I’m not a product photographer. I’ve actually never had to do product photography before. And, the truth is, I’ll never be a product photographer – not professionally anyways. But as photographers, we are asked to do tasks that we don’t normally do. We’re often asked to shoot a style we’re not familiar with. And I think it really shows the skill of a photographer being able to accept the challenge of any style and make it work.
So, I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge. I’m a travel photographer – which normally means capturing images that inspire people to travel. But, I’ve also shot weddings. I’ve photographed wildlife. I’ve done macro photography. And now, I’ve done product photography. And that’s not to brag. This is all laid out with the goal of inspiring you to expanding your skill set. Even if you’re not a photographer, whatever job you do find ways to learn new skills. It keeps us fresh. And you’ll be shocked to find out how much value you end up bringing back to your preferred field.
I learned a lot shooting product photography, much more than the 6 bullet points below. But, these were my key takeaways.
1) I’m Terrible at Details
I’ve never been good at details. So, maybe this isn’t something I’ve learned but rather something that was reinforced. I remember when I was a kid cleaning my room, my mom would pester me over “missing a spot”. I wasn’t being lazy – necessarily – I just legitimately didn’t see the spot.
Product photography is all about the details. It’s about the props. It’s about the colours, textures, backgrounds, and the light. And, of course, it’s about the focus – and what’s not in focus.
But even if I’m bad at details, these two days shooting product photography at least forced me to focus in and try to figure it out. I know I’m bad at the details, so I did my best to stay on top of them.
2) In Product Photography, Less is More
When I set out to do this project, I had these ideas of messy scenes surrounded by gear and props. But, the more I put in the frame the more I found that it distracted from the product. The imagery started to be about the scene rather than what was in it. Eventually, I just started to place the product down on simple scenes and I found it to work much better.
And while the goal of this project was kind of to show off the durability of the SanDisk SSD, I think the best images were just the product down on some rugged bit of land.
3) Empty Space is a Must
This kind of circles back to the last point, but in product photography empty space is so important.
I don’t think this is something that I learned on this shoot, but something that I knew from stock photography and brought into the product shoot. Clients want images of their products that they can work with. They want empty space around their gear for them to add text and sales info. And, if the image is cropped too tightly, they don’t have that. Moreover, if the image is too wide, they can always crop it down a bit. Leave some dead space in the image and the crop slightly wider than you normally would shoot to give them room to move.
4) Everyone Should Try a Type of Photography They Don’t Normally Do
The things I learned shooting product photography are things I can bring back to my other styles of photography. By doing this, I think I’ll have a better focus on the details, textures, and colours of my landscape and travel photos.
And I think everyone should force themselves to shoot a different type of photography from time to time.
If you’re a wedding photographer, go out with some filters and a tripod and shoot some landscapes. You might find some things in shooting this form to bring back to your wedding shoots. If you do landscapes, get into a city and shoot some portraits or street scenes. It’ll help you learn how to compose quickly.
Regardless of your field, go out and shoot another one from time to time.
5) Don’t Forget a Hero Image
We get caught up in the idea that all product photography needs to be a close up view of the product. However, I think it’s also really necessary to have an image where the product is tiny – a hero image.
The image should be big, open, and have a sense of epic to it. This type of image could be used as a background or a banner. It might be used on the homepage of a website. And, an image like this might also include one of your other shots layered on top of it to show the detail.
Don’t forget that the hero image is important.
6) Don’t Lose Your Style
My photography has kind of been based around the idea of “The Hero Image”. One of my most popular videos is called “The Art of The Long Exposure Selfie”. And so don’t shy away from bringing your own style into your product photography, even if it is different than the typical product shots. There’s a reason the client hired you, they want you and your style.
If your style is epic, go epic. If your style is macro, go macro. Don’t lose your style just because you’re shooting a different niche.
I’ve got to be honest, I’m glad to be done with the product photography assignment. I think it was important. From a business side of things, obviously I need to make money. But, also from a skill standpoint it was important for me to have a bit of a test. It made me think so much more about my images than I have lately.
So, what’s next?
We’re back in Crete now and I’ve actually got a special guest YouTuber arriving today. It’s a new collaborator, and I’m excited to get him on the channel. Then, we’ve got trips planned to Naxos, Mykonos, and Santorini before my Crete clinic begins at the end of September.
There will also be a BIG travel photography workshop announcement either mid-September or early October.