Still Life and Product Photography: Make an Impact
For a professional photographer catalogue work and product shots can offer a good source of steady income even if they may not represent the most glamorous side of the business. But just like any other field of photography, it calls for skill and experience to take the perfect still life and when a high volume of images demands speedy work, you’ll need to know what you’re doing to get the results.
Your strategy for success
Product photography can feature food, fashion or everyday household items and your brief may be to take simple pictures on a white background or to create ‘lifestyle’ images to stimulate desire. The important thing is to understand your client’s expectations and then to fulfil them with a set of high quality, professional images that show the product to its best advantage.
So how do you achieve that? Practice makes perfect but the following product photography tips will give you a head start:
- Lighting is critical for capturing the perfect product pic. Decide from the outset whether you need natural or artificial light – this will depend on the type of product you’re shooting and the mood you want to create. For example, food shoots well in natural light, while something like jewellery will benefit from studio lighting. Soft diffused lighting tends to be more flattering than harsh sunlight for most still life photography.
- It’s almost too obvious to say, but use a tripod to keep your image as sharp as possible – no one has a totally steady hand!
- Use as plain a background as possible to make the product stand out. White is the classic choice, particularly for website images. But remember, it’s easy to underexpose an image on a white background, so you may need to use exposure compensation to avoid your product coming out a shade or two too dark. Black can be another effective background colour, particularly for pale or brightly coloured items.
- To increase the area of sharpest focus when you’re taking a close-up, put your camera in aperture priority mode and set your aperture to the highest value possible. Doing this will also give you greater depth of field.
- If you intend to take extreme close-up images, you’ll need a macro lens to achieve the best results.
- If your client brings an art director or food stylist to the shoot, don’t act like someone’s treading on your toes. Listen and learn – you could get some great ideas and techniques to take away with you. And collaborate. These are people who might ask to work with you in future – but only if they feel you’ve got something to offer.
- Plan your composition and angles carefully – use the rule of thirds.
- Use image editing software to improve your best results – cropping, resizing and colour enhancement can make an amazing difference.
Most important of all, learn your craft, experiment and build a great portfolio. Try out different ideas and lighting effects in your own time so that when you arrive at the shoot you know what works and what doesn’t. And, finally, always take more shots than you think you need to…