Quick Tips on Getting Started in the Field of Product Photography

Product photography is a field within commercial photography or, more colloquially, advertising photography. The end goal for advertising photography is to illustrate and eventually sell a product or service. Editing techniques like Photoshopping and retouching the portrayed product can be used to make the product seem more appealing to consumers.

advertising photography

“Reflection Bottle” captured by Michael G. Young (Click image to see more from Young.)

Advertising photography can be commissioned out to an advertising agency or design firm that employs digital cameras and techniques to showcase your product in the most favorable light. If the job is outsourced in this way, the advertising agency or design firm will typically send you the final result, which will be in a ready-to-import format for your website’s design and layout needs.

Tips for Entrepreneurial Product Photography

For those on a tight budget, or even just entrepreneurs with a flare for the dramatic, some lighting, background, and point of view tips can help to ensure your product is captured the way that you want. The first and perhaps most important thing to consider before capturing any images is lighting. Knowing the difference between hard and soft light, and the hard and soft shadows each produces, can make or break a product shoot.

creative product photography

“Eco Egg Splash Bottle” captured by Paul Williams (Click image to see more from Williams.)

For most purposes, advertising firms actually argue against selecting overly hard or soft light and, instead, tell amateurs to use natural light. The distribution of the light matters much more than the quantitative specifications or sheer wattage involved. Still, amateur photographers should at least know the difference between hard and soft shadows. In a nutshell, hard shadows arise when the scope of the light source is tiny in comparison to the size of the object. The opposite is true of soft shadows; the light source is larger than the object.

Typically a subtle shadow in natural light is the most appealing way to advertise and ultimately sell a product. Why? Because a hulking shadow behind the object (i.e., your product) is aesthetically unappealing and detracts from the product you’re trying to sell. A flash diffuser can also limit the amount of hard shadow in your image. For do-it-yourselfers, just placing a piece of duct tape over the flash can reduce the amount of shadow behind your product.

The Importance of Background, POV, and Scale

You will probably want to use a white background to accentuate the object cleanly in the foreground. Unless the object is itself white, a white background is almost always the correct choice for product photography. Also, using a technique called the Infinity Curve, which essentially is having a white, well-lit sheet at a slightly tilted angle, gives the semblance of zero horizon.

product photography

“Kaffee Tassen / Coffee Cup” captured by Andreas

Capturing your product with a unique point of view may also highlight the product’s strong points or downplay the weak ones. For instance, if you are advertising an expensive (yet petite) article of jewelry, you may want an overhead view with an unobstructed background to lend a generous perspective to your product.

An issue related to POV is sense of scale. If your object is tiny and you would rather not highlight size, then refrain from putting an object that people are familiar with (e.g., a pencil) next to your product. If you want consumers to grasp the size of your product, then make sure that you place it next to something people are familiar with (e.g., a standard cup of coffee).

After you modify the scale and POV options to your needs, make sure to capture the object in its natural habitat, so to speak, and let the consumer feel a sense of already owning the product. These techniques, coupled with natural light, will draw the right kind of attention.

About the Author:
If taking your own pictures of products for a catalog or website sounds too challenging, Ross recommends you speak with the team at Copperline Multimedia. They offer various professional photography services on their site.

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