How to approach commercial product photography to achieve the best results

Mar 29, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to approach commercial product photography to achieve the best results

Mar 29, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Commercial product lighting is very challenging. Whether you’re shooting stills or video, you never know what type of product you might need to shoot from day to day. It often presents unique challenges for you to overcome, too. Not least of which is satisfying your client’s personal tastes.

In this video, Aputure’s Valentina Vee talks with cinematographer Brent Barbano about how to light products to make them look amazing. And how to make you look amazing to your client.

If nothing else, the one key thing you need to remember is that the product needs to look amazing. This is rule number one. Because no matter how good everything else is, if the product doesn’t look the absolute best that it can, then you’ve failed in your job as a commercial photographer or filmmaker.

Every product and every campaign is going to achieve that in a different way. Each will have its own mood and feeling to best suit the product or particular campaign that your client is going for depending on what the product is and who it’s being marketed to.

The particular example used in the video is a fictitious beer client. So, they are shooting bottles filled with beer. Barbano demonstrates how he approaches a subject like this, and the types of things he pays attention to, like the environment in which the product is being shot – in this case a bar, where one might typically find beer.

But the first thing he really looks at is the colour. The rest of your scene should complement the product, not clash and contrast with it. You’ll want to pick environmental colours, including possibly gelling your lights, to fit the colours of the product and not draw attention away from the product.

When it comes to actually lighting the product itself, there are a million ways you can do this, but the key points are the goals you’re attempting to achieve rather than how it’s being done. You want to show off the shape and form of the product, as well as the surface texture, and any detail points. You also need to show off the label and any branding on the product, too, so that people can see exactly what it is and who makes it.

Commercial product photography and video is primarily problem solving. There are many challenges for product photography that will be unique to the product or client, and being able to overcome those in imaginative (and successful) ways is what will set you apart from your competition.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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