I recently teamed up with the crew at Fstoppers to create a video tutorial that focuses on the foundations of creating a standalone product hero shot for advertising. What’s a standalone product hero shot you ask? It’s a standalone image of a product that’s generally well lit, super crisp, super clean, and essentially aids in selling a company's product.
An Intro To Standalone Hero Shot Images
Standalone product hero shots are very common in advertising and are used by just about every company who manufactures and/or sells products these days. These types of images are multi-faceted, serve many purposes, and have a ton of value for any client. You’ll see standalone hero shots on websites, digital display advertising, billboards, and even the sides of delivery trucks. Next time you open your favorite magazine, be cognizant of these shots. Just look at some of the ads. A really common advertising layout that I often see displays a standalone hero shot at the bottom corner of the ad. In some cases, it even serves as the focal point.
Product Photography Compositing
Whether you’re new or unfamiliar with the genre of product photography, you may not realize that when you see a great looking product image in an advertisement, you are more than likely looking at the result of a composite image. It’s no accident that great product images have perfect lighting in all the right places. What you may not realize, is that it’s very likely that what you’re seeing, couldn’t have ever happened all in one shot.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with composite imagery, the concept is actually pretty simple. Essentially you are combining and blending several images, frames, or exposures together in order to create one cohesive composite image. Composite imagery can be relatively simple or extremely complex depending on the end goal of the final image. In any case, the art of compositing should become an extension of your creative repertoire as it gives you the artist, total control over every aspect of how your images looks and feels.
The More You Know
The more you know about the product you’re about to photograph, the better. Don’t always take a product at face value. Before you get it on set and start photographing it, be sure to touch it, feel it, and study it. Look at the shape and design that make up that product. Look at the surfaces and textures of the product you’re about to photograph. Think about the properties of those surfaces and how they react to light. Is it reflective? Is it matte? Is it transparent or opaque? Look at the colors. How does the product make you feel? See where I’m going with this?
Breaking It Down
When photographing a product, break it down into pieces. Not literally…break it down visually. When you’re on set photographing a product, focus on one area of that product at a time. Even the simplest product can present many unique challenges. In the case of the liqueur bottle that I’m photographing for a client in the tutorial video, it presents it’s own unique set of challenges because of the cylindrical shape, the translucent yet reflective surface of the glass bottle, the matte finish of the printed label and the fact that there’s also a thick somewhat opaque liquid inside of it. As you’ll see in the video, I take on each challenge, one step at a time and build the shot.
In this video tutorial, I demonstrate my approach to creating a standalone hero shot composite image by photographing a client’s liqueur bottle. To make things a little more interesting and also prove that you can create an amazing product shot with minimal gear, I used only one light. The takeaway here, is that I’m breaking it down and building the shot in pieces. Though I’m only using one light, I’m crafting the light with various light shaping tools, and putting emphasis on one area of the product at a time. Once I have all the frames I need to make a successful composite image, I use my post production process to build the final standalone hero shot.
The Larger Picture
While this standalone hero shot serves as a great image for advertising on websites, digital display advertising, billboards etc.,this kind of image can also serve as the base to a much larger and intricate composite image (as seen below in the before/after). I’m not going to go into detail on how I put the entire composite image together, I simply wanted to demonstrate the creative direction that an image like this can take on. Hopefully this video helps inspire you to think about product photography in a new and creative way.
Interested In Product Photography?
Fstoppers and I have collaborated to produce an in-depth tutorial on commercial product photography and post-processing. If you're interested in product photography, be sure to check out my tutorial The Hero Shot - How To Light And Composite Product Photography.