Photography: Style and Consistency

Styling your Images

When it comes to creating a setting, there are two basic types, being a lifestyle setting or a unique custom styling to showcase your product. A lifestyle setting is based around the use or placement of your product, such as this coaster image...

Alternatively you could style it in more of a unique way, using various props such as found objects, craft supplies, art supplies etc, etc.

I’ve shown an example below, where I used some found wooden boards to give a weathered organic appearance, and added props like conkers, and pine cones to reinforce the nature theme of the greetings cards.

This type of image refers more to the design/artwork itself, than the context of the product.

When it comes to selecting backgrounds and surfaces there are many places to start. I prefer using items that have a depth to their surface, such as a textured surface. Try going to your local tile merchant; it’s amazing the different looks you can create from that one source alone. You might choose different stone/granite/tile/marble etc and it’s a look that you can’t replicate. You’ll only need one or perhaps one of each, so it won’t cost much, plus you can clean it to use again and again.

There are lots of other possibilities for surfaces. You can use the top of a table, old flooring, split down a pallet, or perhaps you could use a piece of marble or granite. It depends on what you want to communicate about your product and its style and design. If you work with real wood, it can be painted or stripped to accentuate the texture of the grain. You could use mount boards or fabric: bunching up fabric such as velvet or silk can cause interesting shapes and shadows. It’s best to avoid using printed backdrops behind your products as these look unrealistic at best; at worst they can be distracting and devalue your product.

For backgrounds I quite often use coloured card. If you pop to your local gallery or art supply shop, you can buy mount boards in lots of colours, and these are ideal due to price and size.

In this image above, a chest of drawers is placed in front of a large mount board. On top of there a tile gives the image more interest through its reflections of the product and props.

Styling your work and Photographing in a Consistent Way

Lets be honest: not everyone has a passion for photography. For many it can be something of an obstacle to overcome and your passion for making is where you would rather spend your time. But with a little push in the right direction, you can improve your photography results no end. Aspects such as consistency and paying a little attention to the way you light your work can elevate your storefront presence, even if you don’t improve anything else. This all has a massive impact on your sales potential, so its worth taking into consideration.

Consistency across Your Images

To achieve any sort of consistency between shots, it’s essential to have a tripod. By keeping your photographs simple and consistent, it will make your photography appear more professional. By consistent, I mean a consistent overall setting, with the product position being the same on each photograph. If you're using a phone, I’m sure you can improvise something to hold the camera in position, but for the sake of around a tenner, you may as well just order yourself a simple tripod, and that’s the same with a camera. Get yourself a tripod.

Don’t forget to mark the position of your product on the surface so can easily reposition a new product there each time.

In the examples above, the card position, the surface and the props are all placed in the same position. Cards by Hannah Marchant Illustrates.

Approach Your Shoot in a Systematic Way

Many products are sold in ranges, and for these it’s best to create one setting for the entire range, and then make adjustments with the props throughout to differentiate the photographs. One way of making all the photos unique is to use colour co-ordinating items. Sometimes, all that is changed are the foreground objects, as in the example above; other times, it could be background objects that change.

It’s best to have more than one image of your product to use in your storefront. Turn your work area into a production line: have your camera or phone in one position and photograph each product in one setting/angle. Then go through all the products again to do the second angle/setting. That’s the best way to ensure consistency between shots, and having the same framing and angles throughout will give you a very consistent and professional feel overall.

Use conventional standardised angles for your images. Don’t try to be overly creative with them. They’re difficult to repeat, and even more importantly, strange camera angles can be distracting. It’s the product that needs to be the ‘hero’ of the shot.

To differentiate each shot, add or remove props from each image to make them unique, and swap out the product itself as in this very simple example above. It can be as little as changing some coloured beads to fit with the product.