Our Work: Simply Sue’s Product Photography

by David Moffitt on

There’s a lot of truth in the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to your product photography, it’s worth even more. Product photography gives your potential customers a lot of information about your product – the materials, the packaging, the build quality, and even what sort of lifestyle the product fits well into – but it also communicates the value and quality of your overall brand.

Consumer level cameras continue to improve in quality, but there are numerous technical and aesthetic differentiations between amateur and professional grade photographs. Basics such as exposure, color balance, and focus are, of course, important to get correct. But even more so are elements like lighting and composition (where the subject is in the frame, what is in focus or out, what’s lit or in shadow, etc). These elements have a huge impact on the image your customer sees, and thus the impression they take away about your brand and their interest in purchasing your product.

If you were selling a watch, for example, you could use focus to drive the viewers attention to the details of the watch, and use lighting to reduce the prevalence of the models arm or body. You’d also need to be conscious of the reflection of your lighting in the face of the watch – avoiding glare or it reflecting the studio or photographer. If you’re shooting on a seamless background, the shape, size and color of the backdrop may also affect your lighting and final image, as light bounces off each surface, including behind the subject.

This Burburry watch ad uses lighting to draw your attention to the product.
This Burburry watch ad uses lighting to draw your attention to the product.

Sometimes you want the opposite affect – where the product is more obscure or in shadow – for the purpose of teasing a new product.

Apple uses creative lighting to tease their next Mac Pro product.
Apple uses creative lighting to tease their next Mac Pro product.

These are the kinds of decisions that a professional photographer can work with you to make, using their expertise to help meet your business and marketing needs.

Our client, Simply Sue’s, creates boutique skin products that contain only organic and natural ingredients. They approached us to handle their product photography for their next round of marketing efforts. We identified the need for three different types of photography: individual product shots (where a single product is the focus of the photograph), group product shots (several types of products all of the same scent / variety in one photograph), and “lifestyle” shots (in this case, a product alongside its natural ingredients). These photographs were to be used not just for direct-to-consumer sales (such as on their website), but also in a marketing push for in salon and spa use. Individual product photos would give salon owners a detailed look at the quality of the packaging, group product shots would show the variety of available products, and lifestyle shots would appeal to upscale consumers shopping for their own skin care products.

Single product photograph using natural ingredients.
Single product photograph using natural ingredients.

This product shoot wasn’t without its own unique challenges, of course, especially since we were working with food as supporting elements! Food, obviously, spoils over time, but when it’s subjected to rigorous handling and intense lighting, particularly delicate or fresh items can quickly lose their visual appeal. In addition to food products, this shoot also featured ingredients that were hard to identify in their natural form, or were hard to showcase in a visually pleasing way, like powdered clay and shea butter.

Powdered clay was a uniquely difficult natural ingredient!
Powdered clay was a uniquely difficult natural ingredient!

Depending on the complexity or content of the shoot, sometimes it’s necessary to bring in a food stylist, who’s entire job is to brainstorm and execute creative ideas to make the food or products look as visually appealing as possible!

In addition to the complexities of shooting the natural ingredients, the actual product packaging also presented its own series of challenges. The texture and material of the packaging can cause less-than-desirable reflections. The goal is, after all, for consumers to focus on the product, NOT on a reflection of the photographer or the studio! Solving this requires some know-how and attention to detail in planning and executing the photo shoot, often involving creative lighting solutions. Depending on the material, you may also be able to dull reflections with a light dusting of aerosol hair spray!

If you’re ready to show your products off to the world, let Grid help with your next photo shoot. We can art direct (either on set, or remotely), or provide the photographic talent using our in-house or partner photographers!