Professional product photography and when is it needed?

11 April, 2020
Professional product photography and when is it needed?
Beginner photographers may think that product photography is something rather simple. However, it is not the case. Setting up a table with white cloth and LED lights around it to shoot the product is not going to deliver the right results. Often times however, product photography is mistakenly depicted as such.

Object (or product) photography is a standalone field in photography industry and when compared to other types of photography, is not inferior to them in complexity. Among the photographers, there are many not only traveling landscapers or those who create flawless photos of models, but also those who utilize product photography to bring to life catalogues and booklets, which present a large variety of products.

Nowadays, when digital marketing is crucial, it is the task of a photographer to capture a product by creating a photograph in which it looks presentable.

To further illustrate this concept, we can use the cufflink example. This photoshoot allowed to focus on the beatify and practicality of the cufflinks, emphasizing the functionality.

Types of Product Shooting

As with any other genre of photography, product photography can be divided into many types. And each type obliges the photographer to possess certain knowledge and requires specific studio equipment and special processing of the footage.

In simple words, different types of object photography are significantly different from one another. It happens that the customer confuses object photography with advertising. In this case, the customer must explain to the photographer what he or she really needs and what kind of object photography he or she intends to order. We will try to figure it out, too. And above all, we need to understand what object photography is and how it differs from marketing photography. It is believed that object (product) photography is the shooting of goods on a homogeneous, as a rule, white background for online stores, e-commerce platforms, booklets, catalogues, and other promotional products, which will be widely replicated and used not in a single copy.

In other words - if you have been asked to do a single shot, for which you have spent more than two hours of work, and as a result, the shot will be the basis of a huge billboard, then this photoshoot is safely attributed to marketing photoshoot, not to object or product photography.

If you have a task, for example, to shoot 2000 SKU’s of power tools, each of which must be shown in three angles, and the amount of your remuneration is the same as for each frame, it is then about object or product photography.

Who orders an object or product photoshoot?

It should be understood that taking pictures of products is mostly a commercial process rather than an artistic one. This is not exactly an artistic approach because you are not “assembling” the photo, but rather ensuring the product itself looks good.

Of course, there is also some room for creative work in product photography, but it manifests itself mainly in the competent choice of angles. In many cases, this parameter is also determined by the customer's requirements.

Speaking of clients. Correct and timely communication with customers directly creates a successful result, because it is customers who determine the vector of work. For the product photographer, customers are in most cases - large online stores or companies that have a large variety of products, as well as advertising agencies. However, the latter often have their own product photo studio and less and less often turn to third-party photographers (since marketing agencies charge a premium to shoot products in-house).

Recently, a special group of customers has emerged, a DIY - (do it yourself) handmade goods production. Masters who make clothes or create beautiful jewelry, toys, soap or roll out of wool. They all produce a small number of products for those who appreciate unique things. And each master requires high-quality photos to successfully develop his or her business and promote services, such as those that will demonstrate the product in the best form, demonstrating all its merits. Professional product photography allows you to show the product by displaying it on forums, sites, and social networks. But not all masters can afford to work with a large photo studio, primarily because of limited financial opportunities, especially at the beginning of a career. That is why they learn how to conduct product photography at home.

It is worth noting that product photography is time consuming. Even for professionals it takes time and effort to shoot the product; however due to more experience the process is more efficient and effective.

What is the most common thing to shoot?

What is the most common things to shoot? It can be clothes, shoes, spare parts, electronics, household appliances and much more. However, there are also products (where 360 product photography is needed) – shoes, jewelry, specialty car parts, tools and so on. Of course, it is harder to work with non-standard items.

White objects also cause difficulties because of the “blending” effect of the background and the product.

Reflective products are extremely time consuming and require special light setup to successfully achieve the necessary result.

Transparent, or semi-transparent products without colour are a challenge as well.

To be honest, the division into standard and non-standard items was invented by photographers themselves, who work in this genre. After all, the size of an object or its color affects the speed of product photography, which is a key factor in determining the price and turnaround time.

Try to imagine the time and effort it takes to replace one item weighing 1 kg with another in the frame. Now imagine that for the next frame you have to change the fridges. If the object is heavier than 5 kg, or larger than 50 cm then shooting speed will drop significantly.

From practical experience we know: in one working day, it is possible to shoot 150-200 objects in three angles, provided that the weight of objects does not exceed 5 kg, and the size of one side does not exceed 50 cm. But, if all these objects are white, and we shoot them, as it relies on the white background, then, no matter how hard you try, it will be possible to shoot no more than 100 products in a day. If you have to shoot a hundred white and chrome wheelchairs from three angles, you will never forget this order.

If you have to shoot a hundred white and chrome wheelchairs from three angles, this order will haunt you in your nightmares.

You should not neglect post-processing your photos before you decide to show them to your customer. By the way, there is a rule here that the better a photographer exposes the light and prepares the studio, the less time it will take to process the photos. The processing time is also affected by the prep-work of the product for the upcoming shoot.

Since product photography often results in thousands of shots, the time you spend processing them with inadequate preparation can take a lot longer than the time it takes to shoot the products. It is considered ideal to have an equal ratio of time: if it takes you an hour to shoot 10 products, it should also take you an hour to do the necessary post-processing work or the products to look perfect.

The best result is when, no matter what you shoot, you get a frame in which the object is separated by a rigid edge from the absolutely white background, and the photo clearly reflects both the texture of the object and its color. The product should not lose any brightness or contrast either.

For this to happen, for each task you need to select the appropriate frame resolution and format.

Finally, for every order whether publishing on the Internet or catalogue print, the correct colour space, exact frame resolution and format, as well as aspect ratio must be selected.

Read all news