Product Photography is Rocket Science. How to Master it?

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First things first: What is product photography and who is it for? The two main areas where we come across product photography would be all sorts of advertising and the digital marketplace, online sales platforms.

Walking down the street in any modern city we come across hundreds of product photographs that saturate the colourful outdoor advertising world of a present-day megapolis.

Bottles of exquisite perfume, bright lipstick, fluttering elegant clothes, futuristic smartphones, functional sports gear, sparkling shick jewelry, shiny new cars. These images follow us around on passing by buses, in public transport, at city squares and shopping malls. Then you sit down on a bench for a minute, maybe pick up a magazine and here they are again looking at you from the glossy pages, you take out your phone to check the social networks and here are the product images again.

We’ve become so accustomed to seeing product photography everywhere that we take it for granted without thinking how it’s actually done and what’s involved in creating an outstanding image that will reach out to the correct target audience, affect the customer’s choice and set off a sale.  

Product images are even more important for online stores as the product photographs literally replace the real product when the customers make their choices based on visual perception (as they are used to in a “live” shopping situation).

In this case, two things can happen: the product photograph makes the product even more attractive than it is or it can make it look worse than it is, and surely no one wants that.

We’d like to share some insights into the process of product photography and some tips from Enzo Creation experience in this field.

1)      Building the concept of the photoshoot

The first very important step is to communicate with the client and fully understand the nuances of the product itself. How is it used, who are the people that will be interested in buying it? What are the values of the target audience?

After you know these things you need to think what will make your photographs speak to the audience in its language.

Product photographs can be of two kinds “in-context” or “product only”, in this article we will focus on “product only” images.

You’d need to carefully choose the background colours that will match to the source where the photographs will be displayed (ex. client’s website), the lighting and the set-up.  

Colour is a very powerful tool of communication with the viewer, make sure you use this tool fully to highlight the advantages of the brand, item and present it in a desirable way.

2)      Light set-up and finding the right angle

Light is easier to control in the studio situation. Remember: the light is your friend; the light is your enemy. Again the light set-up has to be connected with the result you are trying to achieve – natural look or a refined one, elimination of unwanted shadows, highlighting a feature with shadows etc.

Another thing to figure out is the angle of the shoot. Light and angle will complement each other to get the best result.

Even though different objects can change their look on camera depending on the light set-up, keep in mind that you’re aiming for a set-up to be as universal as possible for one type of products because it won’t be efficient to change the whole thing every time if you have over 500 objects to shoot. Therefore it is worth dividing the object you have to shoot in categories so that you change the angle and the light only once for each category.

Sounds crazy, but it may take up to 2 days of work before you find the ideal set-up. Don’t let this challenge stop you!

3)      Phase your work

In case you have a large number of objects to shoot, alternate “only shooting” days with “only retouching days”. It will help you to structure your work and correct mistakes as you go before you’ve moved to another set-up.

4)      Post-processing

To achieve an impeccable look retouch and edit the photos. This can include colour correction, removal of objects, shadows or addition of shadows on the contrary.

5)      Delivery

Before delivering the photos to the client make sure they are saved in the right format and size depending on the future usage (smaller file sizes for website or social media easy to upload and manage or high-resolution for printing on billboards for example)

Tip from Enzo Creation: if your set-up was correct in the first place the retouching will not require a lot of time. You can optimise it to 2 minutes per image and automatize most changes. That’s why it is so important to do the set up right from the get-go and not to be afraid to invest time in it.