Craft MNL in partnership with co.lab, Manila Workshops, and Globe myBusiness has been holding a series of workshop sessions called “Growing Your Homemade Business”. In the workshop, professional photographer, Jeryc Garcia gave a short lecture on the basics of photography and a few DIY tips and tricks to get small business owners to put out engaging and eye-catching product photos. The attendees peppered Garcia with questions and showcased their original products while he assisted them from conceptualizing to composing great photos.
Selling a lifestyle
Product photography is not just snapping a nice pic of your wares, hoping that people are going to want to buy it for its prettiness. Good product photography doesn’t just sell a product, it promises a lifestyle. You’ve got to get your product photos to tell stories, and not just any stories, but the stories of the people viewing them. Viewers have got to look at your product photos, and say to themselves, “I know how that is going to add to my life.”
Using your photography to tell those stories as creatively as possible is the best way to invite its viewers to the luxuries of homemade jewelry, the deliciousness of sweet or savory delicacies you’re serving up, or whatever lifestyle your product caters to.
Set your product up
Getting photographs of your products to tell those stories is a giant creative task. So the first thing you’ve got to do is make sure you know your product inside and out. What is it about? What’s it for? How many ways can it be used?
When you’ve got a clear idea in your head what your photos are going to be saying about your product, you’ve got to figure out how to get the photos to actually say that. Visual language isn’t particularly difficult to learn and there’s so much of it all around. Go get pegs, lots and lots of pegs – turn to movies, paintings, Instagram, Pinterest and the trusty Google search bar.
Then you’ve got to decide the setting in which to shoot your product. There are two basic set ups – first is the Seamless set up, which is a closed set up. For anyone who has ever flipped through a catalogue, you’ve seen Seamless set ups. These are tasteful and elegant set ups, that identify the product clearly and straightforwardly. It’s a setup that says, “here it is, and it’s great.”
The second is the Environmental set up – which is an open set up. It places your product in the world, and contextualizes it. It’s cookies on a plate on a kitchen counter. It’s soap gliding down the skin of an arm. It’s up to you. While this setup might seem ideal for product photography that tells stories, it’s important to keep in mind that environmental set ups can sometimes be distracting, and can put your products out of context too.
Maximize the product
Getting the most out of your product in a photograph isn’t only a creative task, but also a technical one. So examine your product, and dissect its visual properties. Is it transparent, translucent, or opaque? Is it edgy, or rounded? Is it very colorful, or more muted? Is it a product that is actually attractive, or are you going to have to shoot the packaging instead?
There are many things to consider because getting the product to look good in a photograph means picking its most engaging visual properties and highlighting them. This will be done with lighting. Lighting is the most immediately important consideration for any photographer because it is literally how your product will be seen.
The lighting will determine the mood of your photograph, and by extension, it will influence the mood in perceiving your product. Is the light soft, and warm? Is it hard, and edgy? What does that say about the product?
The overrated-ness of cameras
One thing many, many aspiring photographers struggle with is a sense of insecurity about whether their cameras are “good enough” to capture professional, or even just high quality images. But according to Garcia, the camera is only as good as the photographer.
It might seem a bit hackneyed, but nearly all professional photographers are more concerned with setting, lighting, composition, and concept than they are with the camera they’re shooting with. A great camera is not going to make up for a lazy photographer. And most digital cameras, even the most underrated phone cameras, already have the ability to capture high-definition images anyway.
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