NEW YORK, NY.-
Would you do business with someone who turned up at a meeting in a ragged suit? Would you buy a new book with a torn or stained cover? For most people, the answer to these questions is no yet when it comes to selling their products, a surprising number of companies try to get by with amateurish photography. Appearances matter just as much in that context, and poor quality images can be costly in terms of sales. If youre going to use photographs at all, its important to get them right.
A specialist skill
Product photography is a specialist skill you could be very good at portraits or event photography, yet struggle to produce anything that makes the grade in this area. This is why many companies choose to bring in professional specialists, even if they have good photographers on staff. If you dont want to bring in a specialist, youll need to tune up your skills. This article examines some of the things youll need to think about.
What customers want
Before you even begin setting up a product shoot, youll need to put yourself in the customers place and consider what it is theyre looking for in such images. The photographers job is not just about making the product look aesthetically pleasing, its often vital to convey its functionality. Sometimes the product will benefit from being photographed from multiple angles, and close-ups of particular features may be needed alongside full shots. Imagine how a customer would be likely to examine the item in person if thinking about buying it, and try to provide the same information in photographs.
Depending on how you want to sell your products, its important to think about context. Sometimes all youll want is a clear picture of the product against a plain white background this can help to create a standardized set of images in a catalog, for instance. In other cases, you might want to show the product in use smiling children playing with a toy, for instance, or a hand tipping a kettle to pour water into a mug. In still others, you might want to arrange other items around the main product to create a particular mood, such as photographing wine glasses beside a bottle, or disks beside a DVD player. Then there are cases where scenery can enhance the impression of the product and communicate something about its use, as when you photograph a warm outdoor jacket against a mountain backdrop.
Getting the light right
One of the most difficult things to get right in a product shot is the light. This is because youll normally need to make every visible part of the product stand out clearly. When you want to create a natural atmosphere in a shot you can use more familiar techniques with directional lighting, but for a standard studio product shot you can get away with using multiple light sources, as long as you control for reflections. A basic setup usually involves one light positioned high and aimed at the backdrop (making it easy to add a color filter if you wish), one aimed down at the product and another one or two illuminating the front or sides. Its often possible to use flash to fill in, in these situations, and flash can also be useful in this way on outdoor shots, helping to balance foreground and background. A thin piece of white tissue paper taped across your flashgun can soften its impact and prevent glare. It is much, much easier to get good shots like this with a separate flashgun, rather than by using the flash on the camera itself, and remote triggers connecting the two are cheap to buy.
The art of illusion
When photographing a product it is of course important to avoid creating a false impression of it, but its also worth noting that sometimes a straightforward photograph just wont capture the way it looks to the eye. This is a particular issue when it comes to food products, which is why those glistening roast chickens you see in adverts are often covered with wood varnish; those strawberry flans made to look moist and fresh with the use of glossy hairspray. Every photographer develops a unique repertoire of tricks like this, but the important lesson is to learn to think outside the box you dont need to approach the product in the same way you would if you were actually using it.
The editing process
These days almost everybody in the business works in digital its both more affordable and more flexible. Its normal practice for professional product photos to be subject to quite a bit of editing, using software like Photoshop and Lightroom. This process enables you to get a consistent look across a set of pictures. Its also useful for tidying up the details, removing unwanted shadows or glare and evening out the look of a product not to create a false impression, but to make it look more like it does in real life.
Learn from good examples
To get the hang of how good, professional product photography should look, spend some time looking at examples. As Seen On TV
is a company with a strong record when it comes to marketing in general, and the photography on its website is very impressive. If it doesnt seem to stand out to you, thats part of why it should impress it takes real skill to keep the images looking consistent and simple, so that the focus is on the product rather than on the photographers work.
Photography and online retail
Now that more and more commerce is conducted online, product photography has never been more important. Looking at photographs of a product has taken the place of handling it in person, so if your photos are better than those of your competitors, your customers will subconsciously feel that you are offering them a better deal. Good photography will also emphasize that yours is a company that pays attention to detail, and cares about the service it provides. Its a vital element in making your business successful.