Product photography is an extremely prolific school of photography that often gets glazed over in our minds. Its existence has become so much a part of our daily lives that we hardly notice it permeating our world on TV and billboards, in magazines, and online. There is a distinct art to capturing the attention of someone who isn’t listening, and that art is advertising. In this video photographers Aaron Nace and Rob Grimm discuss a recent “hipster watch shoot”, as they call it, in which they not only created beautiful images of Burberry watches, but created a comprehensive, targeted ad for the brand with a simple but stylistic message:
When setting up a product shoot of any kind, it’s important to ask yourself who your audience is. Who is it that you want to see this image? What kind of things does this person value? Why should they care about your product? If you identify who it is you’re trying to speak to, you can more effectively decide how to express your message. For instance, if your target audience is affluent and sophisticated, you might choose a luxurious colour palette of rich tones such as deep red or purple. If you’re appealing to a younger more impulsive crowd, bright, cheerful colours might work better.
You can always incorporate models and props into your images, but it’s important to remember that in product photography, the item is the only subject, and all eyes must draw towards it. The tedious part of a product shoot is also the most essential – the meticulous lighting, which ensures that every important element is lit properly, that shadows are natural and even, and exactly as dark as they need to be for the story you’re trying to tell.
Set your camera on a tripod and frame the image how you like it. Then, articulate the product to fit the camera, rather than the other way around. Perfect the positioning of your props and lights, checking the viewfinder as you go. Use small pieces of white card or hand mirrors to bounce light back into the shadows and to illuminate important details or enhance texture. When composing, be aware of any reflections that may shine off of glossy surfaces.
The image in this video was created from many differently-lit layers. In one, the watch’s face is lit from above with an LED light; in another, the watch is submerged in carbonated water and lit with two reflector dishes at opposite 45 degree angles. The model, for his shot, stands in front of an illuminated blue background with a key light 45 degrees to his right at the front and a hair light 45 degrees to his right at the rear. Notice how the even angles keep the light consistent between the many layered images.
The video focuses on the formulation of the idea behind the picture, which is critical to taking your product photography into the realm of professional advertising. Making an item look its best is bread and butter, but the chief thing to take from Nace and Grimm is how to use that item to convey meaning and to communicate with your audience, and having a well-thought out plan is indispensable to that end.