Take Better Photos With These 5 Product Styling Tips

Please note – some of these are affiliate links, which means I’ll make a small portion of the profit if you purchase something, at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting us!

Whether you are shooting your own products or shooting for a client, you must be able to produce professional product images that will attract customers. Carefully planned and executed product styling will ensure your images will communicate the brand values as well as create a representation of a lifestyle that will attract the brand’s ideal customer. 

Plan your shoot

Before you get started, you need to be very clear on what you want to communicate and what elements of the brand you want to highlight. This means figuring out the product’s ideal customer, who they are, what they like, and where the images are going to be used. You or your client may not be very clear on those, so you need to gather inspiration images, and social media accounts. Check the online presence from similar products to see what works and what doesn’t for your brand so you can start thinking about how to style your product.

You also want to make sure that you are putting forward the best features of the product. Think about what makes the product better or different, or what the competition doesn’t have. For example, if you shoot a bag, you will want to highlight all the pockets by having props sticking out of them.

Next you will want to choose a theme to highlight the features and the uses of the product. For example, if you shoot cosmetics, you will probably want to think of a bathroom setting; if you shoot a product that is easy to take on the go, you might want to put together a travel theme; if you shoot a gourmet tea, you may want to create a coffee shop setting.

5 Actionable product stying TIPS for more professional photos. Product Photography by Frenchly Photography - Fanette Rickert

Choose your color palette and background

Colors are a very powerful tool in the photographer’s belt. When they are well paired together, they can create beautiful and balanced visuals. But you have to think past the pretty picture: colors are actually very powerful tools to create emotions and feelings. A colorful and bright color palette will define a brand as happy and energetic. Pastel and muted colors will fit a more peaceful brand identity. Think about the emotions you want to create, and start to think about a color palette. To make sure you are choosing colors that work well together, make sure to use Adobe Kuler. And if you are interested in learning more about color theory, check this article

Once you have decided your theme and the feel of your images, you need to gather the background and props for product styling. They will be the supporting elements of your image and will help tell your brand’s story.

The background is extremely important and should be chosen very carefully to reflect the brand. Think about the product and the values of the brand and choose a background that fits them. For example, a marble background will convey a feeling of luxury; a natural wood background will evoke a rustic, natural, or maybe organic environment; a white background will be a great fit for a minimalist brand. Get together of a few backgrounds that can fit your brand’s aesthetics so you have options on your shoot day.

Choose your props

Once you have decided on a theme, color and background, half of the work is done. Okay, maybe only half of the prep work 😉 It is now time to think about the fun part of product styling: your props. They should fit the theme and act as supporting elements to the overall story. Make sure the props you choose are not too big compared to the product: you do not want them to steal the show, the product MUST be the hero. Make sure they fit in with the color palette as well and are not too distracting in color or shape. Do not show any other brand or label. The product you are photographing should be the only branded item otherwise you may confuse the viewer.

When styling a product, you want to place your props in a natural way so it doesn’t look too staged. Layer or stack your props to add dimension and interest. Place some props at the edge of the frame so that the viewer doesn’t see the whole object: it creates a feeling that there is more going on outside the frame. Don’t try to cover the whole frame: leave some negative space to create some breathing room and to allow the viewer’s eye to rest.

There is also a lot that goes into composing an image, and it is a whole topic by himself. If you would like to learn more about it, check out Composition Essentials by Rachel Korinek, one of the most in depth class about composition out there.

Create a scene / add a human element

I like to hint the presence of a human in my images: it can be as simple as a cup of tea / coffee, an open book or magazine (even better if it has people in it), or be more obvious with hand in the frame, or a full on action shot.

My favorite part of product styling is to actually create a scene where the viewer can imagine way past the frame: you can place your product in a way that will create the illusion that it is on a table, on a bed, on a desk, in a bathroom / kitchen, on a shelf, a flat lay, etc. You don’t have to actually have a kitchen in you studio to create this. A few backgrounds and a plank of wood will do it.

If you want to do more product photography and product styling, start today by creating a bank of props to use on your product shoots. My favorite props to use are:

  • fresh flowers (or silk flowers, some of them look really amazing), foliage, succulents
  • vintage props – old fashion scissors is one of my favorite prop. You can go to Antique store and pick old cooking utensils for your food shots; old letters and stamps make great props for desktop flat lays (link); old vintage books, old vintage fabrics, etc.
  • Inexpensive and always useful: ribbons, makeup, glasses, office supplies, small jewels, magazines, your phone, notepads, notebooks, books, pens, pouches and purses, thank you cards, small trays and plates…
  • for your backgrounds: foam board, contact paper, wood boards (old pallets make great ones!), vinyl backdrops (my favorites). Also look at what you have around your home: tissue paper, gift wrapping paper, brown paper bags (yes!!), parchment paper, newspapers, bedsheets, linens… So many options!

My final tip – Edit

Editing your images is incredibly important and can take your pictures from okay to amazing. I recommend editing in Lightroom on your desktop to get the full capabilities. Lightroom is incredibly powerful, especially when you know how to use it. If you want to become a power user and get some amazing results, I suggest Rachel Korinek’s Lightroom Magic course, it has changed my editing forever!

Pro-tip: when you edit your images, spend some time editing the product’s label. Make sure to make it a little bit brighter than the rest of the image, and up the clarity and vibrance. It will immediately attract the viewer’s eyes to the hero of the pictures and your clients will be amazed!

If you have questions about product styling or if you are looking for a photographer to shoot some amazing images of your products, contact me, I would love to hear from you!

Please note – some of these are affiliate links, which means I’ll make a small portion of the profit if you purchase something, at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting us!