Product photography is one of the most powerful ways to communicate your brand story to your audience. Logos, taglines and missions are great, but they often aren’t strong enough to convey your brand story and key messages and to compel your audience to feel a connection with you.
Portraying your products through creative imagery helps establish your brand identity that will help your audience know, like and trust you. They will not only see perceived value in the product but with the help of the images, they will be able to imagine the product in their life!
So where should you start? Can you just use your iPhone? What’s all the fuss about lighting? Professional Photographer of 10 years, Trent van der Jagt sheds some light into the world of product photography and shares a few tips for beginners who are looking to shoot their own product images.
THINK ABOUT YOUR OBJECTIVE
Unfortunately, picking up your iPhone, placing your product on a stool and snapping an image just won’t cut it. If you want your images to captivate and connect with your audience, there needs to be more thought put into it.
Have a think about what you want to shoot and what you’re trying to achieve with it. Are you wanting to shoot images for your e-commerce product for the website with just a plain white background? Or are you looking to showcase your product in action?
Check out what your competitors are doing in the space and figure out how you can bring your unique perspective to it.
MAKE A MOOD BOARD & SOURCE YOUR PROPS
It’s time to decide how you want your images to look and feel like. Draw on some other work for inspiration and collate them in a Pinterest board.
Collect any materials and props you might need for your shoot. You might include props like flowers, candles, fruit, confetti, etc. You don’t have to use props but they often add more context and meaning to the product you’re shooting.
Then, write down all of the shots you are envisaging for each product. Include a variety of angles including, detail shots, wide shots, flat lays and close ups. Turn this into a checklist and don’t forget to bring it with you on the day of the shoot.
GET YOUR GEAR ORGANISED
Do you have to fork out thousands of dollars for a DSLR for your shoot or can you just use your iPhone? I think that unless the conditions are perfect, iPhone images are always going to look cheaper compared to a professional shoot.
In saying that, there is definitely a place for natural organic iPhone content. Your socials should be a good balance of professional imagery to sell your brand identity clearly, but also still have organic content to humanise things to look like more than just a faceless brand.
For an idea of what I would usually bring along with me when I shoot on-site, I take my camera, a couple of lenses I use for everything and my lighting. If I’m shooting in the studio, I’ll bring more lenses, tripods, my computer, reflectors, huge scrim (light diffuser), props and backgrounds, speakers for tunes and some chocolate!
GET YOUR LIGHTING SORTED
Speaking of gear, let’s get into lighting. When it comes down to it – lighting is everything in a shoot. That’s all we as photographs think about and look for!
My approach is to mix natural light with artificial. Natural light is often far too unpredictable, as the time of day, sun, rain, natural light coming from weird directions can all ruin a setup. So it’s our job to control the light and bend it to suit us.
A huge window on one wall is best as you’ll want directional light – that is light coming from one direction. If a space is flooded with light from all directions things can get flat as there’s no definition. I’ll usually shoot close to a big window of natural, soft light. Then I’ll use diffusers on this if it’s too harsh as well as reflectors on the opposite side of my setup to help bounce some extra light back in.
Then comes in my lighting. This will change depending on what we are trying to achieve in a shoot, but generally I have the flash coming angled at 45 degrees down at the setup on the opposite side from my camera then I tend to fire my flash into an umbrella that bounces back towards the subject which helps diffuse the light further. Everything I tend to try and achieve is the most natural lighting look but having complete control over it.
CONSIDER HIRING A PROFESSIONAL
If you’re just starting out with your brand, it’s great to practice some product shots for your website and for socials. If you’ve been around for a little while, it may be time to invest in a professional who specialises in product and lifestyle photography. Regardless of what product you’re selling, experienced photographs will breathe life into your product.
Photographers will often source props, backgrounds and locations needed to make your concept come to life. Not only this, but they will bring a world of knowledge and experience on what engaging content looks like and will come prepared with these.
If you’re not willing to invest in improving your brand identity to get your message to your audience, how do you expect your audience to invest in your product?
Trent van der Jagt is a professional photographer that specialises in product photography in food, in lifestyle and content creation and he also brews a pretty good beer! He’s been shooting for 13 years, and has been working as a full-time professional photographer for 10 years with some great brands like Virgin Australia Magazine, Shangri-La and Destination NSW to just name a few.
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