A while back, I had a friend from Nashville (the same city that I live) ask me to help him out with one of his photo needs. My friend runs a business that repairs and makes shoes (check it out, it’s called Southern Polished). After releasing a new sandals line for both men and women, he needed some product photography with a southern flair. Since I have lived in the south my entire life, I knew exactly what he meant. Farms, horses, and good ole fashioned southern fun. Since I knew the theme would be simple to visualize, I started to brush up on some product photography to prepare.
There are a lot of things you need to think about whenever you go into a product photography shoot. The number one thing you need to remember is that the product, in this case the sandals, are the subject of the entire photo shoot. Now, that may be difficult to grasp if you’ve never shot product photography, but think about it this way; even though the subject changes, your style doesn’t. So, if you normally shoot landscapes, use your lighting knowledge and your composition knowledge along with editing techniques and make the product your subject. For portrait photographers who are new to product photography, instead of making people the subject, place and position the product to be the subject. Everything else remains the same.
Another challenge is capturing the theme of the shoot and the product successfully in the same photo. You constantly have to be aware of where the product is, if it’s easily visible, and if you can see any logos on the product.
What I Learned
Every time I shoot I learn something new about lighting. Why? Because lighting always changes and is always causing problems. Now, I know a lot about lighting, but since conditions are constantly in flux there’s always a challenge. Not only that, but we were doing the shoot during midday lighting. That meant harsh shadows and direct sunlight. Yikes. It’s enough to make a pro photographer weak in the knees!
During this shoot, I really learned about and was able to harness light under shaded areas. Porches, awnings, and trees are a dime a dozen on most southern farms, but using them to benefit a photo is tough to do.
Using the sun as naturally reflected light under shaded areas can really help your highlights and shadows have nice contrast in the finished photo. Even though you are dealing with sunlight without a diffuser, it’s still soft light under the shade because it has been reflected off of so many things which decreases it’s brightness. Naturally, shade creates consistent lighting conditions on faces and your subject, the product you are shooting.
Behind the Shot
Sometimes during a product photos shoot, you have to do something a little out of the ordinary to get a great shot. Whenever I’m shooting landscapes, it’s not uncommon for me to do something strange to get a great shot. I’ve waded across rivers in jeans and boots and climbed up trees to get a better perspective. The difference in a product photo shoot is that I have an audience. One of the shots required a good shot of the sandals in the foreground on the edge of the pool with a couple blurred out in the background. I paced the edge of the pool, but couldn’t really get the angle I needed. Without a second though, I emptied my pockets and jumped in the pool fully clothed. The models and owners of the company were slightly surprised! I guess it didn’t occur to me that they didn’t think I wouldn’t do that! Sometimes you have to do something weird to get a great shot. Don’t be afraid to get crazy!
Have you ever shot product photos?