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So You Want To Be A… Product Photographer

by Amber (follow)
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Everything is online these days, and you could pretty much go about doing your errands and shopping without leaving the comfort of your sofa. But have you ever thought about the photography work that goes into producing all of the images you see on the online clothing stores, or when you drop your groceries into your virtual shopping basket? Most of us simply click away and don’t give a second thought about the styling and lighting that displays - and encourages you to buy - the products.

E-commerce photography is now huge business, with studios and photographers shooting hundreds of new products everyday.
We go behind the scenes on what is involved in one of photography’s fastest growing industries.

Shooting Different Products
In this digital age, all shops are expected to have an online store, which means that there is a huge variety of products being photographed, especially with large department stores. As a product photographer, you could be shooting anything from food, to models, to jewellery in a single day; this requires a lot of research and different skill sets to make sure that each item looks its best for the customer.

Photo by George Shahda
Photo by George Shahda

Lighting Techniques
When shooting in a photography studio, you have full control over the lighting, and you can use this to choose how your product looks. When buying online, people are relying on the photos to accurately show what the product is like in real life, so it’s essential that it is well lit, with no areas of dark shadow that could obscure any detail. Softboxes are often used on the studio lights as they create an even spread of light over the product.

Jewellery can be tiny, fiddly, and extremely difficult to photograph, especially once you throw metallic and reflective surfaces into the mix. In the studio, lights with softboxes attached are used, often with white boards strategically placed to stop the camera and other equipment being reflected onto the product. A high f-stop is also often used, to make sure that all detail is in focus and the image is sharp.

Studio Set-Up
A typical set-up for a product photographer would include a colourama, or background, to shoot the product against. Most companies opt for white or neutral coloured backdrops to ensure that the focus is on the product. Shooting each product against the same background also creates a consistent look once the images are displayed on the website.

Tethered shooting is popular among studio photographers as it allows you to see the photo enlarged on a computer screen as soon as it’s taken. This means that the image can be checked for any technical or styling flaws quickly and easily, before moving on to the next shot. There are several programs that can connect your camera this way, with perhaps the most prominent being CaptureOne or Lightroom.

Photographing Clothes
There are many ways of photographing clothes for online stores, and brands often opt for a technique called invisible mannequin. Instead of showing a t-shirt being worn by a skin coloured mannequin, it is photographed on a bright white, or clear one. This then makes it easy to remove the body in post-production, and give the illusion of a floating t-shirt. The inside neck area of the t-shirt is then photographed separately and the two shots are composited together.

Photographing Models
When buying clothes online, it can often be hard to judge how a garment would look and fit when it’s displayed on a mannequin. Brands use models to show the fit and size of clothes, and demonstrate how they can be worn.

Experienced models will be able to work with the brand and photographer to produce poses that are flattering and suitable for the client’s target market. For example, ASOS caters for a younger market and they use fresh-faced models with bold poses and attitude. A fashion brand that has an older clientele would have a more mature style of posing.

Stylists are on hand to prepare the clothing and make sure that it is completely crease free, as well as organising outfits that work well on screen for the model. Often items of clothing require pinning or adjusting so that they fit the model perfectly and this is the responsibility of the stylist, who will be keeping an eye out for any loose hems or material.

Post Production
Once a product has been photographed, it is edited to remove any unwanted backgrounds, dust, moiré or anything that could take the focus away from the item. There is often a fast-turnaround time in product photography, so experienced retouchers can be expected to work quickly and efficiently, ready for the finished image to be sent to the client and uploaded to the online store.

If you’re interested in product photography, or own a business and would love to start taking your own photos for e-commerce, book a Smartphone Photography for Business workshop with Photoh. This two hour session is a crash course in creating photos that will give your business a great visual impact on your website or social media.

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