The Trade Secrets Of A Product Photography Studio

  If you think you can't afford to hire a professional product photography studio then you may well be getting your sums wrong. Because with all of the tricks of the trade and the inside tips which professional advertising photographers have at their disposal, a product photography studio is about much more than simply lights and cameras.

Trying to carry out your own product photography could be a false economy, because it is inevitable that no matter how hard you try the quality of your images will fall far short of that which can be produced by the professionals. By taking advantage of the raft of skills and experience which professional photographers are able to provide it's usually possible to ensure that your products fly out of the stores, and become very popular with customers.

On the other hand creating poor quality shots will not only reduce the interest your customers have in that one product, but it's likely to lower the overall impression of the business as a whole. The message which customers are likely to get when seeing poor quality, in-house photographs is that the business is not too concerned with quality, and is more concerned with cutting corners and making a profit. That's hardly a good message to be offering potential customers.

Let's take one simple example and see just how easy it is to get it wrong. One of the most common items which people tend to assume they can photograph themselves is clothing. Clothes don't have many of the unusual or challenging aspects that some products do, such as glass, shiny reflective metal, or complicated shapes which produce shadows. Clothes are simply materials, and as long as the whole item is displayed and the colours are true, then what is there to do other than point and click?

One of the first mistakes which people make is to lie the clothing down on the floor or on a surface. This is wrong for two reasons. Firstly the clothing will look flat, and will be distorted, preventing the item from being seen properly and clearly. If you look in any professional catalogue of clothing you'll see that where clothing items are laid out they still manage to retain a sense of depth, with the layers or sections of the item clearly separated.

The second reason why laying clothes out flat on a surface is wrong is because the lighting will look unnatural. If you lie a piece of clothing down on the ground then the lighting is usually going to be above it, shining directly at the front of the item. But this isn't how light normally falls on clothing. When you're wearing it, whether outside or inside you'll usually find that the lighting is coming from above. This means that if you like an item of clothing down on the ground the light and shade should suggest that the lighting source is coming from above the top of the product, not directly from where the camera is positioned.

Another mistake some people make is to think that dressing the products on a friend or member of staff will do. However, unless this person is able to stand correctly and work to the same professional standard as an experienced model, the result will look more like a family holiday photo than a catalogue shoot.

A product photography studio will come packed with a myriad of tools and features which an experienced commercial advertising photographer can use to create images which look natural, even though they're often created using the most unnatural materials and secrets. If you want your products to sell, then it's important to remember that in the hands of an amateur, the camera never lies. And that's the problem.

I recently had an opportunity to work with a handful of commercial food photographers. I first went to their web sites to review the type of work that they had done. While on their site, I found a series of commercial, editorial, and still life portfolios for a general sample of each the studio's work. Rich colors, sharp lines and contrasts, it takes talent to be a commercial photographer and to make food photography look so good. I also had a chance to review some of their high profile clients like Häagen-Daas, Dove, Healthy Choice, Ecco Domani, Dannon, and Renaissance.

Commercial photography requires certain kinds of technical skills, such as finding the right subject and creating a presentation for a specific or general effect. The right camera is essential as well as photographic or digital enhancement tools, which is one of the benefits of the modern age - digital tools such as saturation, contrasting, and airbrushing can enhance or even change the state or composition of the photographed subject. However, nothing is a proper substitute for a good food photographer in commercial photography with a handle on his trade.

Lighting is one of the most important aspects of any kind of art, and photography is no exception. Especially since photography works by capturing light and translating it into images on a light-sensitive medium like film or, in the case of digital photography, an electronic sensor. A food photographer can use natural or artificial light to enhance or focus attention on a certain aspect of the subject. Angles are also an important component of food photography - since the specialty of the studio I visited is commercial food photography, the food photographer will make sure all eyes are on the commercial item, and interesting angles are another way of doing that by drawing the eye's attention to the unusual.

It was interesting to find that my host for the main event also blurs the background in order to make the commercial item the main things that matters in the composition - as though the sharpness and the clarity of the commercial item makes potential buyers finely see the product clearly. In commercial photography, the food photographer treats the food much as a still life photographer would. Except in food photography, the goal of the photographer is two-fold: to make the shoot look artistic and to make the subject look absolutely, mouth-wateringly delicious in order to entice the target audience. Another thing that makes this kind of photography different than other types of photography like industrial or business commercial photography is the necessity to either be quick at taking the pictures or have lots of the same kind of food on hand. Food does not always stay fresh for very long. It is a singular dilemma, but food photographers are ready for this kind of hitch in the proceedings.

I was able to report back to my customers that this group of commercial photographers is prepared for any commercial photography challenge, whether it's M&Ms or shrimp or forks rolled in a ball, chocolate dripping enticingly from a chocolate bar, glistening fruits and vegetables, a refreshing beverage, or a scoop of fresh ice cream. What a great day I had being immersed into this exciting new world of photography.