Human beings process visual information better than text or speech. Good product photography will always drive regular traffic to your website and in turn, lead to better sales. In the digital era, competition is probably at an all-time high with sellers from around the world vying for the attention of consumers. This has increased the importance of good, relevant, honest and true-to-brand-philosophy product photography. Couple this with the ever-decreasing attention span of users, creating a product photograph that makes them pause and look, is an uphill task at best.
Digital photography, with the advent of high-end mobile phones and their state-of-the-art cameras and applications, has made clicking high-resolution photographs easy. Few people realize that there is more to good product photography than an 8, 16 or 32 megapixel camera and good lighting. According to expert product photographer, Abhishek,
“A good photograph is first clicked in the mind and then replicated with the camera”.
If you fancy yourself as a photographer with an eye for a good image, you may try your hand at Product Photography by using these amazing hacks. If you are looking for a professional looking image that resonates with the vision of the brand, then it would be advisable to opt for professional product photography. Abhishek further adds, “It is important to understand what elements of your brand click with people before clicking the shutter of the camera.”
How to find the right product photographer?
This is the crucial part of product photography. Check the photographer’s portfolio to understand his technical prowess and creative vision. Also, keep an eye open to assess his approach towards understanding your brand values and creating images synchronous with them. Here are some handy tips-
- Go through 2-3 portfolios, as time permits.
- Look for images that resemble or resonate with the kind of images you have envisaged for your products.
- Do NOT restrict yourself to product photographs. Glance through the entire portfolio including portraits, lifestyle photos, etc. to understand the aesthetic sense of the photographer. Photographer can replicate this to create a strong emotional value of your brand.
- Once you have gone through a list of portfolios and have shortlisted a couple of them, get into a discussion with each photographer. The discussion should be centred around understanding how he thinks creatively and whether it can complement your brand’s philosophy. Take your time and don’t rush into signing up with the first photographer that you come across.
Alright. The photographer is now on board. The beginning of the journey should be handled carefully. This will ensure that the final outcome forms a perfect bridge between your business and the end-users.
Pre-shoot discussion – Bringing the Photographer in sync with your expectations
Good product photography is the outcome of a seamless client-service provider relationship. As an organization, you might have different perspectives and possibilities before deciding on the image strategy. The vision could be contributed by various stakeholders in the organization. It might be inspired by creativity or by marketing. Whatever be the case, ensure that the photographer is made aware of all those discussions that have gone behind expecting the kind of output desired by you.
There are two broad aspects of a photograph:
- Emotional Aspect – Each product has some intangible elements that make up its personality. The Picture should capture this personality. This will define the success of the image in bringing traffic to your website or online store.
- Technical Aspect – The focus, clarity, lighting and similar aspects that make an image technically sound.
It is important to communicate with the photographer to ensure that both these elements can be captured to perfection. Abhishek lists down some handy tips for business owners:
Where do you plan to use the final photographs?
Online catalogues? Flyers? Billboards?
It is important for the photographer to understand this as it changes the emotional aspect of the photograph. It also helps him understand the technical scope of the photo shoot and create a budget for the same. Apart from the resolution and size of the image, communicating emotions to strike a chord with consumer changes with the choice of medium.
A man driving his car and stuck in traffic has a different emotional connection point as compared to the same man sitting by the beach and surfing the internet on his mobile phone. This is an important aspect of product photography and usually the difference between a memorable and a forgettable image.
Share your brand’s philosophy
Every successful brand has a core philosophy around which it establishes its business. Broadly, it covers the brand’s promise, values and character. A product photography strategy that connects these three elements successfully creates a unique brand perception in the consumer’s mind. If you are not sure about your brand philosophy [which can happen with start-ups], then share details about the target group, your marketing strategy and business model inspirations [if any] with the photographer to develop a plan for the product photos.
Mind map – LITERALLY
Did you see an image somewhere that stuck in your mind? Or a play of colours or a locale that is still in front of your eyes? If yes, then share it with the photographer. Sketch your thoughts down, if you can, or download some reference images. Help the photographer to help you recreate the mental image of your products. Use any visual tool to represent the creative expectation from the photographs.
A word of advice from Abhishek, “Avoid the urge to blindly replicate a photograph. An effective product photography plan is one which is true to the brand.”
Create a Visual Content Marketing Strategy
Most brands do not spend a lot of time and effort behind creating a visual strategy. A quick look at these statistics by Social Media Examiner reveals that visual content is most commonly used for marketing:
An explicit visual strategy with a clever application can create value and increase the recall capability of the brand. If you don’t have a visual content marketing strategy, then brainstorm with the photographer to create one keeping these aspects in mind:
Ask yourself these questions –
Will visual content help my business? [If yes, list down the reasons]
What do I want to accomplish by using a visual strategy?
The answers can vary but they are important nevertheless. Once you have clarity on these basic aspects, analyze the impact of your earlier marketing plans and understand areas where you can improve. Now, weave the visual strategy into those areas. Understanding trends is also important as they highlight the way in which people consume information. Keep yourself abreast of the latest trends in visual communication.
Remember, it is not merely clicking a high-resolution and creative image of your products. A planned approach will help you create an engaging user experience. The visual plan must incorporate a resonance strategy which demonstrates shared values with your customers and an honest depiction of your products. This can lead to an increased preference towards your brand, leading to an increase in sales and returning clients.
Craft a unique visual signature of your brand by offering freedom to merge the creative and technical aspects to the photographer.
Specify the element that needs to be highlighted in each product
Remember, every product created by your brand has a personality of its own and the strongest element of that personality needs to be highlighted in the product photograph. This Unique Selling Proposition [USP], as the jargon goes, is what differentiates your product from the rest. The USP of every product must be explained in detail to the photographer. This helps him to focus on the aspects that can induce sales.
How many products have to be clicked?
I know this sounds elementary but you will be surprised to know how many brand-owners miss this basic point. As the focus is on the creative aspect of the task on hand, many times the actual number of products that need to be clicked does not get conveyed in actual numbers. The photographer needs to prepare creatively and technically for every single shot. Hence, it is only rational to provide the exact number to him before the planning phase begins.
Once this discussion is done, you have successfully managed to lay down a strong foundation for a creative magnum opus of the photographer. Now starts the technical leg of the journey.
Pre-Shoot Technical Preparation for Product Photography
Professional photographers use a lot of technical devices to ensure that the output is eye-catching and crisp. Photography being arguably the world’s most popular hobby has enthusiasts from all walks of life. During his career as a professional photographer, Abhishek has come across many brand owners who are amateur photographers on the sly. Many of them seem to have a good understanding of the technical aspects of photography and a few also acquire high-end equipment to pursue their passion. While this can be an asset when you are clicking photographs yourself, the technical aspects are best left to the photographer, if you are employing his services. Here are some pointers:
Equipment required for the shoot
Professional photographers use a wide array of lenses and lighting equipment to create the desired output. While you might be in possession of some equipment, either from your previous shoots or your hobby pursuits, every shoot demands a specific equipment. Allow the photographer to take the final decision. Listen to him.
If you have any specific lighting requirement, then it would be best to inform the photographer beforehand so that he can ensure that adequate equipment is available for the same. A professional photographer has the proficiency to use a combination of sunlight, light bulbs, strobes, diffusers and other lighting equipment to create the desired output.
Many brand-owners envisage the regular requirement of product photographs for their business and invest in a studio-like in-house set-up. Studios include basic equipment and an assortment of backdrops. If you have access to any such studio, then it would be wise to plan a site visit for the photographer. It will help him understand the equipment available and source appropriate equipment.
With the project discussion and technical equipment sourcing behind you, it is time to get ready for the big day – the day of the photo shoot.
The Photo Shoot Day
All the time and effort invested till now has been to ensure that today gives you the output that can catapult your brand to dizzying heights. However, it is not over till the proverbial fat lady sings. Get ready, arrange for transportation of your products to the shoot location and most importantly – BE THERE throughout the photo shoot. Here are some tips to optimize this day:
Choose products carefully – focus on finishing and finesse
Imagine if you were going to get a series of photographs clicked for a modelling portfolio. You would ensure that you sleep well the night before, have a nice scrub bath, clear your face of any temporary blemishes, wear your best clothes, put on your best smile and give your best shot. Right? Why should it be any different when it comes to the product shoot? Choose the products that display the finest quality, finishing and finesse. The photographs of these products are going to be the visual brand ambassadors and they must be the best in quality that your brand has to offer. Many brand owners also go to the extent of creating products specifically for photo shoots.
Be PRESENT on location
Yes, you have paid the photographer and spent enough time explaining your requirement and expect him to deliver the photos. However, resist any urge to take care of some other tasks while your products are being clicked. Your presence is paramount to the success of the photo shoot. Imagine yourself at one end of the spectrum and your consumer at the other, and your photographer trying to create a bridge between the two of you. Your presence can ensure that the bridge is exactly as per your imagination.
Click – Check – Tick – Repeat
These are your products and it is your vision that is being brought to life through the lens of the photographer. You have the right to speak your mind at any juncture. Just avoid any urge to OVERDO it. Abhishek suggests that brand owners should volunteer to check the first few photos to ensure that the photographer has correctly implemented the brand strategy in his work. Once the sync is established, they should step back and allow the creativity of the photographer to take charge. Because, too much interference can be counterproductive and lead to undesirable results. Communicate with the photographer on the day of the shoot intermittently.
Remember, the photographer is on your team and the images clicked by him are going to help your brand establish itself in the market. Work as a cohesive team to ensure that the output surpasses expectations.
Post-Processing Editing – the last stage of Product Photography
Hold your horses, it is not over yet. The editing phase begins after the successful completion of the shoot. Photographers use a plethora of digital tools for post processing image editing. Editing includes the following changes:
- Reduction of noise, if any
- Correction in White Balance of the photograph
- Adjustment of Contrast
- Adjustment of Image Exposure
- Lens correction, if required
- Color adjustments, if required
- Resizing and cropping
Intricate editing techniques include:
- Adding Special Effects
- Stitching two or more photographs [e.g. panorama effect]
- Photo manipulation
- Image enhancement
In simple words, editing is a process which can create magic with photographs. However, overdoing editing has the capability of killing the beauty of the original image captured. Hence, you must take care to maintain the aesthetics of the image. It is important to remember that photo editing is not a magic wand. Editing corrects mild imperfections if any. Unless you have a specific edit in mind which has been shared with the photographer earlier, you should let him decide how much editing does justice to the photograph. Here is what you should and should not expect in the post shoot edit:
In a nutshell…
A good product image is one that has the following elements working in harmony to create an unforgettable experience for the end-user:
- Consumer insight – If you understand your consumers well, then the research done to cater to their likes and dislikes should be evident in the image.
- Brand personality – Inanimate objects have a personality too. The photographs should bring out your perspective of the product.
- Image composition – Dead areas or busy photographs- what will match the visual strategy of your brand? Every element counts.
- Color – Many brands have used a specific colour to create an identity with users. You may choose a colour to represent your brand and use it effectively in your visual strategy.
- Lighting – It can create a photo real, hyperreal or surreal feel to the image. Think well.
- Location / Background – This is important as it can help the consumers connect to your product at a whole new level. Plain whites or blacks are different but if you choose a real life background, then make sure that you sync up with the consumer insights.
It is team work where your organization teams up with a freelance photographer to create a digital sales force that works for you 24x7x365. The room for error is negligible and you must strategize well before commencing the product photography.
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