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How to shoot lifestyle product photography

By Mari Makarov


5 min read

Jan 15, 2020

Promoting products through platforms like Instagram has never been more available. From what I can see, it’s not a surprise that there’s a higher demand for producing the right kind of content. The issue with sponsored adverts is the essence of the adverts themselves; by being sponsored you lose the sense of sincerity and are left with something that can come across too salesy.

I wanted to find ways to create content that’s engaging and that breaks down these sponsored adverts barriers; something considered that looks natural in its setup, yet making sure to highlight the product in the shot. With so many companies fighting for your attention, how do you cut through the noise and create a sense of authenticity?

Let’s find out.

Here’s a list of tips to take into consideration when creating content that would work across all different social media platforms:

  1. Product features
  2. Make it relatable
  3. Location set-up
  4. Personal touches
  5. Composition

With our recent project creating promotional content for Novation’s Launchkey Mini, I approached the challenge from multiple angles — from pre-production working all the way to delivery. So, here’s a little walk through my process and hopefully some useful tips of creating content that will feel sincere and engaging!

1. Product features

Leading up to the shoot, you’re most likely to have a set shot list to follow that showcases the main features of the product that the client wants you to capture. If you’re not provided with a shot list from the client, make sure to strike up a conversation about it:

  • What are the key selling points of the product?
  • Are there any new features?
  • Where will the photos be used?

Knowing that the product shots will end up on Novation’s website, I had to make sure that I got my ‘hero product shots’ (by which I mean a shot that nails the brief that I’ve stretched myself to achieve) in various set-ups.

Despite my love for muted colour pallets, this job demanded a more vibrant feel. I had to find a way to inject colour into my editing that would be not only on-brand but would also stand out on the website without steering too much away from my own personal style.

2. Make it relatable

I wanted my photography to feel sincere and candid in its nature, shining light on real and relatable people that can resonate with you, rather than the “hard #ad sell” on Instagram. When shooting lifestyle product photography, you’ll be most likely working with people who aren’t professional models. So, make sure to have a relaxed conversation beforehand—walk them through your shooting plan so they know what to expect. Be warm and complimentary, and don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty by directing your talent to get the shot you need.

I believe that it’s your duty as a photographer to make your talent feel as comfortable as you can in front of the daunting lens. Do them justice through the way you capture their essence. Your end result is only as good as the relationship you’ve created on the shoot between yourself and the chosen talent.

3. Location set-up

Consider the best way of presenting your products to the audience. In this instance, we knew that the key selling point for this product was its portability, so we built our shoot around it. Not only did we shoot them in their familiar home studio settings, but we also took them outside to the park and shot them on the go to their mate’s place.

Really think about your surroundings, what does the product represent? How can you dress up the background? Try to imagine who is the target audience and create a relatable functionality that would sit in the target audience’s life.

Rather than selling an illusion, that you too could become that person if you bought that particular product, try to swap that idea on its head. How could you create content that would compliment the audience’s hobbies, by showcasing the nature of this product?

4. Personal touches

Study your subject. Take note of their personal style and the way they carry themselves, but also have a look around the space you’re working with. If you’re doing top-down layout shots, is there anything you can add to the framing? Perhaps something personal laying around the room? Some greenery from plants?

The idea of lifestyle product photography is that it still has that authenticity to it, and what better way to convey that by introducing personal touches throughout your set-up?

For example, one of our talents was really into her jewellery, which worked to our advantage when it came to close-up shots as it added that extra bit of quirkiness to set apart from the existing product shots.

5. Composition

A photo isn’t just about the product and the talent—it’s about how you position them in relation to each other and their wider environment respectively. What does this say?

You need to think about the composition. This is what will tie the final product together, giving it that polished, high-end look. Look out for leading lines, that will guide the audience’s attention to the product. Playing around with the composition within the frame will give you the creative freedom to direct the look and feel of the photography. Once you’ve found your desired setup, play around with different angles. The results may surprise you, giving you a new perspective you might’ve not considered before.

No matter who you’re creating photography for, I really do believe that the audience connects more with authentic content. So next time you’re picking up your camera:

  • Try to think about those smaller details that make up the bigger picture
  • Highlight the features that set the product apart from the rest
  • Create scenarios that illustrate the product’s functionality in the audience’s life
  • Showcase the relatability by creating set-ups that feel natural in their essence

and last but not least, don’t forget to put your own personal spin on it!

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