Whether you’re a creator trying to nail your social posts or a photographer snapping directly for a brand, you are chasing the same thing: the *perfect* product shot. Want to know why some product photos turn out enticing and some fall flat? Keep reading. We’ve not only got best practices and tech help suggestions, we’ve also got top tips from two powerhouses, Danielle Finestone and Max Rosenstein. Danielle is a beloved influencer and Creator In Chief for @tofoodies, and Max is a renowned photographer who has shot campaigns for many of your favorite things.
The best product shoots have a few things in common: they are high-resolution, well-lit, and show the product from multiple angles. They also usually have a plain or neutral background, which helps the product pop.
All of these commonalities are easier said than done. Even when trying to replicate someone’s perfect product photo and using the above checklist you may not come close. You have to understand how to compose the photos in a way that puts the focus on the product and gives the viewer a sense of how they’ll feel when they own and use it… Incredible. Fabulous. Obsessed. Let’s dive in.
You should mind your set-up
Keep the backdrop neat by using a sweep (this is a cloth or paper that folds gently, making the background seamless). If you’re doing outdoor photography, choose muted colors or softly blur the background.
You should love the lighting
Choose continuous lights shining from a side if you’re working with artificial lighting. If daylight can help the product, try various times of day. The interplay between light and shadow should highlight the product at its best. Have fun, try being a lighting director! When it comes to choosing the right lighting setup, these recommendations can help save money by buying the right lighting tools the first time. Experimenting is important, but not when it comes to spending.
A continuous light
As a beginner, you should choose continuous lights over strobe lights. While strobe lights are better for capturing a pic of something in motion, you’ll need a lot more experience to get to the point where you can compose this type of shot. A continuous light makes it easier to visualize how the end result will look. Consistency is king.
Considering the multitude of continuous lighting options out there, and knowing you probably know what you’ll need, here are a couple we heart:
If you are ready to play with movement, and you might be in situations where heat output needs to be low or you have to freeze motion, consider the size of the light source. Do many test shots.
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Working with natural light
Natural light is the best to produce lifelike images that give viewers the most accurate idea of colors… it also happens to be gorgeous from sunrise to sunset. Typically you will want a big window, lots of light, and a diffuser sheet if you want to mute midday brightness. Play around with different times for different vibes.
You should consider the medium
When you style a product for a photo, consider where it will be uploaded. Mobile or web responsiveness matters for photos, too. Photos that look great on Instagram may not pan out well on a website.
- Social media sites prefer vertically-oriented photos while website photos look better when horizontal. Rather than adapt the same photo, we recommend taking different pictures
- Play with angles and distance to get enough pictures for all mediums
- Stage more action shots for social media
- Color correction (photoshop, canva) is more critical on websites
- Test the appearance of website photos across devices and screen sizes
Whether you’re new to product photography or want to take better stills, the first thing to do is identify your skill level in these aspects of capturing high-quality product photos:
- Equipment: You don’t need to buy professional DSLR cameras because you can take great product photos with smartphones these days. However, we really do recommend investing in a camera with great resolution when you go from hobbyist to something more. A tripod is also a must-have for aspiring product photographers. Invest in the necessary lighting equipment, backdrops, sweeps, etc.
- Know your stuff: You will never regret the time spent learning the basic rules of product photography. You may not yet know your stuff, but there are easy courses out there to up your game quickly. Check out easy ones like this Skillshare course or more elaborate ones like this one from Rachel Kimberley.
- Understand your audience: The best product photos are those in which the viewer can see a story. An appealing lifestyle or a clear how, how the product will fit wonderfully into your life. That may mean clicking the product against a plain white background or an outdoor setting.
You’ve got this. But to boost your product photography confidence to the max, here are three product shot suggestions from @tofoodies creator Danielle Finestone and photographer Max Rosenstein solidifying best practices. You can trust them, they know their sh*t.
- Lighting! Make sure you are well lit. I like to shoot in daylight, but regardless of your preference, make sure the lighting feels intentional and that you are spotlighting what you want to spotlight.
- Positioning! Make sure what you want is facing the camera, in focus, clean, etc. Is it important that everyone can see the full name or logo or actual product in the final shot? Every brand is different but it probably is, or at least they will want the option. And so, always keep checking that your positioning is on point.
- Make a shot list! Go into a shoot with an open mind and ready to discover, but make a shot list before. Write out a list of all your ideal shots like close ups, movements, situations, etc. and then map out how the day will flow. You don’t want to open all the packages, just to then need to capture a closed package shot at the end of the day. Preparing in advance will help you get all the shots you need, without sacrificing. And do you can with the closed packages first, then open them. Save one unopened product if you can for the whole shoot, just in case.
- Make sure your lighting is perfect. You don’t have to shoot with expensive equipment, but different products and brands need different styles of light.
- Hone your skills in Photoshop. As much as you clean a product, high res cameras and strong lighting will always embellish dust, dirt, and packaging imperfections.
- Pay lots of attention to set decoration. The context, color, and style that the product is set in can be the most important element in telling a brand’s story.
Are you a brand, creator or consumer who is creator-curious? Yes! You should work with youshd. Email [email protected].