How to Style Your Product Images

How to Style Your Product Images

When running my Photography workshop I always receive a lot of questions relating to the styling piece ie which backdrops to use, how to style in props, the number of products, where should they sit in the image etc etc.

Ensuring that you have great images is a really important part of the branding puzzle.  Having a wonderful product photographed badly is such a shame and doesn’t need to be the case as there are simple steps and actions you can take to improve the overall quality of your images.  And remember the better the images the more likely it is for press to choose your products to showcase in their article, blog or print publication. 

So I am going to share some of the knowledge I have acquired during the 8 year I have been photographing my own products for Wattle & Daub. I hope some of this is helpful. Please do reach out if you have any questions as I would be keen to hear your struggles, wins or feedback.

Overall Aesthetic 

In the first part of the workshop I always ask attendees where they are with defining their brand.. Is there a logo? Website? Colour palette? A clearly defined set of values & ethics and statement which encompasses exactly what they do.  The reason I ask is that it really helps if you are clear on the overall aesthetic so that all images you are putting out there can be aligned to your brand.  A consistent look & feel. 

So the first step is to create a mood board, ideally a physical one not a digital one (although you could have this as well).  Take as many magazines, publications as you can and start to look through them and extract any that resonate with you in some way. Pick out images that you want to recreate in terms of style and composition, props etc.  Pick out images which represent the colours of your brand, pick out images that reflect the style of the brand ie rustic, clean, vintage, contemporary etc. Now you want to group them together so a coherent picture starts to emerge. This will really help in having something to look back on when you are beginning to plan your images. 

Also by looking at images created by professionals it is one step closer to looking through their lens.  As you develop your own photography skills studying images that you love allows you to think about where the photographer may have stood, where the light fell, what lens was used (camera vs phone). 

Props & Backgrounds

Referring back to your moodboard and asking yourself the question as to what consistently came up for you in terms of props and backdrops you liked. If there is a Pantone colour that you have used in your logo then have this mixed as a paint and paint a large mdf board which can be used as a backdrop but for flat-lays and portrait images.  

The right props will help you tell a story and create an image which represents the lifestyle you are trying to present. 

It’s easy for me to talk props as I have a shop full of them but as you collect props along the way you will have more available to you. 

Composition & Styling

Whether you are using a phone or a camera you should always make sure that you have your grid lines visible (certainly when starting out), this will help to guide you in terms of having lining up the images to consider straight lines and also how you have styled taking into account the rule of 3rds. But I don’t know about you but I often think that rules are there to be broken, but let’s first consider when it’s helpful to think about this such rule. 

The rule of thirds proposes that an image should be divided into nine equally large parts divided by two equally spaced horizontal and two equally spaced vertical lines, just as the photo below shows.

The traditional way to think about the rule of thirds is to place your subject or focal point at the intersection points of the lines, which should create more interest, more tension and energy to the photo than just placing your subject in the center.

However I would in some circumstances encourage to play around with this rule and see how it works for you in other scenarios of a picture, however when starting out I think it’s a good guide to have in your mind.  

Composition in photography is simply the arrangement of visual elements within a frame. The term composition literally means ‘putting together.

Things to consider when it comes to composition:
1. Rule of Thirds: Divide the frame into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Place key elements at the intersection points.
2. Balance: Distribute visual weight evenly, avoiding a lopsided feel. This can be achieved through color, size, and placement of objects.
3. Leading Lines: Use lines to guide the viewer’s eyes through the image. This can add depth and draw attention to specific areas.
4. Symmetry and Patterns: Symmetrical compositions or repeating patterns can create a sense of order and visual interest.
5. Framing: Use elements within the scene, like archways or branches, to frame the main subject. It adds depth and draws attention to the focal point.
6. Foreground, Middleground, Background: Incorporate elements in the foreground, middleground, and background to create depth and dimension in the image.
7. Depth of Field: Experiment with depth of field to highlight specific subjects while blurring the background or foreground.
8. Color and Contrast: Consider the color palette and contrast in the image. Colors can evoke emotions, and contrast can add drama.
9. Simplicity: Sometimes, less is more. A simple composition can be powerful and direct the viewer’s focus.
10. Viewpoint and Perspective: Experiment with different angles and perspectives. Shooting from a unique vantage point can add interest to your composition.

Remember, these are guidelines, and creativity often involves breaking or bending them to achieve a specific effect or mood.

Now you simple need to go and practice. Also use your phone when setting up the scene to test what the image looks like through a screen this then allows you to style within the frame.  

White background / Cut out imagery 

You will also need to consider that for press it is useful to have white background photography or cut out imagery not just the lifestyle imagery.

Hope this helped a little. Please do check out our photography workshops.