Should we use props or keep it simple? Is using models a good idea to showcase products?
Here I share some tips on styling your products and the benefits and disadvantages of props and models...
When I take on a new brand photography client, I offer a free consultation to discuss your 'brief'. If you're running a new business or still learning marketing jargon, you may wonder what this means. Put simply, it's a conversation that sets out what you'd like from your photography - where you'll be using it, how it fits with your brand and how we'll style your photos. It just ensures that everyone knows what to expect (and is much less daunting than it can sound if you're new to these things!).
Professional photography should form a part of your visual brand identity. The majority of brand clients I work with are using the images for their website and Instagram. On both these platforms the images should form a coherent part of your brand.
Primarily we'll consider colours: What colours are in your logo? What is the background colour on your website? Do you have defined brand colours?
You'll also want to consider your brand themes and values - how do you want your viewer to feel when they view your pages or interact with your brand? Do you see your brand as quirky, traditional, natural, or something else entirely?
By answering these questions, we'll ensure your photography fits well with all other elements of your brand and business.
Once we've established a brief and your visual identity, we'll agree how to style your products...
There are a number of reasons why you may prefer to go for a prop-free clean studio backdrop:
You'll then need to choose your studio backdrop. Often plain neutral backdrops are better (I have a good range of neutral whites, creams and greys to photograph on), although for some brands a bright colour may fit well with your visual strategy. Alternatively, you may wish to consider a textured backdrop - you'll find a wealth of these for sale including wood, marble and fabrics.
Using props can give your images more of a lifestyle feel or add context to your products.
Some of the most popular props used on Instagram images are fabrics, office tech and stationery, succulents and flowers. However, when adding props it's important to ensure that they enhance your products rather than stealing the limelight. Keep them simple and, again, consider your brand's visual identity; they should complement your values, themes and colours.
Consider props that add context showing your products' natural environment, for example cutlery and kitchenware for food photography, or nursery items for baby products.
When using a studio backdrop (plain or textured), you can shoot anywhere you have space for your kit. When using props, a textured backdrop often works well, particularly for smaller products or flatlays (where you photograph your items directly from above). However, to enhance a lifestyle feel, you may wish to introduce a location.
Locations can range from your own home (often I find clients style their homes in a similar way to their brand and products!), to outdoor spots (using nature if that suits your products, or urban locations for more modern brands), to a specific venue. This could be a local business such as a cafe or hotel, through to location homes that can be rented specifically for photoshoots, or studios with fully built sets.
Renting a studio or location home may be the best option if you are choosing to work with models, which brings me onto my next point.
When working with clothing and lifestyle brands, I'm often asked if using models to showcase the products is a good idea.
Models can bring your products to life, showing what they'll look like when worn/used; they'll also add emotion and connection to your images. If you take a look at big brand names, almost all use a mix of product shots and modelled shots in their advertising.
However, models add time and cost to your photoshoot. Particularly if working with infants and children, it takes time to coax smiles and get them in the right spot.
I'd always recommend hiring professional models if your budget can stretch to it. Professional models - even children - will be used to taking direction, thereby making your photoshoot run more smoothly. However, many of my clients are small brands and if you don't have the budget for models, asking friends or advertising for volunteers can work as a compromise, but be aware that it can take longer to get the shots you're after.
Whether you're taking your own product shots or looking to hire a professional photographer, I hope these tips help you with getting amazing photos that reflect your brand. You can see more examples of my work below and in my commercial gallery. Prices for commercial photography can be found here, and please do get in contact for a free consultation to discuss how professional brand photography can take your business to the next level.