Catalogue Photography: A Professionalís Guide

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Companies have used catalogues for years to promote their products. For many it can be the primary medium in which to showcase their product range. An important part of catalogues are the photos used to visually display the product and its features. This lets potential customers see what the product looks like and can help them decide whether to buy them.

With this in mind, it is imperative that catalogue photography presents the product in a way that makes it appealing to its intended audience.

Catalogue photography can include food, fashion or everyday products such as groceries and books. However, which ever product youíre shooting, there are some important tips to follow so you can transform your shots into professional-looking catalogue photos:

Lighting - Itís vital you get this right in catalogue photography as poor lighting can make the image look amateur and the product look inferior. Determining the right lighting will depend on what youíre photographing. Organic food, for instance, often looks better in natural light so shooting outside, preferably on an overcast day when thereís not so much glare, will create a softer effect and help you get clearer shots. On the other hand if you were shooting beach fashion then a sunny day would be more appropriate in helping to create the right scene. A cameraís built-in flash can give off unnatural light and unwanted shadows so make sure you switch it off at the outset.

Background - Youíll need a clear focus on the product so choose a background that enhances it. A busy or detailed background will draw attention away from the product and its features. Using a white or clear background, or turning your camera to aperture mode to get a greater depth of field will vastly improve your photos and really make the product stand out.

Camera equipment - Tripods give you stability and prevent any blur in catalogue photography Ė especially if you shoot the product up close. For close up shots, itís recommended to use a special macro lens which is specifically designed for this purpose, letting you get in much closer than normal lenses do.

Composition - To achieve the ideal composition arrange your product in a position that gets the viewers attention. Use the rule of thirds principle which is based on dividing your image into nine equal squares and then add your product to one of the four points where the lines intersect. This helps create a well-balanced shot and lets the viewers eyes move naturally through the image. Most camerasí LCD screens have a function which lets you divide up the image into these nine squares.

Post editing - Thereís always more you can do to enhance your image. Photo editing software, such as Photoshop, can improve various elements of catalogue photography by letting you enrich the colours, crop the image more closely around the product, remove any imperfections from the photo or adjust the exposure.

There are many different ways you can achieve professional-looking catalogue photos and for many it comes down to experimenting and experience. However, successfully mastering the basic techniques of catalogue photography will help turn your product images into sellable products that customers will want to buy.

Neil Adams is Managing Director of Powerhouse, a UK creative commercial photography company based in Leeds. Powerhouse offers a range of commercial photography services including advertising, lifestyle, food, pack shot and catalogue photography .

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