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Product photography 101
Product photography 101

22 Jan 2019

 

Product photography seems like an incredibly daunting subject, and rightfully so. With so much conflicting information out there it’s hard to wrap your head around this complex subject. In this post, we are going to give you a few valuable insights into the world of product photography and hopefully give you a better idea of where to start. 

 

1. Defining product photography.

Product photography is a branch of commercial photography and is used to accurately and attractively showcase products to convey their functions and features. This should be done in a way that translates the benefits of the product to the potential customers. Product photography is an essential part of your online brand identity but can also be used for advertising offline in brochures, magazines and catalogues.

Packaging shots create expectations of the product

2. Why is good product photography essential?

The importance of product photography should not be overlooked. We live in a visual world, and as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This couldn’t be truer when it comes to product photography.  The advantages of having an online shop are apparent, it allows you to connect with millions of potential customers all hours of the day.

But online stores have one significant disadvantage; customers can’t touch or feel the products they are interested in. This allows for a lot of uncertainty in the decision-making process. In traditional brick and mortar stores, some factors help speed up the decision-making process, like having an active salesperson or the customer being able to interact with the product.  

You need to substitute the customers’ other senses with your product images, making good product photography very important. Your product images need to convey value, trust, and authority to reach your goal of converting potential customers into paying customers.

Lifestyle shot displaying a product within context.

3. Types of product photography:

There are two main ways of showcasing your products, which is either by clipped images (images without a background removed from context) or lifestyle images which display the product within context by making use of a model or showing the product in action.

Both have distinct advantages and disadvantages, and the direction you choose would be determined by the product and the identity you want to convey. It’s important to consider all the options from the start and try to move in the right direction to avoid wasting time and money.

3.1 Clipped images – removal of background:

This type of product photography is seen in most online stores and marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. It’s an easy solution that needs minimal resources to execute. Also, it makes it easy to showcase different colour variations (by use of colouration) of a particular product.  This is by far the most cost-effective way to show your products.

Clipped image removes product from context

Advantages:

1. Affordable

2. Easy to showcase different products

3. Can use software to colourise products

4. White background creates a consistent look

5. A wide range of applications

Disadvantages:

1. Difficult to convey brand identity

2. Customers have difficulty to relate to a product without context

3. No emotion can be translated

3.2 Model shot of product within Context – i.e. Lifestyle shot

This is a great way to convey your brands’ identity and also helps to create an emotional bond with the product.  You can also use these images for all your marketing platforms like Facebook or Instagram.  It tells a story and helps convey your potential customers’ values, interests, aspirations or it could relate to a specific culture.  It’s a compelling way of showcasing your products and usually used in high value or luxury items.

Lifestyle shots help create an emotional bond with the product 

Advantages:

1. Showcases products in a relatable way

2. Can be used for multiple marketing channels

3. Helps create an emotional bond with the product

Disadvantages:

1. More expensive

2. Need to hire a model

3. Your target audience might not relate to the model

4. Have to execute at a high level

3.3 Product Images within a context can also be broken up into subcategories:

Studio shot – These shots create an intimate soft feel and are usually photographed with lots of light on a white background (still within context – not clipped)

Lifestyle shot – This type of shot is usually at a location or set in order to convey your message of how a specific product could be used.  These shots could also help sell other products i.e. adding additional items from your fashion line.

Scale Shot – Getting size perspective on photos could be challenging, by taking scale shots you can indicate the size of the item. i.e. jewellery on a model.

Process shot – Showing how the product is made could be exciting to your customers and could assist your claim of being handmade. This is a compelling shot great for showing the level of craftsmanship of your product.

.

Detail shot  – Used to show specific small details a that would otherwise go unnoticed, i.e. fabric texture.

Packaging shot – The product’s packaging helps to communicate your brands’ commitment and well-roundedness. Great packaging creates an expectation, and if executed well could increase your brands’ perceived value.

4. DIY or professional studio?

The advantages of high-quality product images should be clear by now, however, what is not so obvious is how to get engaging product images.  You can either do it yourself, go with a professional studio, or both. There are many factors to consider when making this decision, like the type of product, your budget and your skills.  Below we will give advantages and disadvantages to both options.

4.1 DIY (Do It Yourself) Studio:

For the most part, everybody could consider a DIY studio, and there are 1000’s of guides online showing you step by step how to get there.  But the truth is that a DIY studio will only bring you as far as your skills allow you to, and also has the potential to cost you time and money and could leave you frustrated with poor results.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of going DIY:

Advantages:

1. If executed well could save you a lot of money.

2. Have the flexibility to take images without having to book a studio.

3. Great for small projects.

Disadvantages:

1. Much harder to take professional looking context shots.

2. Could cost you time and money and leave you with poor results.

3. Post-production needs to be done, but this could be outsourced. (more about post-production in chapter 5)

Do it Yourself (DIY) studio

4.2 Professional studio:

When you are starting a business it’s natural to try and cut corners to save money,  but when it comes down to your product images, it most likely worth investing. Besides, you might have other aspects of the business to worry about and learning how to deal with lighting and camera angles might not be high up in your priority list.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of going to a professional studio.

Advantages:

1. Saves you time.

2. Is relatively stress-free.

3. Post-production could be included in the price.

4. You could still be part of the process. (have creative input)

5. They usually have professional models on call that will suit your brands’ values.

Disadvantages:

1. It will in most cases cost more than DIY

2. You have to book time which could also delay the process

As you can see both options have distinct advantages and disadvantages. If you have small products and a camera, setting up a DIY studio could be an option. However, if you need to show the product in context, it might be worth investing in a professional studio. Nothing beats experience, and that’s what you are paying for when you decide to go with a studio.

Professional studio

5.  Post-production

Post-production is an essential piece of the puzzle, that if not executed well could leave all your images looking unprofessional and ultimately useless. So the question again is:

Is it better to do post-production yourself or to go with a professional service?

If you already have basic knowledge of Photoshop (or any other photo editing software) and your post production needs are basic like clipping or adding a shadow, with a relatively low volume then you could get away with doing it yourself. However, if you have no prior knowledge and have a significant amount of images that need to be processed I would recommend making use of a professional photo editing service.

Post-production requires skill and could take a bad photo and turn it into an OK or even good product image. Also making use of service allows you to have 1000’s of pictures done within anything from 8-48 hours. This will help you save valuable time to get your product images online ASAP.

If you are looking to enhance your skills, read our blog for photo editing software you can use for free.

Foto editing in the Doopic studio

6. Summary

Product photography is essential to execute at a high level. If you have small, uncomplicated products, then a DIY setup could serve your needs- but putting a product into context isn’t easy and could leave your campaign flat and uninspiring. It’s important not to lose focus on the end goal which is to drive sales and this will be achieved by establishing trust in your brand.

Hopefully, your path is a little clearer and if you have some images that need post processing please give us a call.

Related posts:

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When visiting marketplaces like Amazon or eBay, you will notice a similarity in the way their images are displayed. On a white background. Most online stores also present their pictures in such a way for two simple reasons.

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Without images, the internet would be a dull and boring place. Most people don’t understand image rights and the repercussions that come with not handling image rights correctly.

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