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4 Tips For Art Directing Your Product Photography Shoot

Author: Jeff Delacruz
Date Created: 2020-03-11
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It’s easy to believe that your job is complete once you’ve selected the right photographer. And, although selecting selecting POW Photography was the best choice for your product photography, and even though we know we will rock this out for you, we want to share a few tips that will allow you to take our services to the next level, from a creative standpoint.

There are really 2 primary ways you can guarantee a fantastic product shoot, and they are to provide lighting samples and arrangement samples. By providing us with examples and learning how to communicate with your photographer, you can achieve a unique brand image that can put you on par with top retailers.

2 Ways To Provide Direction For Product Photography. #1 Cell Phone Match Image: Take A Photo With Your Cell Phone #2 Provide A Link To A Website: Find An Existing Image &Amp; Copy/Paste The Url

Tip 1: Where to Look Online for Inspiration

Even those of us who are highly creative don’t just have ideas pop into our heads (Okay, sometimes we do.) We’re typically inspired by things in our everyday world and that’s how we suggest you get started! Start by taking a look at your competitor’s websites and other similar companies in your industry. Search on Google Images, Amazon, Pinterest and Behance. Start exploring what’s out there and what appears to be popular. Like fashion, certain styles of photography have trends and suit some brands more than others. Build a Pinterest page or save photos to your desktop, even if they only remotely spark your interest. In the beginning it’s just about collecting images that appeal to you. Eventually, you’ll have to pick one style, but to start you’ll just be brainstorming so, be messy and add a bunch! 

Once you feel like you’re ready, review your collection of photos and pick the one that you feel represents your brand the most. We can only shoot in one style, so please don’t send us a whole board and let us decide. We talk with lots of sellers and many say “I’m not a photographer and I don’t know what’s best.”  However, when we start scouring the web for different inspirations images, it’s easy and exciting for them to have an opinion about what they like and don’t like. Trust your instincts and have fun with it!

Tip 2: How To Look For Lighting Inspiration

One thing that makes POW special is that we can look at a photo, know how it was lit and mimic that same lighting style with your product photo. Not every photographer can do this, but then again - that’s why you hired us! 

Providing written and verbal direction for lighting is hard because product photography is a visual medium. We photographers speak a slightly  different language than the rest of humanity (shutter speed, aperture, ISO . . . you get the idea.) So when non-photographers try to communicate lighting we often hear things like, “Can you make it poppy” or “Make it more intense”. This doesn’t really mean anything specific to us. However, when you show us examples of other product images you like, we’ll know exactly how to achieve the same look and feel with your product because we can see what lighting was used and that’s how we can create the same look for you.

The Google Image Search Results For &Quot;Dry Shampoo&Quot; Scroll Across The Page To Simulate The Idea Of Looking For Lighting Inspiration For Product Photography Art Direction.

Let’s say you sell dry shampoo. The first thing to do is start Googling other hair care brands and check out how they present their products. (You certainly will want to look at other dry shampoos in the marketplace, but sometimes looking at the broader market will provide more inspiration than simply copying what your competitors are doing.)

What images catch your eye and stand out from the rest? What arrangements look really cool? By looking at what’s out there, you can direct us on what feels right for your brand. By taking a deeper look at the products you’re competing with, it will help you determine how you can stand out. For example, if everyone else is showing just the bottle, perhaps you’ll want to include some props. 

The brand Klorane showed us a specific look that they liked. They found some images as examples and we were able to mimic it across their entire product line. In the product photography world it’s known as a “Hard Shadow.” They didn’t need to know our technical language, all they had to do was show us what they wanted.

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So now you might be wondering, what if I'm in a unique space and can’t find competitors with product images online that provide inspiration? Look for something in an adjacent category. If Klorane hadn’t been able to find other dry shampoos, we would’ve instructed them to look at regular shampoo, hairspray and other products in the hair care space. There are literally billions of images to search from, so we’re pretty confident you’ll find something you like!

Tip 3: How to Select Your Product Photography Arrangements

Besides lighting, you can have a lot of fun getting creative with how the products are arranged in the photo. At a basic level we’re just talking about camera angle and product rotation. For example, you may want us to shoot the dry shampoo with the camera slightly higher than the product so you can see the top and rotated straight on. Beyond the basics, think about creating different groupings and utilizing different props.

Below is an example of the bare-minimum of what we need from you.

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Just like with lighting, look around online and see what you can find in regards to placement.  Once you’ve found a few inspirational images, you’ll want to think about how you can arrange your products in a way that makes sense with your packaging. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Is my product going to be used for a website shopping cart or, used for something like a banner ad? 
  • Do I sell products individually or packaged with other products? 
  • Does the label need to show, and if so, what part of the label is most important?

Answering these questions will help you clarify what type of arrangement will best showcase your product.

If your product images will be used in shopping carts, keep in mind the way your products are sold. Do you sell only by individual SKU, or do you also offer products by the case? You may want to have one photograph of the individual product and also a photograph of the case of products. To eliminate confusion for your customers, think about making it easy for them to identify what they’re actually purchasing. 

Most of the time your arrangement will be defined by what the photos is for.

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Tip 4: Use Cellphone Photos As Match Images

To provide direction simply put your product on your desk in a way that would show off the product and take pictures with your cell phone. In addition to the arrangement of products, pay attention to the angle of the products. Based on your labels and packaging, you may need to adjust the way products are angled. Keep in mind what is important for the consumer to see if they’re unfamiliar with your product. In many cases, product photography will be the first time people see your products. Make sure they can read the product labels.

Art Direction Section Mockup Jeff2 1 - 4 Tips For Art Directing Your Product Photography Shoot -

Other Considerations

Product Photography guidelines: It’s necessary to understand and provide us with all placement guidelines and requirements for your images. eBay, Amazon, Target, Facebook, Instagram -- they all have different standards. Be sure you are clear on what they require of your product photography so your images will comply with their terms and look fabulous! 

Yes, we can match your existing images! Please tell us if you have existing product photography that you’re trying to match. If you need us to duplicate existing lighting effects or arrangements, we need to know ahead of time. Provide us with copies or links to those existing images so we know what we need to replicate.

Understand the crop: The crop of where the product is going will make a big difference in the arrangement that you choose. On Amazon, the crop is square. So, if you create an arrangement that is long and rectangular, like 7 bottles side-by-side, for example, the products will look very small in the listing. Instead it might be better to photograph the bottles on risers, or above and arranged, so it fits the whole square.

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Beyond the box. We’re not limited to just white backgrounds you’re used to seeing on Ebay. If you provide the background and the props - we can work with them! We’re adept at working with all sorts of creative options. That means if you want your dry shampoo photographed next to other styling products – great! You’ll just need to provide those props.  We have so many different types of clients it would be impossible for us maintain a prop library, so if you need fresh food or flowers, you’ll need to provide those - c’mon how fresh could those flowers be if you relied on us to provide them as leftovers? Seriously though, if you would like props in you product photos, bring ‘em along, or you can have those items delivered. Many of our clients order the props for their shoot on Amazon. (Props they buy because they’re appealing due to great photography!)

Now that you know how to get creative and how to really direct us for an optimal photo shoot – get excited! This is going to be fun! Don’t hesitate to call or email us with any questions. We’re looking forward to getting started with you!

Written by Jeff Delacruz

Jeff is the President & Cofounder of POW Photography. For the last 10 years, he's been working directly with small businesses owners to help them improve their ecommerce listings with better photos.

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