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Getting Started in Product Photography

Product photography can often be overshadowed by more glamorous genres of photography. A common misconception is that products are challenging to shoot and require complex setups. Portrait & editorial photographer, Devaun Lennox, shows us that it is possible to shoot competitive images which rival those of leaders in the industry, all right at home! It just requires a reliable workflow and some key knowledge. Below, he covers some essential tips for creating compelling product photos that will absolutely WOW your clients!

#1: Define the Mood & Concept

The most critical task is defining the mood and concept; without these, we cannot have an accurate gauge on how to best shoot the object. For this, it’s best to brainstorm with your client. What type of environment does this object typically belong in? How is it commonly used? What kind of mood are they going for (dramatic, energetic, peaceful, etc.)? These are just a few examples of decisions that will ultimately determine the direction of the shoot. From there, you have two options: shoot the product in its natural environment or shoot it in a studio. At this point, you can then tailor each setting to better achieve the overarching theme.

#2: Lighting

The key aspect for lighting products is that the light must exemplify the selling feature of the particular product. In most cases, you can produce excellent images with a single light, but it ultimately comes down to the specific object in question and the concept. The best advice on this is the following:

  • If you want an evenly lit background, place the light overhead, so it lights the entire scene.
  • If you want a defined shadow; place the light 45 degrees to the side.
  • If you prefer a gradient from foreground to background; place the light directly centered to the subject.

#3: Shoot Straight On – Symmetry Avoids Perspective Distortion

This tip is incredibly important. Angled framing will cause distortion of the product’s shape or dimensions in the image. Elements of the product which are closer to the lens render as larger in the final image, and that is typically undesirable. Instead, we want the subject to be captured as neutral as possible, without any unwanted shifts in perspective caused by lens distortion. To avoid this, position your lens at “eye level” to the product.

#4: Be Selective And Intentional With Props

When choosing to include props in the scene, make sure each has a purpose and enhances the product in some way. You can use accessories to tell a story, to better highlight the concept, or to complement the subject. But, if you do use them, ensure they make sense to the main subject.

#5: Use A Complementary Environment or Background

Whether a natural environment, or seamless paper, the background must make sense for the subject. For our example shoot, we chose Savage Universal Seamless Background Paper in Primary Red. In the video, we explain in detail why we chose this particular color and why we wanted a tone that was harmonious with the colors of the purse. We could have easily changed the background to white, yellow, or orange, as each would contrast beautifully with the color of the purse. However, they don’t create the same mood. The white creates a more high-key look, while a contrasting color would create more of an edge to the image — neither of which was our goal. We wanted more cohesion, and an analogous color works best for that. Overall, we believe seamless paper is the most convenient way to shoot product photography. Whether in a full studio-sized or on a smaller tabletop setting; it allows you to quickly try different colors without the hassle of traveling to multiple locations.

Closing Thoughts & Final Pointers

If you want to shoot products conveniently at home, we recommend choosing from the wide variety of Savage Seamless Paper, all available in smaller widths perfect for product photography. It’s also best to get a table or platform that’s tall enough to allow you to shoot the product at eye level comfortably, so you avoid lying on the floor to do so. With regard to equipment; start with a single large octabox and studio strobe. As your skills develop, add more lights try more complex configurations.

Most of the products we see in advertisements and billboards don’t require more than two lights. So don’t feel obligated to either. Lastly, use items you already have on-hand to accessorize the products. It’s not always a necessity to purchase additional items to accessorize. Get creative and use what you already have.

Devaun Lennox is a portrait, fashion and editorial photographer based in Las Vegas, Nevada focusing on educating beginning photographers.  Please check out his video for more insights and go to photographypx.com for additional photography tips & tricks!

What's one tip YOU can offer for compelling product photography?

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