome and open-door policies aren’t just spoken about, they’re embraced. And if at all possible, some sort of vision sharing from the C-Suite level is always an amazing way to let them know that the organization as a whole has a plan and goals to meet.

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Retaining Top Talent: Keeping Your Team Together

You've put in the work to hire and train an effective team, but how do you keep them engaged and loyal to your studio? Retention is key to maintaining a cohesive and efficient team.

  1. Recognition and Rewards

Acknowledge your team's hard work and accomplishments. This can be as simple as a shout-out during team meetings or as elaborate as an annual awards ceremony. Recognizing individual and team achievements fosters a positive work environment and motivates your team to continue delivering outstanding results.

  1. Professional Development Opportunities

Invest in your team's growth by providing them with opportunities to learn and develop new skills. This could include workshops, online courses, or industry conferences. Supporting their professional development not only benefits your business but also shows your team that you care about their long-term career success.

  1. Flexible Work Environment

A flexible work environment can go a long way in promoting a healthy work-life balance for your team. Consider offering options such as remote work, flexible hours, or a results-driven approach. This demonstrates trust in your team and allows them to work in a way that suits their individual needs and preferences.

  1. Regular Check-Ins and Feedback

Maintain open communication with your team by conducting regular check-ins and providing constructive feedback. This helps you address any concerns or challenges before they escalate and fosters an environment of continuous improvement. And remember, your team trusts you to know the difference between regular check-ins and micro-managing, so make sure you’re still cultivating an environment of individual responsibility and trust. 

Wrap-Up

As a photo studio manager, you know that building a cohesive team takes more than just hiring talented individuals. It's about fostering a team culture where everyone feels valued, supported, and motivated to bring their best to the table.

By focusing on the entire process—from hiring and training to retention—you'll be well on your way to creating an effective team that not only produces exceptional work but enjoys doing it together. Your studio's success relies on your team's ability to work together seamlessly and deliver the stunning visuals that will set your eCommerce clients apart from the competition.

And make sure to keep an eye on the blog – we’ll be running articles with more tips and tricks in the weeks to come - with a Studio Manager Playbook on the horizon!

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