The Beginner's Guide To Product Photography : The Tools You Need
What can you as an Instagram user need product photography for? You may be interested in starting a career as a product photographer, or perhaps you'd like to gain new skills to add variety and creativity to your blog, Instagram, website, videos, etc.
I wanted to share my knowledge, my tools, and marketing advice so that you too can start building on your skills and meet your goals. Whether you'd like get paid for your photos or want to shoot for pleasure, let me be your guide.
Chapter 1: The Tools
Chapter 2: Positioning Products
To become a product photographer, you need to photograph something. Anything. Photograph food, coffee, cosmetics, books, flowers, whatever your passion is. My favorite product to photograph is cosmetics. I enjoy playing with skincare and makeup, breaking it apart, researching, seeing how they make me feel. I also love seeing a bottle or a jar come to life through use of props, lighting, and a little bit of editing. Choose your product, depending on your role. Do you need to take photos for your Instagram page, or to get paid as a professional product photographer who happens to create content?
2. A reliable camera / phone
There is no one true perfect tool to use. I happen to use the Sony a6000 with a 50mm lens, but that's because the camera is light and affordable. In the future, I'd love to purchase a DSLR, perhaps a Canon, but for the time being and the budget, this camera is a-ma-zing. It's fast, light, takes really crisp photos, and lasts a while no matter what I put it through. Make sure to take RAW photos when you begin, so that they are easier to manipulate in Lightroom.
3. Editing software
This again, depends on what you'd like to accomplish and for what purpose. If you want to shoot for large, international companies, you might need to not only be a subscriber to tools like Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop, but also have substantial editing knowledge. What I love to use is Adobe Lightroom. It lets me create presets, which are essentially filters, and create beautiful edits in a short amount of time.
If you'd like to learn how to retouch, YouTube is your best friend. There are of course classes through Skillshare, but you can learn a lot from doing some Googling. I love to use Photoshop to remove small but noticeable flecks of dirt, a piece of hair, etc. from photos to sharpen the overall appearance. This is particularly helpful if you have a model holding the product and you need to darken, lighten, or remove blemishes from the model's face.
4. Background / paper / linen
I love using beautiful backgrounds to add a little "razzle-dazzle" to my photos. A fantastic place to look is any one of your local stationary / craft stores. I've purchased most of the pretty papers with prints from Papyrus. I also get my paper from flower shops (such as when I get a bouquet and they wrap it in nice, tough brown paper), or when I purchase clothes and they wrap the items in lovely tissue paper. I have no issues simply asking for a little more if I see that the paper is particularly pretty. For the people behind the counter, it doesn't take anything to cut you a little piece.
For a cheap but efficient background, I use a white or neutral wrapping paper, again from Papyrus, or Blick. Linen of the lighter shades works really well too, to add a little texture to your photos. White/ pastel sheets and blankets look rather pretty and not too distracting.
There are so so many tools you can utilize to add a little vibrance, a little glamour, a little richness to your photos. Here are my favorites
Note that your props will be determined 100% by your personal style, and maybe the style of the client. Do you want your photos to be bright, bold, and colorful, or do you want the colors to be muted, glamorous, neutral? Are your vibes organic, with lots of wooden elements, straw patterns, green tropical plants? Or are you a city slicker with marble components, modern vases, and selective specs of bold color? What is your style? Who are you catering to? Find your target demographic, and choose your style depending on your findings. People who may be interested in cruelty-free, organic skincare may not be interested in your dark and moody tones that perhaps a Chanel or a MAC would enjoy more.
A basic crystal glass looks beautiful as a holding tool for your mascaras, brushes, and other elongated products. They also look really beautiful as a frame fitting item. I look everywhere for glasses, including antique shops, home decor, and of course kitchen shops. This one is from Williams Sanoma, and I also found a lot from CB2.
Plates, like glasses, work really beautifully for aerial shots. I'd recommend you start with the fundamental ones- the transparent, the reflective, the light ones, and maybe some with metallic finishes.
They add a little flare to your items, and help hold items as if you would on top of a vanity. (Even if its on just some white paper).
Simple little props to aide in setting the mood and the tone for the shot.
The MVP of product photography. Flowers help bring a little bit of life to the scene, help beuatify the shots, and add a little bit of color. You can also used dried flowers to add a certain vintage vibe.
Just like flowers and magazines, accessories can aide in setting the narrative and adding color. They also illustrate the general vision for who the individual is that would use an XYZ item. So if you have a product shot for a perfume, maybe you can add fancy earrings to showcase that the perfume is for glamorous people.
Food is particularly useful for showcasing the ingredients inside an item. You're no stranger to seeing oranges, berries, avocado in face masks, perfumes, serums, etc. Food can be cut up into pieces and used as a prop, or you can use it to again, brighten and add a little bit of life to your photos.
Millennials made it trendy for models to pose with those large banana leaves (and other plants) when it comes to fashion, lifestyle, and beauty photography. Plants add life, set the tone for the shoot, and add color. Use them as the background or as a prop.
Just like mirrors can open up a room, they too can open up the photo and make it look "larger" than it appears. Place objects on top to showcase the reflection.
Candles act as an item that sets a tone. It could be romantic, cozy, sweet, clean, etc.
Mason Jars. A desire to mess your products up just a little
When you mess up your products, sometimes it hurts the soul to throw the product out. I like to use mason jars to keep all my product that I've played with for either later use, or later photography.
Duct tape is the ultimate MVP. It's perfect for the tough fixes in your life, but also to hold the paper down that's flying around in the wind if you're shooting outside. I also love double sided scotch tape so that I can stick some on the backs of jars so they don't roll around everywhere.