Updated: Oct 22, 2021
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 photography requirements), some will choose the path of do-it-yourself product photography, 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 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. finding a photographer for the job, having bought the necessary photographic gear), we are now ready to produce quality product photography images that will help sell our products.
What does it take to create clean, crisp product photography images?
We can compare a high-quality product image that needs a professional photographer to a fine gourmet dish that needs a Michelin-Star chef which both gives their peripheral attention to their image or dish. For chefs to create fine dining dishes, they are required to use their cooking skills, choosing the right ingredients and knowledge of their cooking utensils and equipment. The same goes for photographers; they are required to demonstrate the use of their photography skills, choosing the right light source and knowledge of their camera gear and photographic equipment. Great product photography images does not just happen by just aiming your camera and pressing the button. Great images are produced by a combination of a photographer’s product photography knowledge and having the necessary gear 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 lighting, modifiers, the right camera lens (depending on the product to be photographed) and backdrops, to be able to produce a clean, crisp product image.
For DIY product photographers, you can invest in tent cube kits or product table kits that mostly use continuous lighting (e.g. fluro lights, studio LED sun lights) so that you do not need to deal with the hassle of learning to use flash lighting. With continuous lighting, what you see is what you'll get. Just setup the lights the way you see fit and shoot. To get an idea on what product photography equipment are out there in the market, you can visit Fotogenic, a Sydney-based photography equipment online store. It is also a good idea to invest in 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 the proper exposure needed. With that said, the next step for a photographer to take is to develop the image by using a post-editing software (e.g. Lightroom, Capture One, Photoshop) to correct the image colours and exposure. And that is basically how you will have a 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 needed. 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 falls 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 websites, 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 photography. The post-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 on 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, portrait photography). But what does a commercial photographer have to do with this and what do they specialise in? Commercial photographers can do almost any type 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, you can look for a commercial photographer right for you.
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 DIY your own product photography requirements. Considering the photographic equipment involved, you now know why some commercial photographers choose to specialise in a 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 high-quality pristine product photography images that sell!