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Product photography is a thriving type of commercial work that is used to present items in the best light to attract buyers and promote the company’s brand. Perfect focus, a carefully considered background and the right depth of field are all essential to achieve results which will sell the product and with editing software you can touch up your shots.
When it comes to selling a product, particularly online in the e-commerce sector, there is nothing more important than a professional quality photograph to give the buyer a good impression of what they’re paying for.
As businesses become ever more reliant on their online sales they are coming to value the skills of a good product photographer more than ever. In the past, the vast majority of goods were bought in a store where the consumer could examine the item, look at it and make a decision. However, as sales are increasingly moving online, consumers have to rely primarily on photographs to make their decisions about a purchase.
A bad product photo will mean that a potential buyer will immediately click away to look for something else because poorly executed item presentation will lead to them believing that the product itself is inferior too!
Good product photography can communicate the qualities and benefits of a product to a potential buyer in an instant, conveying its utility, function and style at a glance. The way that the product is photographed sets the mood for the purchase, can significantly increase sales and reduce the number of items that are returned.
A company that is using excellent product photography will stand out from their competition and build up a strong long term brand image.
Why Use Product Photography in Your Business?
- Boost Your Lead Conversion. Using the right photos to promote products can massively increase the rate of sale conversions. This means that of the people who do see products more will click on to make the purchase.
- Good photography can capture the imagination of the customer and allows them to imagine themselves using it. This will increase sales.
- People are very visual when they are shopping and a good photo can quickly demonstrate quality and authenticity.
- You can build trust with your customers by using engaging product photos. This is particularly important in the world of e-commerce.
- Grow and strengthen the brand’s identity with consistent and high quality product photography. This can also help returning customers to identify the website and recognize the brand.
- Professional and well thought out product photography improves the user experience for visitors to the website.
- Photos and images are more eye-catching on social media platforms and can generate large volumes of new traffic to a website. This also helps the business to stand out on mobile devices where audiences are more likely to make quick decisions based on an image rather than wading through pages of product descriptions.
5 Powerful Techniques That Are Used in Product Photography.
The following are the key techniques:
Use a White Background.
In product photography it’s crucial that the item itself is the center of attention. One easy way to achieve this is to shoot against a white background. This lets the product stand alone and makes taking a sharp photo easier.
With good lighting you can make the background absolutely seamless. If you don’t use adequate lighting and only highlight the product then the white background can end up looking gray.
A product photo with a white background is also easier to integrate onto a website and of course the background can easily be changed later using editing software. You can also use other plain backgrounds such as canvas, vinyl or paper.
The Ghost Mannequin Technique.
This is commonly used to showcase clothing and fashion, especially T-shirts, hoodies and shirts. In a ghost mannequin photo you cannot see who is wearing the item so the viewer’s concentration is focused on the product.
To create a ghost mannequin you need to take a photo of the item on a model using eye-level shots. Then, using photoshop, you can carefully edit out the model’s arms, neck and head. This leaves you with the impression that the garment is actually being worn without the distraction of the model. You can also edit the wrinkles from the clothing to make it look smart and professional.
Lifestyle Product Photography.
To create engaging lifestyle product photography you need to set the scene and show the item being used by a model. The photo should show the model posing with the product in a natural environment that is both inspiring and demonstrates the utility of the purchase. In lifestyle photography the idea, or action, in the photo is almost as important as the product itself!
For example, if you were working with a client who sold outdoor and camping equipment then you may set up a photo shoot with a camp site and photograph the models using the gear out in the woods, posing around a fire in the midst of happy conversation. This would allow the viewer to project themselves into that situation and realize the utility of the products being used.
Amazon Product Photography.
Amazon is the largest online platform and works with tens of thousands of sellers to promote their wares. However, Amazon has some pretty strict rules about the photos that are posted on their site which you have to be aware of and work within. This is because Amazon wants to maintain a level of consistency across their platform and ensure a good user experience for their customers.
Photos on Amazon must be at least 1000 pixels on the longest side and saved in either a JPEG, PNG, GIF or TIFF file format. This is so that the photo resolution is high enough for a customer to be able to zoom into the image to take a closer look at the item. Crucially, the main image must fill at least 85% of the frame and be set against a plain white background. Secondary images can include info-graphics that give a quick overview of the item on sale, show different angles of the product and present the item in use. You can also include videos to promote the product.
360 Product Photography.
360 Degree photography is a fantastic way to represent a product and gives the viewer a real chance to take a good look at it from every perspective. To create a top quality, professional 360 degree photo you can use a movable 360 turntable and slowly move the product around, bit by bit. You need to keep the camera in exactly the same position and so a tripod is vital! Once you have taken the photos you can use software to create a smooth flowing 360 photo.
Many products benefit from a 360 degree photo, such as running shoes, tools and ornaments. Other items, such as laptops, don’t really need the 360 treatment though. One thing to keep in mind, and discuss with any potential client, is that many ecommerce platforms and websites don’t have the capabilities to support 360 degree photography, although looking to the future the trend seems to be that it will soon be as ubiquitous as standard photography is today.
Fashion Product Photography.
When you take fashion photography you need to use models and show them posing in the items. Fashion photography is often taken in luxurious environments and there is an important element of lifestyle photography that is woven into the fabric of a fashion shoot.
Selecting the right location for a fashion photo shoot is crucial to bring out the best in the items as well as create an aspirational image that will encourage the viewer to purchase the products.
Product Photography and Lighting.
Using effective lighting for your product photography is essential to get professional looking shots which stand out from the competition. Without good lighting the product will look faded and unimpressive.
When it comes to studio photography you have two basic options. You can use natural light or studio lighting equipment. Certain types of photo shoot will determine what type of lighting you can use however if you choose to use natural lighting then there’s a couple of things to bear in mind. Natural lighting often works better than artificial studio lighting for food and clothing because it gives the shot a more realistic impression of the items on display.
Firstly, when shooting a product and relying on natural lighting then have it facing a window or take your photos outside. Secondly you’ll need to think about what time of day to do your shoot. If you want a softer lighting then take your photos during the Golden Hour. Slightly overcast days are also better than a bright sunny day, especially if you’re shooting outside.
For other types of products, particularly ones which are mainly used indoors, such as electronic equipment or cookware, studio lighting is preferable.
Studio Lighting Basics for Product Photography.
- Point at least two lights towards the product, one on either side. Ensure that the lights are pointing towards the background and not the actual product so you don’t get glare or white spots on the item. This also helps to make the product stand out from the background.
- Point another light onto the product from the front and another light onto the top of the product. This will mean that the item will be well lit but it also means that the product won’t cast any shadows onto the background.
When Using Artificial Studio Lighting A Diffuser Is Essential.
A diffuser is a device that spreads out the light to stop it creating a harsh focused light. The diffuser stops the light concentrating and making bright spots on the product which can be tricky to edit out in post production. The larger the diffuser that you use the softer and more dispersed the light will be.
Product Photography Box – What is it and is it worth it?
A product photography box is a collapsible unit that you can put your product inside and carefully control the lighting in the closed environment. They are frequently used for website product photography as well as catalogues and store posters. The photo box helps to diffuse the lighting and creates evenly lit photo shoots.
Why Use a Product Photography Box.
Also known as a ‘light box’, a product photography box is perfect for photo shoots of smaller, highly reflective items such as jewelry, watches or collectibles. It’s also great to use when photographing electronics. The photo box eliminates external light sources and gives you an evenly dispersed lighting that makes getting a basic product photo done pretty easy. You’ll also be able to take very consistent photos which is essential if you are doing a photoshoot of a series of related items which should all have the same lighting and aesthetic.
A product photography box is an extremely useful piece of kit but they do have some constraints. The most obvious is that the amount of physical space is limited and so for larger items it can’t be used. Another criticism of the product photography box is that they tend to produce images which are very flat without the dramatic lighting that you can achieve using your studio lights. This can be a desired effect though so you need to give some thought to the type of product that you are shooting and what the finished photo should look like! A light box also limits your ability to adjust your lights to create specific shadows or points of focus in the lighting.
Product Photography is a Booming Industry with Plenty of Opportunities for Freelancers.
With more than 20% of total sales being made online the possibilities for freelancing photographers to break into the product photography industry are immense; and with the online shopping trend only set to grow you can make an excellent living in this sector. Once you’ve mastered the basics you’ll be able to take fantastic product photographs that drive sales for you or your clients.
Have you done any work as a product photographer?