Product Photography in 4 Simple Steps (With Real-Life Examples!)
Author: Andrew C.
This blog post was written by Andrew, Photographer at Mount Studio.
Ever wondered why your product photos seem to take up so much effort, but end up in less-than-appealing outputs?
This product was shot using only four simple steps!
One of the most common mistakes that many young product photographers make in their work is that they rush into setting up the lighting, and dive right into shooting. And in most cases, while the lighting may be something that the photographers are comfortable with, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that it is best suitable for the product. To make things worse, they may not be fully utilising the equipment they have— resulting in not only subpar photos, but also spending time on processes that are more complicated and lengthy than they should be.
Trust me, I know how frustrating this can be, because I was stuck in the exact same loop until only a few years ago. Through countless photoshoots and painful self-reflection, I have learnt (the long way) a simple approach to create amazing product photos in just four steps, which helped me drastically improve the quality of my performance as well as efficiency at work.
So now, scroll on to find out how the product photo above was created using my four simple steps, which can possibly change the rest of your career.
1. Understanding the product
Before you plan your shoot, take a few minutes to study your product and its key characteristics.
My simple 4-step product photography begins with building a strong understanding about the fundamentals of the product. Take sufficient time to study its key characteristics and features, as they have critical implications in planning the shoot— in particular, the lighting. The product embodies its designer’s best intention, and you’ll definitely want to bring it out into your photos. Pay attention to its material, size, characteristics, and its selling point.
For example, the product that I shot is made of leather, was roughly 25cm in length, and contained hand stitches, By taking some time to study the product, I was able to plan the most suitable lighting and shoot setup to best represent it.
2. Choosing the right lighting equipment
Now that you’ve identified the key features of your product, it’s time to choose the proper equipment to bring your plans to life— mere planning would be useless without having the adequate means to execute it!
What use is planning if your photo can’t come to life as planned?
From the previous step, I’d identified that the product in hand is relatively small, and so I told myself that it would be counterintuitive to use a large softbox, which would do nothing but spread light all over the product and create an unflattering image. As you might also have learnt from your photography 101, photography is all about shaping and controlling light, and the more control you have, the better.
Therefore, I chose to use a smaller source of light paired up with an equipment to give me better control— reflectors with lighting grids. There are an abundance of lighting setups and modifiers out there, and I highly recommend that you understand their purposes and use them correctly to bring out the product features as identified previously.
3. Experimenting with modelling lamps
Your planning and equipment are all ready, but that doesn’t mean that you should dive right into shooting. What many young photographers ignore is the fact that shaping lights should come first, and by taking advantage of a unique feature of product photography, you can not only improve your output, but also save a lot of time in shaping your lights during the shoot.
Now, one of the best things about product photography is that products don’t move (as opposed to models in fashion photography), and because of that, you can easily use modelling lamps to reveal what the product highlight will look like, without actually having to fire the flash and only discover the lighting effect after taking your pictures.
Products don’t move, and that makes it easier for you to use modelling lamps to experiment with the lighting before actually shooting.
Before starting the shoot, I spent some time moving and pointing the modelling light at the product, and I found out that, under the current lighting, the flash would produce a harsh, intense highlight, which I wanted to avoid. So then I could reduce my lighting harshness accordingly, and experimented again with the modelling lamps until I was happy with all the lighting setup. With this simple step, I could enter the shoot knowing that I had shaped the lighting satisfactorily.
4. Double-checking before you wrap up
So you’ve done all the steps and finished your shoot… are we done here then?
So you’ve done all the above steps, took many photos of your product, and you think you’re good to wrap up. You’re excited to leave work and finally get some well-deserved rest— but can you really leave yet?
Many young photographers, including myself in my beginner’s days, tend to pack up their shoot, and then regret later than they could’ve done much better. Only one thing can prevent this— before packing up, ask yourself two questions:
- Would the product, in the photo, look appealing to the target customers?
- Does the lighting does justice to the product features that you wanted to highlight? Does it reveal its material? What about its key selling points?
Use this time to reflect on your work and ask yourself if you’re satisfied with the outcome. If not, be prepared to tweak your lighting, and re-do the shooting.
Product photography may look easy, and it definitely is, if you have the eye for details, a solid understanding about your products and equipment, and most importantly, patience and perseverance. My simple four-step method is intended to bring out exactly that from you, and while they’re neglected in many photography classes and textbooks, I believe that anyone can be a good product photographer if you followed the above steps systematically.