Storytelling in Product Photography: How to Get More Out of Every Image

Storytelling in Product Photography: How to Get More Out of Every Image

Any company that sells physical goods rely heavily on product photography to make a connection with consumers. After all, those product photos are for many people the first impression they’ll get of a brand, so they need to reflect the right tone, mood, and messaging. 

But while high resolution and great color grading are still vitally important to a successful brand shoot, what many product photographs are missing is a certain quality of emotion that pulls consumers in.

Visual storytelling is the art of using images to convey a subtle but impactful message to the consumer, appealing to their emotional side and driving them towards a purchase. In this post, we’ll uncover what it means to use storytelling in product photography and provide some tips for how to achieve it.

Visual Storytelling Is The Key To Audience Connection

Without a visual narrative, product photography can feel a little flat. To bridge the distance between business and consumer, your product photos need to contain something beyond just an empty image of an object. Emotion and depth are needed.

But you don’t have to be Nori Inoguchi or Timothy Hogan to create meaningful product photos. You just need to get more creative about the way you structure, conceptualize, and edit your shoots.

6 Tips For Drawing Out More Emotion In Your Product Photography

Even the most experienced product photographers may struggle to elicit emotion through their work, especially with certain everyday products. For example, you’d be forgiven for asking, “what’s so emotional about tea mugs?” when shooting a new range of ceramics.

Well, the key is to look beyond the product itself and into the real-life experiences and memories consumers may associate with that product. In this example, tea mugs could bring to mind a sense of home, of relief at the end of a long day, of comfort when you’re feeling down.

Tapping into the emotions, memories, and experiences of a product is what will lead you to develop a strong visual narrative through photography.

Here are 6 more practical tips to help you on your way.

1) Discuss each brief extensively beforehand

    One of the most important things about visual storytelling in product photography is that it tells the right story. You might have a great narrative lined up, but does it fit in with the brand you are shooting for? As a photographer, it is crucial that you discuss the product brief with your client beforehand.

    Find out what their brand tone is, what kind of message they want to send to consumers, and what kind of consumer demographics they are targeting. This will help you develop as clear an idea as possible about what direction to take the narrative in and make both yourself and your clients proud.

    2) Put on your writer’s cap

      Instead of just diving straight into the visual side of your story, it can be helpful to start off with a simple written narrative. This can help provide structure to your shoot and give you something to refer back to when things start to feel off-kilter.

      Going back to the tea mug example, a simple written narrative could look like this:

      A woman has just got back from work after a stressful day. The focus is on a big cup of steaming tea, representing the woman’s need for comfort and relaxation. The tea mug is positioned at eye level, which feels familiar and soothing. The lighting is soft and gentle. This is her time to unwind.

      Even something as simple and short as this can help put you on the right track for an emotionally fueled visual narrative. Use your writing skills to create consumer-specific characters and scenarios in which the product at hand is most likely to be used.

      3) Use lighting to your advantage

        Lighting is crucial to a successful product photo shoot. Cold versus warm, bright versus low light, direct versus atmospheric—they all have the power to influence the emotional context of a product image.

        Equipping yourself with a range of quality lighting tools will allow you to approach your shoots with more specificity, thus creating more compelling images that encourage consumers to hit purchase.

        4) Use different angles to create drama

          Perspective can completely change the way an image feels. For instance, a high vertical shot can make the focus of the image appear small and insignificant, while a low-angle shot can make the subject feel more dominant and overwhelming.

          Framing your product photographs from a different angle can help you convey a certain atmosphere that enhances the story you are telling.

          5) Do comprehensive research on similar themes

            Before you start preparing for your product shoot, it’s useful to gather as much inspiration and references for the kind of style and mood you are hoping to achieve. This can help you gain a clearer mental image for each product shot and create a more succinct result.

            Apps like Pinterest, Dribbble, and even just Instagram are all rich with visual content that you can use as research platforms for product photography ideas you may not have thought of on your own. You can also check out other product photographers’ portfolios for inspiration. Just be sure to make your shots your own. Inspiration is great, but you need to showcase your unique take on a subject too.

            6) Lean on other creative disciplines

              At the beginning of this list, we recommended putting on your “writer’s cap”. As a professional photographer, you may feel most comfortable in your field of interest. But branching out into other creative disciplines can make you a more well-rounded and perceptive visual artist.

              Writing, videography, and graphic design may all be complete art forms in their own right, but picking up more than one can help you develop confidence and approach photography from a more creative and innovative perspective. Think outside of the box!

              Sell A Story With Your Product Photography

              Instead of thinking about product photography as an image of an object, think about it as a way to provide consumers with insight into the contexts and experiences they will be using the product in.

              Tap into the emotional components of what makes the product in question special, and how it stands above others in the industry. Use color, light, and perspective to illustrate the prevalence of the product, and let the quality speak for itself.

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