Product photography is essential. Anyone at all that’s shopping online will want to be able to see what they plan on buying, and see the quality of your work. It’s not enough to just have a blurred image taken on your iPhone: according to a study from Packshot Creator in 2013 photos have the greatest impact on future customers, far beyond that of reviews and descriptions.
This means the styles of product photography, including the white background photos known as packshots, are going to be quite important. You want to know how to shoot different items for different target audiences, and how to present the whole thing on different platforms and marketplaces. Here are some of the most important.
White background packshots
1. Studio product photos
Some products need specific types of product photography. A bottle of wine needs to be shot with different light to a pair of shoes, for example. The best way to capture products is with some kind of studio setup. The aim is to be able to control the lighting, contrasts and contours in a small environment allowing you to highlight certain aspects of the item. After all, since 22% of returns occur because the product looks different in real life, you’ll want to make it look as realistic as possible. Have a look at the stylistic approach to these wine bottles below:
You can see how, because of the shine of the glass bottle, the dark single-colour background brings out the product in clear detail and makes it seem far more stylish and complete. The lighting for these is usually provided by lightboxes you’ll need as part of the setup. For retailers who want to sell huge quantities of different products, these kinds of images can really speed up the process of capturing packshots giving a single, streamlined lighting to each photo, giving you a quality you can rely on. You can get a really uniform rendering from this kind of setup, and post-production editing means you can sharpen or smooth out any details.
2. White background packshots
The white background is the number one layout for product photography. It’s the easiest and clearest way to present your products and only requires a simple setup to completely isolate the product as the core focus.
The biggest advantage to this is that you create a ‘knockout’ of the product and make it seem as if it’s floating. There are no surroundings or other details to take care of: all the eye can be drawn to is what’s being sold and its details itself.
You have to have Photoshop or something similar to really get this effect. This is done by editing the product in post-production to remove it from the colour of the canvas, or outside surroundings you used. Without this kind of software it’s difficult to get this kind of image, but it doesn’t require any specific environment to do it. They’re very often shot outdoors, for example, or with light boxes inside as mentioned earlier.
And, of course, this is the best way to present your items. If you need any proof, just take a look at Amazon, where almost all products are presented this way - 76% of them, in fact.
This packshot style also includes modelling, however. If you want to show an item of clothing or equipment that generally needs to be worn to show its shape, you’ll need some kind of mannequin or a person who can wear materials easier to edit out of the photo in post-production. One common alternative is the ‘hanging shot’ - where the item is suspended by strings to give it shape without a body in the way.
3. Product Grouping
Group product images allow the buyer to compare and contrast one item with many of its competitors. The idea is usually to create some kind of still-life photo, where many items together combined with satisfying surroundings gives you a nice overview of what they’re about.
It’s often done with things like makeup, shoes and other beauty products to compare shades and textures etc. It means the viewer can see either a whole range of a new line of products, or see the pros and cons of one up against another if you group competing items. 75% of shoppers rely on packshots when choosing which item to buy, so giving them an opportunity to compare clearly and simply is generally very helpful.
This is good for general website use and exhibiting lots of items at once, giving customers a wider idea of what your business is all about. Although on an actual product’s page it lacks the same clarity and detail, it has those comparative, overview elements that you can’t really achieve any other way.
4. Lifestyle photos
Lifestyle photography works even more with ‘still life’ photography. It’s aimed at showing the item as it would be used in daily life. If you’re taking a picture of camping equipment, why not do it with the tents set up on site? Or take a picture of a mug you’re trying to sell on a coffee table, as it would be used every day. It’s quite convincing as well: if you take a photograph that looks genuinely inviting and homely, people are going to want to take the things in it home themselves.
There are a few basic sub-styles to lifestyle product photos, including:
Tabletop photography: items that fit onto tables positioned next to things they would normally be found next to at home. Placemats, bathroom accessories, etc.
Flatlay photography: essentially the same idea but from above. Usually used for books and plates, and seen below with clothing.
Hero photography: models running long distances or climbing mountains, putting your material to the extremes and showing your produce in the most ‘heroic’ light. Sports and outdoors equipment often use these kinds of shots, as well as designed accessories like watches.
© Mountain Warehouse
Model photography: essentially just find a model to use or wear whatever it is in a natural setting and pose. Showing how and where you would find your company’s work usually. LaCoste, as you can see below, have mastered this style of product photo.
These photos look great on the landing page of your website, or on social media like Pinterest, because they give an atmosphere to what you’re doing instead of just details on your work. And good visual content is 40% more likely to get shared on social media, after all.
In this photo from Mistral Gin, for example, some of the gin is being poured out right in the frame, next to some stylish party snacks. Instantly you have an aesthetic to your work: you’re telling the target audience what you’re about and how you do it.
5. Close-up shots
This particular style of packshot is exactly what it says on the tin: a close-up of your product showing specific details and textures. It’s usually used alongside packshots to give greater clarity and focus - it’s not expressive enough on its own, of course. If you’re selling something made of a certain material - handbags, rugs, shoes - you’ll want to get some kind of detail on the fur or leather (hopefully imitation!) to show customers the handiwork up-close.
See how BMW has used this close-up to give greater detail to the hood of one of their cars and create an atmosphere to their work. You can see the shine and texture of the car’s materials very clearly, as well as getting a sense of awe from the composition of the photo. But it doesn’t have to be artistic like this: this kind of shot is used a lot on Amazon and other major marketplaces to give greater detail to a product all in the same set of photos. Most items you’ll see online have more than one photo to them, of course.
With this type of packshot you can really give more detailed angles to a product, and even show aspects a viewer might have missed themselves in store. The wider the range of photos you have, the more your client will trust your work and have confidence in your brand, leading them to be far more likely to eventually make a purchase.
Product photography is absolutely everywhere these days, whether it be on the Internet, TV or billboards. It’s more important now than ever to make sure the stuff you’re trying to sell is captured clearly, accurately, and most importantly, in a way that will entice people seeing your photos to buy the product. Professional photos have a clear impact on your sales and revenues, of course.
Whatever kind of packshot you opt for in your business, make sure you choose a photographer and editor that knows how to really show your items in the best light, and knows how to sell your company.