When you're running your own business, great product photos are a necessity. It's especially crucial these days, as the boom of social media has heightened people's aesthetic senses. If you want your items to get noticed, simply snapping away with your digicam won't work.
During the third entrepreneurship workshop session of Craft MNL in partnership with co.lab, Manila Workshops and Globe myBusiness, professional photographer Jeryc Garcia gave a short lecture on the basics of photography and a few pointers to get small business owners to put out engaging and eye-catching product photos. Here's what we learned:
1. Selling a lifestyle
Product photography is not just snapping a nice pic of your wares, hoping that people are going to want to buy it for its prettiness. Good product photography doesn’t just sell a product, it promises a lifestyle. You’ve got to get your product photos to tell stories: not just any stories, but the stories of the people viewing them. Viewers have to look at your product photos and say to themselves, “I know how that is going to add to my life.”
Using your photos to tell these stories as creatively as possible is the best way to invite its viewers to the luxuries of homemade jewelry, the deliciousness of the delicacies you’re serving up, or whatever lifestyle your product caters to.
2. Set your product up
Getting photographs of your products to tell those stories is a giant creative task. The first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you know your product inside and out. What is it about? What’s it for? How many ways can it be used?
When you’ve got a clear idea in your head about what your photos are going to be saying about your product, you’ve got to figure out how to get the photos to actually say that. Visual language isn’t particularly difficult to learn and there’s so much of it all around. Go get pegs, lots and lots of pegs: turn to movies, paintings, Instagram, Pinterest and the trusty Google search bar.
The next step is to decide the setting in which to shoot your product. There are two basic setups: first is the Seamless setup, which is a closed setup. For anyone who has ever flipped through a catalog, you’ve seen seamless setups. These are tasteful and elegant setups that identify the product clearly and straightforwardly. It’s a setup that says, “here it is, and it’s great.”
The second is the Environmental setup, which is an open setup. It places your product in the real world and contextualizes it. It’s cookies on a plate on a kitchen counter. It’s soap gliding down the skin of an arm. While this setup might seem ideal for product photography that tells stories, it’s important to keep in mind that environmental setups can sometimes be distracting, and can put your products out of context too.
3. Maximize the product
Getting the most out of your product in a photograph is not only a creative task but also a technical one. So examine your product, and dissect its visual properties. Is it transparent, translucent, or opaque? Is it sharp or rounded? Is it very colorful, or more muted? Is it a product that is actually attractive, or would you have to shoot the packaging instead?
There are many things to consider because getting the product to look good in a photograph means picking its most engaging visual properties and highlighting them. This will be done with lighting. Lighting is the most immediately important consideration for any photographer because it is literally how your product will be seen.
The lighting will also determine the mood of your photograph, and by extension the mood in which your product is received. Is the light soft and warm? Is it hard and edgy? What does that say about the product?
4. The overrated-ness of cameras
One thing many aspiring photographers struggle with is a sense of insecurity about whether their cameras are “good enough” to capture professional or even just high-quality images. But according to Garcia, the camera is only as good as the photographer.
It might seem a bit hackneyed, but nearly all professional photographers are more concerned with the setting, lighting, composition, and concept than they are with the camera they’re shooting with. A great camera is not going to make up for a lazy photographer. And most digital cameras, even the most underrated phone cameras, already have the ability to capture high-definition images anyway.
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