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Getting production photos from your supplier

By Jacob Yount

Production photos from your vendor can be elusive beasts.

China sourcing and manufacturing, has anyone ever had problems getting good production photos from their supplier?  Yeah, me too….

Little concept of what you want to see.

When it comes to sample images, images of the facility or production photo, a large portion of suppliers lack concept as to “why” a buyer finds these images of interest.

• Does it mean the buyer doesn’t trust us?

• Why not just come visit?

• It’s just a mundane manufacturing process, what’s there to see?

• Our domestic buyers don’t request these.

These are examples of thoughts that suppliers have when buyers request images of the project.

Suppliers don’t understand the apprehension an overseas buyer may have when it comes to their offshore production.

Suppliers don’t consider how detailed a Western buyer will closely scrutinize photos, looking for errors. After all, as Renaud Anjoran accurately describes it in his chat with a Mainland contact concerning production processes, “small details are boring” (fantastic post, by the way).


Lack of aesthetics when it comes to production photos

Since the supplier is cloudy on “why” you want the photos, then they are cloudy on “what” to display. Many production photos you do receive lack perspective.

You finally open the images and there is poor lighting, disproportionate shots of the item and seedy images that could be counterproductive to actually gaining any insight from the process.


Poor internet connection

The great firewall of China is also culprit here. Not so much in not receiving photos but when you finally do receive the images, they’re teeny weeny.

You’re stoked to finally receive some images of your production and to see how your factory is creating a masterpiece. You open the photos and find that zooming is pointless because the maximum size of each photo they sent is 68kb.

The slow internet connection hinders many locations in China sending an email that is over 1~2mb. But also the suppliers for some reason downsize their images. I think they worry about too much space being taken on their computer instead of being concerned the client is able to accurately view the project.


What to do?

• Coach the sales contact the on required photos.

• Send approved images of your own product and tell the supplier that this is the view and angles you require.

• Many times a supplier will complete sampling and before you’ve seen hide nor hair of the item, they’re telling you the item is en route via your express account. Require that no supplier is able to use your express account until you’ve seen sufficient visuals of the sample. Analyze the visuals as much as possible to detect any errors. If the errors are to prominent to accept, have the supplier redo the sample.

• Know your key production processes and require when certain photos should be taken. Before the factory goes past “a point of no return” have them send you photos so you know things are going in the right direction.

• Tell your supplier to not resize any photos but send you as large as possible. Use Wechat or QQ and have the supplier to send to you via these services…it beats their struggles with email.

• Never substitute factory photos for a physical QC by a 3rd party inspector. They are not equal but photos are better than nothing.

Remember, as I’ve said in the past, you have to consider yourself sort of an unofficial production manager. Your supplier sales contact is a vital person in the supply chain link.

 Jacob Yount lived in China from 2001 to 2012, during which time he started JLmade. He is now based out of North Carolina in the US and his home office is still in Suzhou, China; manufacturing and exporting branded merchandise, promotional products and retail gifts for distributors worldwide. Contact Jacob at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or find him on his blog.

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