We all know what product photography is. Ecommerce businesses around the world rely on product shots to promote their portfolio; usually a simple image on a plain background. These visuals need to bring the product to life as clearly as possible, often showing off key features and details, such as a zip on a jacket or a pump on a face serum.
But when we talk about creative product photography, the worlds of marketing and art collide, as product shots start to tell a more compelling brand story. Here, our Art Director, Fran Boyd, shares everything you need to know about these thumb-stopping visuals, including her top creative product photography tips.
Brands: this is a must-read.
Wait – what is creative product photography?
Image source: Mathilde Langevine on Unsplash
Creative product photography is when the products are shown in a visually pleasing, engaging and functional way. Instead of simply using a transparent background, you would boost brand awareness with complementary colours and eye-catching props that fit your signature aesthetic.
It’s a great opportunity to put your products into context or an aspirational setting, while also demonstrating an item’s (sometimes multiple) uses. These visuals highlight to the consumer the lifestyle they can buy into if they shop with your brand, whether you’re showing a handbag in a stylised flatlay or a beverage in a Pinterest-worthy home.
Why should I invest in creative product photography?
Image source: Joseph Joseph
Creative product photography is important, as it might be the only way you can cut through the noise from competitors and make your products stand out in the ever-growing crowd.
These visuals play a key role in drawing in consumers and persuading them your products are the ones they should choose. Not only this, but creative product photography presents an opportunity to cross-sell other products the consumer might be interested in.
Popular homeware brand Joseph Joseph is a great example of a company that leads with simple product photography, and then backs it up with a fully-styled creative product shot. In the images above, we can see the product in use, as well as featured in a lifestyle kitchen setting that includes other Joseph Joseph items. Who could resist shopping the whole set?
Adding a human element to these visuals – even just a hand – makes the products seem more accessible, and often works well to highlight the scale of a product. Just from these few creative product shots, we can build a narrative about the product and hopefully appeal more to the consumer.
So, where do I start with creative product photography?
We’ve collated some helpful dos and don’ts to make your creative product photography dreams a conversion-driving reality...
#1 Hire professionals
There really is no substitute for experience. Hiring an Art Director, Photographer, Stylist and Retoucher is the best way to get the most out of your creative product photography. You will be able to leverage the skills, ideas and creativity of the team to make your visuals the best they can be. Remember: team work really does make the dream work.
Image source: Underwaterpistol
#2 Prioritise quality over quantity
When planning your creative product images, it’s always better to have one or two well thought out, visually styled, high quality images than lots of cluttered, busy or messily styled visuals. After all, if it seems like you don’t care about your brand, why should consumers be expected to?
#3 Stay on brand
Channeling your brand’s aesthetic through creative product photography is a must. Not doing so is a massive missed opportunity to increase brand awareness and build that appealing lifestyle for your consumer. If you aren’t sure what your brand aesthetic looks like, it might be worth hiring a branding designer to help you realise your identity before embarking on your product stills.
#4 Hero the product
Even though your creative product photography might include other products or props and backgrounds, always make sure the product you are selling is the hero of the image. Use styling and composition techniques, such as the rule of thirds, to guide the consumer's eye to the product (which should be well lit with branding visible).
#5 Showcase functionality or details
What can we see in the creative shots that we haven’t already seen in the product shots? Your creative photography should showcase things like products in use, or the insides of the packaging. Although the visuals may look beautiful, they must be functional as well.
#6 Get creative
The clue is in the name: creative product photography. In a saturated industry, it’s crucial to think outside the box to make your brand stand out. Be the brand that does things differently.
#1 Use other branded props
You may think that using another brand’s products alongside your own is a great way to build a certain lifestyle aesthetic for consumers. However, this can actually have a polarising effect – not to mention, in some cases, legal problems. Stick to stylised or non-branded products when propping your images. Your brand and product should always be the focus.
Image source: George Milton on Pexels
#2 Scrimp on retouching
Post-production is key to ensure that all of your images hit a certain standard. It’s the final stage in the photography process, and one that can make or break your team’s hard work. Retouching images so that they don’t look retouched is a huge skill, and shouldn’t be overlooked – especially if your product is of a premium price point.
#3 Get carried away
Even though your creative product photography is a strong opportunity for selling, it’s important to achieve balance between the production costs for the shoot and your profit margins. The images need to add value – not take it away – so it’s usually a good idea to start small and go from there. Additional images can always be added once you are sure you have the budget to shoot them.
Image source: Alexander Dummer on Pexels
#4 Leave it too long
Refresh your creative product shots at least once or every other year. This will keep your visuals looking fresh and offers another opportunity to pique consumers’ interest. It’s a good idea to review your product photography once a year as well. Styles can become outdated and there may be a new way to represent your products. Doing this not only attracts new consumers to your store, but reminds your loyal customers that you are constantly evolving and present, which helps to retain their business.
3 brands who do it best
Image source: Glossier
This skincare-meets-makeup brand has been the pinnacle of best practice product photography since their launch in 2012. Glossier nails that covetable, minimal aesthetic. The photography set and lighting play on their cleanly designed product packaging, always ensuring it’s the star of the show. Meanwhile, fun animations run riot throughout the Glossier store. Not only are these engaging and intriguing; they take on a functional role by educating consumers on how to use the products.
Even though Glossier sells many different products with different uses, each one follows the same visual formula. To start, an impactful thumbnail draws you into the product detail page. Then, on the page, you’ll see shots of the product range, the product in use across a diverse mix of skin tones and ethnicities, products with hands to show scale, creative textures of the product and a mix of semi-creative shots. The narrative of each product is built consistently each time, meaning consumers always know they will get the full story before they decide to buy.
Inclusive swimwear brand SoulCap approached us about redesigning their ecommerce site. But it wasn’t just a new theme they needed; a fresh batch of product photography was required, too. With few existing visuals, our art director suggested shooting more to boost their product awareness and conversions.
So, our team set about pulling together a creative brief, complete with suggestions of how to shoot new product and creative photography. This covered background ideas, ways of styling and different types of photographic lighting. Working with SoulCap to define the brief going forward, we then executed the shoot using a previously selected team of talent to produce the content. After the shoot our art director oversaw the retouching process, and ensured the images were optimised for the brand new website and their social media channels.
#3 Pooch & Mutt
Could this be the most fun shoot ever? When dog nutrition brand Pooch & Mutt asked us to produce new stills for their website, our animal-loving art director jumped at the chance. They needed visuals that would bring their high quality ingredients to life, as well as stills to enhance their redesigned theme and website banners. The brand already had a moodboard, so our art director took this and turned it into a functional creative brief, brimming with ideas on how to elevate their content.
Now, the store is live, the visuals pop across the entire store, and you have to check out those ‘all bases covered’ product pages.
Want more tips on revenue-boosting creative? Discover 5 of the most important visual merchandising tactics for luxury brands. And remember to check out our agency's work, if you're looking for help. You can also contact our team today.
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