In this article, you’ll learn 3 important tips for photographing products for brands that will help you achieve better images.
Other than as a photographer, I wear many hats, one of which is as a content creator for brands. It’s common knowledge that when working with other brands, two things are key:
- Understand the brand’s USP (unique selling point)
- Communicate the brand’s USP
Brands that differentiate themselves from other brands, thereby having a clear uniqueness about them that they propose to their audience, achieve more success in their advertising endeavors.
However, it is not enough to have a great USP.
Presentation of the USP matters and this usually means visual presentation. This is where the photographer or film-maker comes in.
When it comes to photographing products for brands, our role as photographers is to understand that unique message and deliver it in the most effective way for the brand to succeed. We need to be able to communicate that USP in our images and visuals.
Social media allow brands to reach the masses more easily. Audiences now have access to more than one platform, one type of style or preference. They are inundated with an array of options from which they can make their choices.
To be part of the game, and have a slice of the pie, brands are endeavoring to reach beyond their expected target audience to those they want to convert to their aesthetics.
Audiences might not necessarily know what they want nor that they want something until it has been presented to them.
Take Henry Ford, for example. He may not have been the first person to invent a private automobile, but he was the first person to mass-produce it. Ford made his Model T accessible to the masses.
Prior to this, not many people had access to their own automobile. They relied mainly on steam-powered vehicles and mechanical forms of transport to get them to places. People were generally happy with what they had until something better, something they had not thought of before, in the form of their own gasoline-powered automobile, was presented to them. It was both accessible and available.
Various platforms widely used nowadays in brand advertising are websites, social media (Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked In, Yelp, Reddit), print advertising (magazine, billboards, leaflets, posters), television and radio ads. The type of communication will depend on what works best for the advertising platform used.
This article will focus on photographing products for brands to reach their intended audience. Assuming that you have an adequate understanding of the brand’s USP and ideas on how to communicate it on their chosen channel, here are 3 tips when photographing products for brands.
1. Understand what the audience wants
Whilst branding is the most important, it is no longer the only consideration, no longer the be-all-end-all. We need to think outside the brand and understand our audience.
Recently, I received an invitation to sit on an advisory board for a big company. The company was hard at work nailing their branding. They were at a point where they were able to clearly and articulately present their brand’s identity. The advisory board, composed of various sectors of the industry, was asked for opinions and input on how to effectively shout the brand’s identity to the world.
The meeting took an interesting turn as it became apparent that the brand, as strong as their identity was, needed to look outside of themselves and understand the market, consumers, and traders – the people on the receiving end of their message.
It’s no longer just about the brand. The audience is now just as important in the game.
What does the audience want? What type of images and visuals speaks to them the most? Where and how do they want the brand to speak to them? Old traditional ways don’t cut it anymore. We have to be thinking outside the box and exploring new ways of effective messaging.
Is it enough to present a product photographed against a ubiquitous white background? Is presentation in context now necessary as well? We are bombarded with short films and short stories everywhere we go. Static images in white boxes no longer pull the heartstrings.
Stories and contextual presentation, personal experience, and testimonies are now a must. Remember, photographs can tell stories just as effectively as moving images – we just need to keep up with our game.
2. Photograph with the intention of giving the audience what they want
I’m a typical consumer; before I buy something, especially if I have not seen it in real life and I’m only relying on web images, I’d like to investigate the item. I want to see it close-up, read a detailed description of it, and would like to envisage it in my own personal situation or surroundings. A complete range from context to product photography is what I need to complete my research and help me decide to purchase or not.
A contextual image should resonate with me and elicit my emotions. The close-up image should speak to my visual aesthetics and help me decide if I like the look of it enough to buy it.
Lastly, the product image on a white background speaks to my brain. It answers practical and logical questions I might have.
I’d expect a combination of visuals on a website or a good advertising platform.
3. Present the visual so the audience will engage
When it comes to photographing products for brands, depending on the channel or platform you choose, you need to be discerning about what image works best to ensure that a good percentage of the audience engages.
For example, on TV, emotionally moving adverts or humorous, unforgettable ones work best. The cost is immense. In the UK, big brands usually do quite long, full Christmas adverts around the time of the launch. These adverts then get cut and shortened on subsequent showings to help with the costs.
On social media, videos are hugely effective, but the most effective ones are the short and quick videos to keep in line with the limited attention span of audiences nowadays! Yes, there are videos longer than a minute that are effective too. However, this would perhaps require that you already have an engaged tribe willing to give up more time and stop for several minutes to watch your long advert.
Of course, the younger audiences (youths and young adults, especially Generation Z) are more used to watching longer videos, so there’s that to consider when creating and presenting product content.
On Instagram, for example, brands work with me to reach my audience. It’s not always a must that our aesthetics match, although often they do. It could be that the brand wants to reach my type of audience to expand their reach and to speak to new audiences who may not be familiar with what they have.
Think again of Henry Ford here.
In both cases, I would always present the ad in terms of how engaging it would be to my audience and not the brand’s aesthetics per se. This is better for the brand as the more engaged the audience is, the wider the reach is for them.
This is not to say that I disregard the brand’s USP. In fact, I communicate the brand’s uniqueness in my captions and make sure these are the focus of the message. But at the forefront of my mind, I will present the visual in a way that my audience finds most interesting so that they are encouraged to engage.
Wide, medium, close-up, and flatlay shots
In practical terms, this means my front image is always the contextual wide-angle image. I follow this with product images shot from a medium angle to close-up.
This is in line with what I know to be the most popular style of posts with high engagement rates.
Other pages may have close-up product shots as their most successful type of images, or flatlays, or products all shot in a seamless white background. To effectively communicate to your target audience, your images need to resonate with their aesthetics, not just needs and wants, as they might not be fully aware of those yet.
Whilst the brand needs to be true to its USP and key message, the presentation needs to be flexible to adapt to consumer demands.
As a photographer, keep the above in mind and usually aim to cover all bases when photographing. Take wide-angle shots using something like a 24-25mm lens, a mid-range angle using a 50mm-85mm focal length, and close-ups from 105mm upwards.
In terms of presentation, go with the most successful type of images that elicit high interaction from the audience. Suggest that as the front image for the client to use on platforms like Instagram. Then provide the necessary product shots as secondary images to use to complete the audience satisfaction.
In summary, when it comes to photographing products for brands, successful advertising takes into consideration your audience’s preferred aesthetics. Whether that audience is already your tribe or a new audience you are trying to reach with the brand, you want your visuals to resonate with them on an emotional level. That is one of the most effective ways of communicating with your audience and ensuring effective brand reach.
Do you have any other tips for photographing products for brands that you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments section.