Last week, we talked about how to control and read the light in the environment you're photographing in, and how the angle you capture your images from affects the your photos. In part two, we address how to use everyday items and interesting backdrops to enhance the composition of your images, and how editing your photos helps you hone your aesthetic. Read on!
3. Backgrounds & Everyday Items
We’ve told you a few ways to utilize a white background for clean, minimal photography, but there are other ways to accomplish this without a plain white backdrop. Another fairly common and also striking go-to backdrop is anything wooden. A wooden coffee table, your porch, whatever it may be, wood is a great way to capture your products on a natural surface and perhaps on a shade that better compliments the object being photographed. The more cohesive and clean the background, the better. “Clean” doesn’t mean “boring.” It means making sure there’s nothing to distract from what you’re really trying to capture — your background should enhance your photo and add to its appeal, but it shouldn’t be the focus.
When we take a photo of a singular object in a distracting environment, often the final product only looks messy and incoherent. For example, taking a photo of your product with your entire kitchen or backyard as a background isn’t usually going to accomplish the correct effect, unless — as we discussed in the above section — you’re photographing from the level of the object ata close-up angle, thus ensuring that your object is the forefront and thus the only thing in focus. Don’t be afraid to use coloredbackgrounds other than white, too! It all depends on your product. Whatever the color, make sure the focus is on the product.
Want to spice up a “plain” shot? Incorporate everyday items that are associated with the object! If you’re selling a coffee mug, surround that coffee mug with coffee beans or include a small pile of coffee grounds in the composition. If you’re shooting cute greeting cards, like our brand Breathless Paper Co. so often does, include playful objects like crayons or a few multicolored paperclips. Use items that suggest the use or meaning of the product, and compliment the color scheme. Just make sure you’re composing your images in a way that still highlights that primary object.
4. Show Your Products in Action
The “everyday items” you use should suggest the appropriate use of your product. Incorporating your product in a shot with other items or in the natural habitat of that product helps show action, and action is interesting to look at. For example, capture a cutting board or other cookware on a table with a full spread, or in the midst of cooking a recipe! This helps the viewer imagine themselves using the product, rather than just examining it from afar. It also shows that you put thought into your photographs and your products, and that only encourages a potential customer.
Showing your products in action also means showing people wearing jewelry or an article of clothing, or even just showing your jewelry hanging on a jewelry rack. Think about all the ways you would use your own products, and let the photo ideas roll from there.
5. Editing, Not Just Filtering
Filters have their place, and they aren’t all bad, especially for quick social media posts or speedy editing. It can be easy to default to using pre-made filters on your photos, but photography is more than that. If you aren’t proficient in software like Adobe Photoshop, that’s alright! There are plenty of apps out there that allow you to do way more than just throw on a filter. Use them! Play with the settings for brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, fade…the list goes on. Practice until you’ve found your aesthetic.
If you are proficient in Photoshop, don’t forget to use it. It isn’t always necessary for social media uses, but we too often get in the habit of using only smart phone apps to edit. For more “important” photos like those that will stay on your website or be printed, use your Photoshop skills, or learn a few Photoshop skills! It’s not difficult, and the time you put into learning will pay off immensely. Abandon the overuse of Instagram’s built-in filters and use apps like Afterlight and VSCO (among others) to adjust your photos. If you want to use a filter, know that you can adjust exactly how much of that filter you’re using. We never recommend using the entire strength of the filter, so if you like the aesthetic the filter brings, lower the strength and use other settings to refine the look so that it’s yours.
Remember, viewers can spot over-edited images. Potential customers want to feel that they’re seeing your aesthetic, but that that aesthetic isn’t clouding the authenticity of the product in the photo.
Now you’ve got a rundown of how to improve your photographs and how to master your aesthetic by creating images that are unspoken brand ambassadors. Let your photos speak to the quality and credibility of your products. Capture images that are strategic and can speak for themselves. Remember though, practice is everything. You’ll have to take a lot of photos to get one or two that you like, many times. That’s normal and that’s OK. The worst thing to do is to stop trying. Stay diligent and mindful, and you’ll see improvement with every picture you snap!