Product Photography Tips – What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 28, 2020

In today’s competitive market, staying ahead of the competition by providing pristine product photography images are vital to a company’s success.

Many businesses rely on their merchandise to fuel their growth and that's the reason why professional product photographers will always be in demand. Since professional product photography can be costly (depending on the type of products and the requirements), some will choose the path of do it yourself product photography, which we will discuss further later, instead of hiring a commercial photographer. Why use the word “commercial photographer” and not just “product photographer” some may wonder? Well, we will discuss that further also once we have tackled the different types of product photography out there. We can all agree that product photography is an important investment, right? This is the reason why finding the right photographer or buying the right kind of photographic equipment for your DIY photography are essential. By identifying your product photography needs (e.g. found a photographer for the job, having bought the necessary photographic gears), we are now ready to produce quality product photography images that will help to sell our products.

What does it take to create clean and crisp product photography images?

We can compare an image or photograph to a fine gourmet dish that needs a chef‘s peripheral attention (e.g. his/hers cooking skills, the right ingredients and cooking utensils/equipment). Great product photography images does not just happen by just aiming your camera and pressing the button. Great images are produce by a combination of a photographer’s product photography knowledge and having the necessary gears that gets the job done right.

Like a chef with a knife and a photographer with a camera, he or she cannot just rely on that alone. Besides a camera, especially in a studio photography setting, a photographer will need a fusion of equipment like lightings, modifiers, the right camera lens (depends on product to be photographed) and backdrops just to name a few.

For the DIY product photographers, you can invest on tent cube kits or product table kits that mostly uses continuous lighting so that you do not need to deal with flash photography which requires more lighting knowledge. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you can also explore the possibilities of going for flash photography. Here is a link to an online store which will give you an idea of what product photography equipment are out there in the market;

It is also a good idea to invest on a tripod for your camera and learn to shoot in manual mode to slow down your shutter speed. This will allow more light into the camera to get proper exposure. With that said, the next step for a photographer to do is to develop the image by using a post editing software (e.g. Lightroom, Capture One) to correct the image colours and exposure. And that is basically how you will have clean crisp product photography image.

What types of product photography are there?

There are so many types of product photography out there, (e.g. jewellery photography, bottle photography, clothes photography and even real estate photography), but it can be broken down into two main categories, mainly studio product photography and environmental product photography. With these two groups, we can discuss the different types of product photography within. But first, let us discuss the difference between the two main groups. Studio product photography is plain and simple. It is just that, product photography in a studio setting using artificial lights, backdrops and other studio equipment to enhance the image and get the results required. This may include props, special effects and models to showcase the merchandise. In comparison to environmental product photography, it can be outdoors or indoors and can use artificial lights as well but the product must look natural in its environment. Lifestyle product photography and real estate photography will fall into this category.

Now, let us go back to studio photography. Since there are a lot of different products out there and it might take a whole new blog to elaborate further, we will just discuss some of the most common studio product photography and a few technical terms that you might need to know. One of the most used, especially common for online store website, is product photography with a super white background. This can be accomplished naturally by using dedicated lights to light up your white backdrop or some prefer to do it in post. This process is called deep-etching. When an image is Deep Etched, the background is graphically removed which allows the background to be transparent and can be placed in a white background or a different coloured background. Other terms used especially in the clothing industry are Flat Lay Photography and Ghost Mannequin Photography. For the sake of time, we will discuss other product photography techniques and terms in another blog.

Just to elaborate further about product photography, no matter if it is studio or environmental, there are five basic shots that you need to consider. These are mainly individual shots, group shots, detailed shots, component shots and teaser shots. Whether it be studio product photography or environmental product photography, the types of shots will all depend on how you would like to promote your products and what advertising platform you decide to use (e.g. online or printed materials).

Why hire a commercial photographer and not just any type of photographer?

Like any profession, photographers have their own individual speciality (e.g. wedding photography, newborn photography). But what does a commercial photographer got to do with this and what do they specialise in? Commercial photographers can do almost any types of photography there are, even wedding photography and newborn photography, if he/she chooses to do so, but it needs to fit the definition of commercial photography. So, what is the definition of commercial photography? Commercial photography, by definition, is any type of photography that the images produced are used in advertising or promotion. That is why commercial photography is very broad and can cover all fields of photography (e.g. fashion photography, landscape photography, portrait photography, headshot photography, product photography, lifestyle photography, studio photography, street photography, sport photography, corporate photography, aerial photography and many, many more). Do you get the picture, right? With that said, commercial photographers do limit themselves and specialise in different fields of photography since trying to accommodate all will be futile. It is like a doctor trying to perform all types of surgical operations in a hospital. Now that we have a better understanding of what a commercial photographer does and know that product photography is part of commercial photography, we can look for a commercial photographer right for us.

Now that you know product photography can be daunting and costly as an investment, we can say that it is truly worth the money. With your better understanding of product photography, you can now make the right decision on whether to hire or to DIY your own product photography. Considering the photographic equipment involve, you now know why some commercial photographers choose to specialise in specific field of product photography. For people considering DIY product photography, do the research and choose the right photographic equipment wisely. With that being said, it is now time to create those pristine product photography images that sells!

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