Product & Manufacturing Photography – Portraits of Perfection
Feb 17, 2012

Manufacturing and product photography can demand the utmost attention to detail, lighting and tonal balances, and it’s something we take very seriously at Double Exposure.

The idea behind this blog is to identify and talk about the different requirements of this type of work, giving assurance and inspiration to business owners that investing in professional photography is the right choice, long-term, for your business.

The examples and comments in this blog are our own, and are derived from our experiences with other businesses and advertising agencies in Bournemouth, Poole, and Dorset.

Product photography, pack-shot, still life – whatever you call it, any one shoot is never the same and the expression “You get out what you put in” couldn’t be truer.

With product or manufacturing photography, the combination of a clear client brief and our ideas will often generate the best results. Before we photograph anything we always ask our clients two crucial questions: Why do you need these photographs, and where are the photographs going to end up?

It might sound a bit silly, but actually it’s surprising how often the reason behind the photographic element within the advertising drive isn’t fully considered. Yes, a good photograph can sell a product, but that’s not to say it will be as effective as it can be, seeing the visual potential of a product requires good planning, forethought and experience.

For example, a recent shoot for Dorset based company Translogic, was more in-depth than originally anticipated – with the final layout designs constantly influencing the daily shooting of each component in their new range.

The graphic designers at Clockworx (a Ferndown based design agency), the company owner, and ourselves, had to work hard together to figure out how the individual small products would sit together in the final image. It was crucial in this project that we kept regular contact with the creative director so that our studio set-up, lighting, and composition reflected the ongoing changes and decisions as the project evolved.

It’s often the little things that make the most difference in the studio, a small piece of white card, for example, can be placed carefully to put subtle fill-light back into matt black objects where detail could have been missed. Lots of manufacturing companies and product designers we meet throughout Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset have put lots of money and care into their products.

It’s important for us to figure out the qualities of the objects we photograph, ensuring that company values transcend through brochures and websites. Post production is also key in this process – we make your images ‘fit’ your brand by looking at your existing marketing materials and balancing them accordingly.

Simon Thomas Pirie makes beautiful bespoke furniture in Dorset. Consequently, photography for him is a very important part of the creative process, and he values the recording of everything he makes: from a small set of chairs to fitted kitchens. Working with Simon is a real pleasure, there’s a lot of time invested in his furniture and his passion often results in influential advice and occasional criticism of our photographs.

Criticism can be a good thing. It can often put perspective back into a project and slow things down. How you respond to the clients concerns and viewpoints make a difference, a strong positive response that effectively deals with a clients concerns and opinions will eventually result in better photography.

Sometimes things are more straight forward, sometimes it’s a case of just getting on with the job. Just because our service is ideas-led doesn’t mean that every project needs an injection of inspiration. Despite the more mundane side of this work, standards should still be maintained – look out for whites that are too white. If a product is ‘cut out’ from it’s original background then that’s fine, but if not check for clean and consistent background lighting.

Coupled with lighting, is colour – if the object you’ve manufactured has colour on it, and if the colour is important then that should be reflected in the photograph. Washed out colour and potentially incorrect colour should be addressed on the shoot with 18% grey cards – this will achieve consistency.

Colin Perry from Minster Furniture takes great pride in the colour of his leather furniture. His passion for traditional craftsmanship doesn’t stop at construction and fabrication, it transcends right through to the finished colour of the leather. The photograph below was a 14ft orange sofa for a private commission on Poole harbor.

We’ve deliberately kept the background view and room tonally flat, allowing the presence of this mammoth sofa to speak out. Keeping the highlights under control and making sure the contrast shows the depth and form of the sofa is a must – after all, many of our commissions become archived as a record of what a company can achieve both as bespoke and batch produced items.

Some of our clients like having their products shot regularly for other reasons, for example if there are slight changes in design then a particular product brochure or website might need updating.

It’s a good thing to ensure your photographer knows of any preferred scale, proportion and perspective that is perhaps unique to your industry. You know your customers better than we do, so sharing this information in meetings before the shoot is invaluable.

Communication is what it’s all about, a proper relationship between client/agency and the photographer will go a long way in ensuring the work is produced in a way that meets or exceeds brief, each and every time – and ultimately great photographs will get great results.

Why not browse our product photography portfolio here or get in touch if you would like any further advice.