In this guest post freelance photographer and owner of Aloha Photography Anna Brim shows you how to make the most of your products online with her Introductory Guide to Product Photography.

cameraWhat sort of image?

One of the first questions I ask clients is where the images will be used. This is the most important thing to establish as this dictates the type of shot you need.

The main places that images are used are as follows:

  • PR – used in magazines and other promotional material
  • Online – on your own website or others e.g. facebook.

There are also two main styles that are used those being Lifestyle and Still Life on White . Each has their merits and their own place. It really does depend on what you are doing with your images so really do give this some consideration.

Lifestyle – Lifestyle photography shows your product in a particular setting or gives a feel for your product. These images can look fantastic and you can really go to town with artistic license.  The most common is outdoors, however this is also very often created in a studio.

Still Life on White – Still Life on White  photography is your product on a pure white background. That is simply it. Again this is very popular for websites and marketing material as there is no background to distract from the product, the product is all you see so it is the main focus. If your images will be appearing in magazines this is what will be required as the images can easily be cut out to suit the layout of the magazine.

Aloha001In these images (taken by Aloha Photography for Dotty Drawers of London) you will see the exact same product (a pair of Knickers), two are lifestyle and two are on a white background. As you will see they all convey a different message about the product.

If you are using a professional photographer, make sure you find out all the information regarding charges. If you want Still Life on White  and Lifestyle, will this be the same price or more expensive?

It’s all about size!

The next thing you need to consider is size. For PR the requirement is usually for the image to be at 300 dpi and usually square. Bare in mind that a normal image straight out of camera is oblong so you may need to consider this when framing your shot! If you haven’t already heard about it then check out:  http://www.picnik.com/ This site is a great starting point to edit your images if you don’t have appropriate software. If you are in any doubt just ask your web developer or PR consultant what is required.

Lights, Camera, Action

Photography is all about light, without going into detail just believe me that it is. Natural light is always a winner but you will need to consider things like harsh light and shadows. If you are shooting indoors, avoid where possible the flash on your camera as this can be harsh and cause dramatic shadows. The best thing to do is shoot in daylight and use additional lights around your products, looking out for shadows and what looks good, moving where appropriate. Avoid using tungsten lights (normal bog standard household light bulbs) as this can cause your images to go yellow. Of course this is only really a concern if you are trying to shoot on white – if it is a lifestyle piece then this is less of a problem.

Aloha002 (1)As an example, these images were taken with a normal point and shoot compact camera. The first was taken in the evening with the lights on and using the on camera flash. Can you see the harsh shadows and the harsh colours it has produced? The second was taken in the evening with ordinary house lights on. Can you see the yellow-ness that happens with tungsten and also the poor quality due to not enough light? The third image was taken in daylight next to a window. Out of all the images this is the best. I am not saying this is the best image ever, just the best of what was available. These images are just a guide to iterate the point about the use of lighting.

My main advice here is to do your research first – what looks good, what looks bad. Why is that the case and would it look better if it was used in a different way?

Take a couple of images and then look at them on your computer screen (the screen on the back of your camera is way too small to properly judge). You will know what looks good and more so what looks bad so keep playing with your set up – move the lights around, move the product and most importantly move you! Don’t just stand still, move to get the best angle.

If you need more light use white cardboard or tin foil to aid as a reflector.

Product Photography Workshops

Don’t despair there is always help out there through networking with other businesses or photographers.

This is only meant to be a very brief guide, of course the more you experiment, the more you will learn and the better your images will become. If you would like to learn more why not come on one of our workshops. Workshops are planned for the Autumn, to register your interest please do email us: [email protected]