Having great product photos for a brand increases the chances of growing and selling online. This is why many brands use professional photographers today, leading the packshot photo industry to grow. As a photographer, are you looking to progress in this area and looking for tips for successful packshots? This article is here to help you!
The specifics of product photography
The product photo or packshot or photo packshot is the name given to photos which are used to illustrate products, most often within the product pages of websites and on social networks.
The three specificities of product photos
The first particularity of the product photo is its objective: to highlight the product it presents.
The second particularity of a product photo is that it rarely works in isolation . Indeed, we speak of a packshot because a product photo is often a fresco of several photos and in particular: a photo of the front of the product, a photo of the back, a side photo, a photo from above, a photo from below and one or more detail photos.
The third particularity is linked to the previous one: if a product photo rarely works alone, a series of product photos also rarely works in isolation! It is rare that there is only one product on a website! Thus, it is obligatory to think of your packshots in relation to each other in order to maintain a feeling of unity throughout the website!
The fourth and final characteristic of product photography is its use . It is only intended to be found on your client's website, on their social networks and sometimes, in their catalog. This leads to constraints in terms of formats, artistic choices and weight of the photos transmitted.
Constraints linked to product photography
As a photographer, it can sometimes be difficult to express yourself creatively in the specific industry of product photography. Indeed, packshot photography is a strict sector to say the least with different constraints:
- The object: the product must be at the center of attention and highlighted! You will need to consider the different angles and details of the product.
- Formats: often dedicated to the website, you will have to adapt to the needs of your customer (square photo / portrait / landscape, etc.), reduced discount weight, etc.
- The client's universe: if your client already has a graphic universe, see if he already has online products photographed in a certain way, you will have to copy or approach the existing universe.
- The quantity of photos: during a packshot session, it is not uncommon to have to take more than 200 photos! To avoid getting lost and forgetting photos, especially if you have to take several of the same product, making a table will be your best asset! We’ll talk about it a little further down!
Succeed in your packshots: preparation
To succeed in your packshots on behalf of a company, the work is not very different from what you can do as part of other photo projects!
Step #1: The client brief
The first step is to inform yourself of your client's needs via a brief. To guide him, especially if it is the first time he works with a photographer, do not hesitate to draw up a list of questions:
- Is there a graphic universe? Have photos already been taken on the site or is this a site creation? What are your client's graphic inspirations? Can he share with you a mood board or a list of competing and non-competing brands he would like to draw inspiration from?
- What types of product does he want to photograph and how many are there?
- How many different views of his products does he want? Front / Back / Side / Top / Bottom / Detail(s) also called close-up
- What formats are accepted on its site? Square / Landscape / Portrait
- Would they like to add videos to their product sheets?
This first meeting should allow you to make your estimate and have initial ideas.
💡 Our tip for validating your quote: send it with a first inspiration board created quickly (the goal is not to spend three hours!) proving to your client that you have identified their desires!
Step #2: Looking for inspiration
Second step, after validation of the quote: seek inspiration for your packshots based on your client's brief, their world and their inspirations! The goal is simple: validate a photo style before the photo shoot so that you and your client are on the same wavelength before the shoot!
Of course, you can skip this step if your client already has product photos on your site and only wants to shoot a new collection according to the previously used codes.
Step #3: Creating a dashboard
Third step: create a tracking table or dashboard for your shooting. We advise you to do this on a spreadsheet, but you are free to use the tool that makes your life easier (Excel, Google Sheets, Notion, etc.). The goal of this board is simple: know what products you have and what photos you need to take! You can even add a column to indicate which accessories you will need.
| Moisturizing cream
|Reflective mirrorWhite podium
Step #4: Purchasing accessories
Penultimate step: equip yourself with accessories!
While some packshots focus solely on the product, others require accessories to showcase the product.
There are several types of useful accessories for successful packshots:
- accessories to highlight the products: photo backgrounds, podiums to better arrange them and mirrors to create interesting lighting effects;
- accessories to tell a story around the products, particularly in the context of staging;
- abstract accessories to add volume: geometric shapes…
Slideshow of accessories offered by access shooting
Step #5: Rental of the location
For a packshot shoot, we can only recommend working in a photo studio. This will guarantee stability of your light source but also of climatic conditions (a product shoot can take a full day).
Before the shoot, plan to reserve the photo studio where you will shoot!
Step #6: Hiring the models
Last point, optional this one, the selection and hiring of models who will help you showcase the products! This is particularly necessary when shooting fashion or cosmetic products.
Please note: some brands prefer to take care of this point because the choice of models is strongly correlated to their brand image. Simply confirm with your client that the models are booked for the big day!
Succeed in your packshots: the big day
To succeed in your packshots on the big day, the rules are quite similar to the rules for photo studio shoots!
The first step is to set up your set-up:
- Adjust your photo background
- Install your product #1
- Adjust your lights
- Make your camera settings
- Take your first shots and validate with your client, including the different views and how to take details
💡 Our tip: if you have to take front / rear / side photos, try, if possible, to set up a set-up around which you will be able to move – rather than having to move the product every time!
Once you obtain the desired result for the first product… all you have to do is move on!
Two tips for successful packshot photography
- Don't forget to take a look at your board regularly so you don't forget any photos! You can even print it in order to check off the different photos by hand.
- If possible, select photos as you go along on the big day! This will make your life easier in post-production!
Succeed in your packshots: retouching
The software we recommend for editing your packshots shouldn't surprise you! This is Adobe Lightroom, a photo editing software that allows you to create your own filter effect and apply it to all of your shots. If you took all your photos with the same settings, you should save a lot of time!
Photo equipment for successful packshots
Beyond the accessories needed to stage your packshot photos, certain photo accessories are essential for successful packshots. They are similar to those needed in food photography or flatlay photography!
Tripods are a must for your packshots because they will allow you to move your product and modify your set-up without changing your settings.
For packshots, we recommend that you take a tripod with a tilting column. The latter is interesting for achieving your top views!
We recommend the Manfrotto brand, recognized, in particular several models from the Befree range, but you can also turn to other brands, less expensive and with good feedback.
Product photos are most often taken in the studio to avoid light variations between shots. To compensate for the lack of natural light, we advise you to have at least two to three softboxes. Choose quality lighting rather than cheap lights that don’t provide enough light…
This can be continuous lights; LEDs; or flashes.
Depending on your budget, you can go for entry-level or professional photo equipment that will last you throughout your career.
A reflector/diffuser is a photo accessory that you will use for your packshots but more broadly for all your shootings! It allows you to moderate overexposure or redirect part of the light towards the product you want to photograph.
To avoid having to multiply accessories, we recommend that you opt for a multi-sided reflector:
- The white side allows light to be reflected;
- The black side allows it to be absorbed;
- The gold and silver faces allow the light to be reflected in another way, useful if your initial light is too yellow/white.
Bonus but very practical accessories
A remote control
A remote control allowing you to operate remote shooting is useful for taking your photos in sequence. This will save you from having to go back behind your camera every time you move the product. This is a must if you take a lot of packshots.
A Live view cable
This cable connects your camera to your computer. The advantage? The photos are automatically saved to your computer and you can view them live. In addition to better viewing the photos during the shoot, you save time on editing and selection!
Normally, you always have a cable sold with your camera, or reopen the original box looking for it and do a test. Small hiccup: the original cable is often very short, not necessarily very practical to use. So take its reference and do not hesitate to order its counterpart in a longer dimension. 3 meters is not too much to be comfortable. Check the tip carefully, it varies depending on camera models.
You are a professional photographer and you are developing your activity as a packshot photographer. What interests you about this activity? What are the particularities of this activity?
See you soon !
The Access Shooting team