Behind The Scenes: The photography evolution of Timbuk2

Posted by Genevieve LeMarchal on

If you haven't noticed, Timbuk2 has undergone an evolution.

Always core to their iconic messengers and bag packs, Timbuk2's loyal raving base of bike enthusiasts, commuters and casual day to day users have one major thing in common, they are looking for functionality and style. 
At their heart, Timbuk2 operates similar to a start-up. With fast iterations, and a "do it now and figure it out later" approach. As their brand begins to scale to an even bigger national and global presence, Timbuk2 began to test and explore their boundaries.

Photography as a brand evolution tool

Largely bolstered by the opening of their NYC store, Timbuk2 realized brand elevation through the vehicle of photography would be an obvious need.
To make this shift, Timbuk2 needed a photography partner as imaginative, flexible and nimble as they were. So they partnered with Sadie to rethink their eCommerce and lifestyle photography and provide fresh new direction to certain key lifestyle shoots.
Shifting the photography approach, aesthetic and process was not an immediate change. The process of evolution started a couple years ago, and has been ongoing ever since. Because photography is such an integrated process that touches so many areas of the business (eCommerce, sales, marketing, manufacturing, etc.) a lot of testing and trial and error was necessary to get to the point where Timbuk's photography process began to operate in a more streamlined way.

Simplicity is key

Timbuk2 femme messenger

Simplified styling for eCommerce photography

Regardless of their size, all retailers work with tight margins and are often cash strapped.) Sadie has found upon discovery and audit that even small bootstrapping start-up apparel brands were spending upwards of $70k annually to produce photography in-house. (Large enterprise retailers spend upwards of $1M+ annually. How much does it actually cost you to produce product photography?)
The ultimate end goal always being to drive sales, Sadie applied their eCommerce knowledge to bring a more clean and orderly aesthetic to the website. The first thing needed was to lead the Timbuk2 team to create and adopt a styling guide for the eCommerce product shots. In the past there had not been a defined set of guidelines to follow for which angles would be required for each product, and how best to style the various types of bags Timbuk2 has. So an initial styling guide was set that brought clarity to Timbuk2's teams on what angles they could expect and plan for, and streamlined the photography production process.

Rethinking props and models

Showing the bags on both female and male models was important because Timbuk2 bags are largely unisex. So the style guide was extended to address models, and all styles were shot on both a male and female "fit" model to illustrate the size and scale of each bag. To make the on-model shooting efficient for Timbuk2's workflows, Sadie selected models to work direct, so as to be more flexible for Timbuk2's needs.
Inspiration for wardrobe styling was drawn from the lifestyle shooting, with an err toward simplicity to keep the focus on the product.
Props were selected carefully to speak to Timbuk2's core demographic and the type of customer each bag was designed for.

The addition of product video

Timbuk2 chooses specific styles each season for product video. After an initial phase of video testing and iteration, which included building a custom product turntable and even testing out smooth stop motion, Timbuk2 decided to have narrated product videos and use one of their own brand experts to demonstrate the bags. An end-to-end workflow was designed that is replicated for each video to make bulk editing and volume shooting possible within Timbuk's budget.

Success with photography 

The launch of the first mass refresh included all new product photography and a refreshed look for the homepage. Timbuk2 saw an immediate increase in online sales volume on the day of launch that continued to trend in the days and weeks the followed.

The more clean, streamlined photography look and ensuing increases in online sales brought Timbuk2's teams recognition and praise from their board of directors and CEO.


It doesn't matter if you're a big fish, or a small fish. Brands big and small benefit from a clean, stylish, modern approach to product photography.

Sadie is a nimble, flexible and product focused photography solution for apparel, accessories and jewelry brands.

Find out more about working with Sadie. 


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