Tech & Work

How to make your product photography shine

The skill of product photography can benefit not only the product, but also the photographer. Here are some tips to get the most from your product photography.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

As long as there are companies making consumer products, there will be a need for product photography. Company "Alpha Bravo Charlie" will always be proud of the product it created and will want to show it off to the masses with demos and ads. But sometimes, just snapping a shot of the product on the production line isn't ideal. This is when a skilled photographer comes in to help create memorable, attention-grabbing product photographs. Here are a few tips to help maximize your first or next product photography shoot.

Know the message

Your client's product line could be a collection of a few items. But the message or theme is usually the same across all items. Think of Microsoft. So many different applications as well as hardware, but Microsoft loves to push the message of optimal productivity. When a photographer shoots images of the Surface devices, the images tend to be along the theme of efficient productivity and creation.

Be sure to have the same approach with your client. Ask what the message is and stick to it while you're setting up your shots. Don't be afraid to ask your client what they're looking for in the image. Sometimes the client will know exactly what they want, other times, they'll just have a general idea—and that's where you as the photographer can guide them down the creative path of successful product marketing with your work.

SEE: 4 secrets: How to take professional photos with your smartphone (TechRepublic)

Use props and models

Continuing to use Microsoft as our client example, think about props you can use in addition to the actual product for your shoot. Set up a scene that sends the message the client wants to get out. Be creative! Props in addition to the product can really make for a nice shot. For example, if you're showing off the hot new laptop optimized for creative artist, grab some rough sketches that were doodled onto a napkin. Or grab small field notebooks and an energy drink. Add these items to the scene to in a way that clearly sells the idea that the product is aimed for creatives.

In my review of the rugged, portable backup device, Gnarbox, I wanted to emphasize the product was for creative artists on the go. So for the product shot, I decided to include my backpack and drone in the image.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

Feel free to reach out to local models to help with the shot. If you don't know any models to hire, ask a friend or family member to act as a model for your shot. Be sure to direct your model, friend, or family member in the scene so they understand the vision you and the client are wanting to share. In some instances, seeing a model interact with a product can really sell the product. Note: Whether the model is professional or a friend, get a signed model release allowing you to use the images for profit and marketing.

SEE: Kodak announces the KodakCoin blockchain cryptocurrency (ZDNet)

Use creative lighting and angles

You know how important light is for a camera to properly expose an image, but you have to think beyond adequate light when it comes to product photography. The angle the light shines onto the product can manipulate the mood of the scene dramatically. Pay attention to these cues when framing your shot. Take advantage of light kits or light boxes when you can.

There are various inexpensive kits available, such as light boxes and platforms, that can hold products. Some even allow you to place solid color backdrops for better contrast and effect. My personal light box is the one below.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

Using this light box, I also did a product shoot for Parrot and its Zik headphones. The lighting was nice and diffused and allowed me to frame up a clean image.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

You don't always need a light box, even though they do a great job of making light less harsh on an object. You can often use natural light shining through a window. This light is typically soft and flattering when it comes to photography. Another hack is to use simple backgrounds you may already own in your home or studio, such as a dining table or even scrap flooring tiles. These items work really well as surfaces or backdrops.

Also, don't be afraid to play with different camera angles with shooting. Peak Design sent some products for me to demo, but I initially struggled with getting a shot of the product I liked. Then I thought to shoot lower for a better effect as well as to bring in additional lighting to highlight the product. Sure, I had to hang my camera upside down for the shot, but I think it worked out well.

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Image: Ant Pruitt


I pulled the raw files into Lightroom to do my final touch up and processing. I used the image below as the thumbnail for my video demo.

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Image: Ant Pruitt


If you're shooting product video, these same principles apply. Fire up your creative juices. Get the client's message out and show off your skills as a great product photographer or videographer.

Your take

Do you shoot product photography? What are some of the products you've shown off? Share your shots with me on Instagram or Twitter. If you have any favorite tips or tricks for product photography, share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members in the discussion below.

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About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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