You’ve hired a professional product photographer, so now all you have to do is wait for the deliverables, right? Not so fast. If you want the photos to reflect your business and products in a way you will love, there is more work to do. This is where art directing product photography for your company’s photoshoot comes in. And I am here to help!


Art directing a product photoshoot sounds pretty hands on. It doesn’t have to be. That is good news for the busy business owner or marketing manager. But instead of turning a photographer loose with your products, you guide them on your likes, dislikes and needs.


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What does it take to art direct a product photography session?


Step 1: Define your brand.


Create a guideline document that details your brand. Let the photographer know exactly what your company is about. Explain why you do what you do. Let them know your brand colors, give them a copy of your logo. Plus any other materials you think may help them get a clear vision of your business.


Step 2: Define your audience.


The more specific you can be, the better your product images will target your audience. If you are targeting doctors, the photos will have a much different feel than if you are targeting stay at home moms. Provide age demographics and what platforms you will be connecting with this audience.


Step 3: Look at your competition.


What do you like about their photos? What don’t you like? What do you want to avoid at all costs? Make sure you include their websites when you talk to your photographer so they can see exactly what you mean.


Step 4: Look for inspiration.


Nothing is new. Art is created by mixing concepts together in different ways that others haven’t considered. I recommend you search for images on Pinterest, Google Images, Amazon, Etsy and even eBay.


Look in your product category, then try some other random searches for other products. You don’t want to become boxed into your category. Bank drive throughs inspired fast food drive throughs. So look around for things you like and save them to a Pinterest mood board that your photographer can access.


Step 5: Artistic lighting.


While searching those images, look at any lighting effects you may like. Maybe you want your products evenly lit. Or perhaps your product sitting in a narrow beam of light would be perfect for an ad or blog article. Artistic lighting is tough to describe, but photos can help your photographer nail down the look.


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Step 6: Product setting.


Product photographs for printed marketing materials are different from those used online. 

If you need your products on a plain white background for e-commerce, no problem. If you are looking for lifestyle images of your products in their environment or in use, you need to think about the scene.

Product photographs for printed marketing materials are different from those used online. If you have questions, talk to your photographer!


You don’t have to go into a lot of specific detail here. You might say, “I want this knife shot in a kitchen setting with a cutting board full of diced onions.” Or “I want this shot in a garage with some wrenches hanging in the background.”


This will tell your photographer what they need to know to set the staging for your product photoshoot.


Step 7: Plan for props.


In the above examples, I mentioned a cutting board, onions and wrenches. Know what your photographer will need and have a list. Some photographers may want you to provide everything. Others may have some of the props you want already in their studio.

In some cases, the props will need to be purchased. Expect those expenses to be added on to the cost of your photoshoot. Some product photographers charge a shopping fee to cover their time picking up supplies. At my studio, prop shopping is included in our package pricing.


Step 8: Think angles.


Do you want your products shot from the front, a 45% angle, the side, the back, overhead, closeup? These directions will help make sure each image is just what you want.


Step 9: Photo matches.


If you have a specific vision of the way you want your products laid out in an image, set them up and snap a quick photo. You can show the layout and angle with a quick shot. Your photographer can then capture a recreation with proper lighting and styling so everything looks perfect.


Step 10: Artistic photo cropping.


Make sure your photographer knows where you plan to use the image. If you need square images, the setup may need to be modified to fill those dimensions. You wouldn’t want a straight line of a bunch of products because it would have too much head and foot room.


You don’t need to design every layout, give your photographer some creative room to help. After all, they are the expert at shooting e-commerce and advertising photos.


I know this can seem like a lot of work, but it can be a lot of fun too. Searching photos and pinning them to a Pinterest board is really easy. You will get tons of ideas and have a really good feel for what you want from the shoot.


Just remember, your photographer will not be duplicating these shots. You don’t want a copy, you want something original that your business will be proud to share. Give your creative talent (photographer) room to experiment and expand on your art direction.


In the end, a collaboration will create some amazing image assets that will help increase your sales and brand awareness.

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