Context & Flair in Product Photography

Pick up your mobile phone and look at it.  What do you see?  If you have one of the latest, ‘trendy’ models, it’s probably made out of aluminium, polycarbonate or plastic, with a glass frontage.  Most mobiles today have a sleek design and are generally aesthetically     pleasing.  

A Product Photographer would take this attractive looking product and make it look beautiful, sexy and dazzling.  They will light the mobile phone (or any other product for that matter), to show off it’s elegant design, the curves and the screen.  It can be shot at a low angle, pointing slightly upward, to give the product it’s ‘hero’ appeal, making it look big or bold. Or depending on the product and advertisement, they may blend the product into the scene, such as an advertisement of a woman applying make-up, etc.

A wine bottle can be lit to enhance the bottle's curves, revealing it's elegance, or beer bottles can have a light shining behind it to make the drink look golden, with the beer head frothed up making it more inviting.

The lighting and post processing methods at the photographer’s disposal can transform the product which can wow the viewer, stir up memories, make them feel a whole array of emotions, or simply reinforce the branding in the mind of the prospective purchaser. A Product photograph can remind them to buy the particular product for a loved one, or just keep the brand registered in the back of their mind.

The excitement and satisfaction in making the ordinary look extraordinary, or just making the ordinary ‘pop’, is what drives me as a photographer. I like to tell a story through my work and hopefully stir a few emotions along the way. I can also just make the ordinary look ordinary, if necessary.

My recent project involved two very beautiful crafted bike models.  

The first, a carved wooden motorbike, to me, started off with the wow factor. It was lighting it with the grid spot and the post work in Lightroom & Photoshop that gave it the extra punch.  I used three different lighting set-ups with a 12 degree, 18cm Honeycomb grid spot and three different post processing methods to get the looks that you can see. I could have also left the bike alone and it still would have been beautiful and that would have been fine.  But the final three images were my vision, to give that bike the enhanced wow factor that I felt it deserved.

Below are the final three photos, plus the bike untouched.

The second bike was described to me as ‘Hell on Wheels’, (fab name), when I picked it up from the antique shop.  Apparently it was part of a series, (I would love to find the others). This bike came with what I can only describe as ‘ some serious oomph’.  It’s distorted, enlarged design, caught my eye and I felt that it had to be photographed.

The lighting was similar to that of the wooden bike, there was only a change in the grid spot angles.  However the post processing differed considerably from the previous bike.  As you can see the bike has a slightly different colour in one photo from the next.  In the ‘Wheel Appeal’ photo, I chose to darken the greens to offset and enhance the red & yellow on the bike and the tone and detail of the wooden foreground, which I wanted to stand out. In the other photo I added some graffiti effects to the background.

For these photos I added certain detail in and lit them in such a way to bring the viewers attention to certain aspects of the bike or to the whole scene.  In the former, I revealed the wooden bikes beauty under different lighting conditions with different styles.  The latter, it was the fun, grungy aspect..

It is the vision of the Product photographer or the client as to what they want to reveal to the viewer.  The story behind the scene, the enticing food or the must have beautiful product.  

The stunning colours in the landscape, the moody portrait and elegant still life photograph. These are the choices the photographer can make, or not, to portray a certain theme or style that will hopefully affect the viewer to feel, to purchase, share, or to think.

Every creative decision, every artistic choice, camera angle and lighting set-up, serves to give context and flair to the ordinary everyday item, or to the stylish and beautiful too.