Creative product photography ideas to inspire you.
Product photography is all about displaying and highlighting specific features of a product. Great product photographs are evocative and powerful, pulsing with creativity and meaning.
Generally used as eye-catching visuals for promoting and marketing products, these photos are commonly seen on e-commerce websites and social media accounts, and in digital and print advertisements.
As a major niche within the commercial photography category (which make up 6.3% of the entire photography industry in 2022), artistic vision and technical competence are crucial to creating successful and memorable photos of any product—from shampoo to cat toys to sandals.
Whether you’re building your product photography portfolio or simply looking for inspiration, here are a multitude of ideas to experiment with during your next product photo shoot.
Creative product photography ideas.
A “candid portrait” of a product without any engaging mood, contrasting color, or unique artistic touch is easily overlooked by viewers (and potential customers).
On the other hand, a well-balanced, well-lit photo of an otherwise boring product taken from an intriguing angle can catch the eye of viewers, and perhaps even change the way they view, understand, or appreciate the product.
Taking advantage of the different backgrounds, lighting techniques, depths of field, and set-ups available to you as a product photographer can make the difference between a lifeless picture and an intriguing, eye-catching product photo that brings viewers and brands together.
1. Get moody.
An image that has a mood all of its own captures a viewer’s attention, sometimes more than the product’s details themselves.
Moody product photography includes anything from romantic to edgy to upbeat and energetic. Moods help to create a responsive emotion within the viewer for the product while emphasizing the product’s best features.
A few quick tips:
- A bit of bokeh for jewelry images adds a dreamy, soft, romantic look.
- A bold, dramatic, and edgy look can be created with dark backgrounds, focused highlights, and a bit of movement.
- Leaving parts of your product in the background or unlit, and allowing the viewer to only see certain details, can add intrigue and mystery to the image.
- Using different colored gels on your lights and flashes can instantly change the feel of your images.
2. Paint with light.
Intriguing use of shadows and lighting can add character to a product, not just change the mood of the final image.
Put something between the light source and the object you’re shooting to create a sense of place and purpose for the project. The shade of leaves or the lines cast by the shadow of a window pane can add volumes to the mood of the image, and direct the viewer to certain details of the product.
As you experiment with light painting product photography, however, don’t stop at just playing around with highlighting the product. Consider illuminating your background to evoke different emotions, such as mimicking a sunset with a warm, diffused light directed at the backdrop while leaving the product front and center but not highlighted.
3. Flatten things out.
Flay lays are when the photographer places products down on a flat surface and shoots from directly above, making the products look flatter and less 3-D, essentially “laying” them down. Flat lay product photography ideas work best for smaller items such as beauty products and stationary tools, or for promoting a lifestyle.
When considering the best layout for a flat lay product photo, consider creating symmetry within the image for a pleasing composition, building a self-repeating pattern of the same product to reinforce the idea of the photo, or introducing a bit of chaos into the picture to generate interest and movement.
4. Give high key and low key a try.
High key product photography is full of light and color. Images shot with this approach often feel airy and light, like a breezy summer afternoon. In most examples, the subject is over-lighted to reduce contrast and shadow.
In low key product photography, on the other hand, the image contains predominantly dark tones and colors, with striking contrasts between lighted areas and shadows that create a dramatic and mysterious mood. Dark-colored luxury items, such as high-end men’s watches, might work well with low-key photography.
During your next product photography session, give both approaches a shot to see which works best for that specific product.
5. Go minimal.
Less can mean more when it comes to powerful product photography. Have you seen images of products that only contain the product itself, minus any props, movement, or creative styling? Minimal product photography is a skill and style in itself.
By taking away anything that could distract the viewer from the product, and allowing only the product — or even just one feature of the product — to stand out in the image, a minimal product photo can speak volumes about the features of the product, the iconic nature of the brand, and more.
Experiment to see how much you can communicate through a single image with only the product in-frame.
6. Add reflections with a mirror.
Reflective surfaces bring product photography to a whole new level, making the final image look much more impressive and professional.
Mirror product photography helps to highlight special details, features, and textures of a product, drawing the viewer’s attention to why this specific product might be of value to them. Reflections also bring depth to the final product photo, making the product appear more three-dimensional and eye-catching.
If you don’t have a mirror on hand, a sheet of glass or acrylic can also do the trick.
7. Switch up your background.
A standard seamless white background is what you see on many eCommerce sites: but for the creative product photographer, that’s just the beginning.
Fabric backdrops, reflective metal trays, textured wood planks, and black sand are just some of the possible backgrounds waiting to be explored.
Be careful not to use distracting backgrounds that steal the viewer’s attention away from the product. Ensure that colors and textures complement the product and enhance its features, and you’re good to go!
8. Levitate it.
Gravity is a fact of life for all of us—that’s why it never gets old to see things levitate, defying gravity. Levitation product photography is a fun, attention-grabbing approach that can help create excitement and interest in the product for your viewers.
Levitating products is easier than you might think, thanks to—you guessed it—the fishing line.
Use a C-stand or a bar to hang the products, and make sure you have enough transparent fishing line to suspend your product(s). Position the product as you’d like by moving the stand. Then, simply remove the fishing line in post-production, and you’re good to go!
9. Experiment with your setup.
Used tastefully, props can add colors, textures, and other attention-arresting elements to your final image. Be strategic and sensible with any props; you want props to emphasize the product not distract the viewer’s attention away from the product.
Related props and a well-designed product photography setup should demonstrate one or two special features of the main product, and bring an exciting understanding of what the product is and what it can do for the viewer.
For a few product photography setup ideas, check out these combinations:
- Selling fruit-infused drinks? Consider adding fresh fruit slices and some berries to the product photo.
- If you’re shooting a pair of running shoes, a stopwatch and a water bottle can help highlight the product’s use.
- For beauty items, a makeup brush, hair comb, and other beauty tools can be excellent choices for meaningful product photography props.
10. Take it outside.
Studio setups offer more control to the photographer as far as lighting and positioning go. However, the outdoors can add a layer of meaning, purpose, and intention to the product that encourages interest and motivates action on behalf of the viewer.
For example, a glass of lemonade photographed indoors looks different than the same glass of lemonade placed on a patio table, with sunlight sparkling on the slice of lemon on the rim of the glass.
Try out these additional outdoor product photography ideas, and see if natural light and surroundings can bring that much-needed “pop” to your next project:
- Place your product among plants, using them as a compositional window for the product to draw the viewer’s attention
- Textures such as asphalt, concrete, and sand are perfect for footwear product photos.
- Consider the products intended use; hiking gear displayed on a trail or scenic overlook, or sunscreen artfully placed near a pool, lake, or ocean vista.
11. Make a splash.
Take a look at most product images, and you’ll soon notice that they’re mostly taken on dry ground. Why not experiment with water in your product photography?
Click the shutter just as a water bottle meets the surface of the water; capture the moment as a small jar of lotion begins to sink; catch the bubbles floating from a bottle of sparkling water as it lands among ice cubes.
Those are just a few ideas of how powerful and evocative underwater product photography can be—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
12. Work with natural light.
Natural light product photography requires patience and a bit of experience, but the results are often very much worth it.
Take advantage of the natural light during the sunrise, sunset, and “golden hour” moments to fill the frame with soft reds, yellows, and golds. Natural light is especially fitting for products that belong outdoors, such as shoes, hats, and camping supplies.
Natural shadows — the negative of light — can also help create eye-catching images. Pay attention to the way natural light falls onto the product you’re shooting, note the way the shadows cast by the sun (or moon!) highlights different aspects of the product, and take that shot with confidence.
13. Go with a white background.
Let’s go back to the basics. White background product photography is a standard, basic setup that every product photographer should be comfortable with shooting. Because of its neutrality, white goes well with just about any product color, style, or type. There’s no need to worry about mismatched colors and distracting backgrounds.
White doesn’t mean textureless, though. Be creative with seamless paper, tiles, painted plywood, fabric, and any other backdrop material that compliments the product subject.
14. Then with a black background.
Go bold and edgy with monochromatic images. For products that require a sleek, masculine, or elegant look, black background product photography may be a great way to go. High-end watches, jewelry, and even cars can be featured against a black background for maximum effect.
Keep in mind that tasteful and adequate lighting is key to shooting these images successfully. With some creativity and patience, well-placed highlights can help isolate the subject from the background, yet maintain that luxurious feel.
15. Change perspective and try new angles.
The angle from which a picture is taken can drastically affect the way the product is accepted and understood by the viewer.
For example, a cheeseburger taken from the top looks like a bun on a plate; taken from the side, it’s a delectable, mouth-watering dish with cheese melting over a perfectly seared burger.
Product photography angles matter. A slight shift in perspective can make a product look more enticing. Putting an average mug of iced coffee on a pedestal and taking the shot from a lower angle makes it look larger than life, something to reach for and enjoy.
Shoot your next product from several different angles, and compare the images to see how different perspectives change the look of the product.
Commercial product photography ideas by subject.
Beauty product photography ideas.
- Zoom in: Beauty products are small, but potential customers would want to know what the product looks like in real life. Capture the textures, details, and exact color shades of the product up close.
- Display the product in action: With the help of a model, product photos that show us how these beauty products are used and what effect they can offer, make for powerful commercial and artistic images.
- Craft a simple product arrangement: Instead of taking pictures of individual products, why not group similar or related products and strengthen the brand message with a single creative shot of multiple offerings?
Skincare product photography ideas.
- Model close-ups: Show viewers the glowing skin a person gets after using the product.
- Splash some water: Water isn’t that easy to photograph just right—but as a symbol of health, freshness, and cleanliness, the presence of water or water drops in your skincare product photo can be powerful. Use glycerin instead of water to create the effect of water droplets on a product.
- Put the product in context: For sunscreen, a shot with the product at the beach on a sunny day sends a provocative and meaningful message to the viewer. Consider the environment you’re shooting the product in, and use details to your advantage.
Cosmetic product photography ideas.
- Use product ingredients as props: Is the cosmetic product lemon-infused, or does it contain mint essential oil? Consider adding lemon slices or fresh mint leaves to add color and interest to the final image.
- Elevate the product: Shooting from slightly below the product makes it look more impressive, imposing, and interesting. Place cosmetic items on a block or lower your camera for this effect.
- Create the perfect smear: A smear or dab of the cosmetic product against a neutral or complimentary background demonstrates the color and texture of the product all at once.
Candle product photography ideas.
- Use a textured platform: Candle “coasters” like a naturally textured stone, a wood round, or a crocheted doily bring elegance to a candle photo when placed against a neutral background.
- Add a human element: Have a model hold a candle with both hands, or catch them about to blow out the candle. Bringing a person into the picture in a small way directly connects the viewer to the product.
- Capture the moment the candle is being lit: For this, you may need an assistant or remote shutter release. A picture of a candle being lit builds a strong association that makes the viewer want to do the same.
Food product photography ideas.
- Make sure ingredients are fresh: If you’re trying to find an angle that would hide that bruise on the tomato, or if you find yourself arranging and rearranging the lettuce to make sure you don’t capture any wilted parts, throw out the products and use the freshest subjects instead.
- Take advantage of negative space: Leave a blank space within the frame of your food photograph to add interest and balance to the image, and to also provide a spot for your client’s logo or advertising copy.
- Add a story to the dish: A plain loaf of bread by itself is boring. But cut a few slices, add a dab of softened butter, and a plate and butter knife (and maybe a cup of coffee?), and you’ve got yourself a delicious breakfast scene. This helps the viewer place themselves in that moment.
Product photography: Clothes photography ideas.
- Prepare the clothes: Don’t forget to check the clothes for lint, stains, unwanted creases and wrinkles, and other imperfections before taking the shot. Be prepared! Bring along a lint roller and a portable garment steamer so you can fix issues without any headaches on shoot day.
- Hire a model: This is the best way to showcase the outfit by bringing it to life and putting it into context. Stuffing the shirts and pants with tissue paper is your second-best choice for filling out clothes.
- Photograph clothes “in the air”: With a bit of fishing line and artistic vision, clothes can be made to seem hanging weightlessly in mid-air, waiting for the viewer to come along and slip into them.
Bag product photography ideas.
- Use context: Keeping the bag as the focus of the image, show us how the bag is best used, what outfits it pairs well with, and where we could take it.
- Bring out the texture: Is this particular handbag made of recycled denim or genuine leather? With the proper lighting and camera settings, you can highlight what makes this bag stand out from the rest.
- Stuff the bag first: To keep the empty purse or duffle bag from looking floppy and shapeless, fill it with some tissue paper or cotton before shooting.
Jewelry product photography ideas.
- Create a romantic mood: As mentioned, the use of bokeh and other soft lighting techniques can add a dreamy, wistful feel to jewelry images.
- Bring out the sparkle: With creative lighting for focused highlights, you can bring out the luminosity of the gold, silver, and/or precious stones.
- Be creative with props: Don’t stop at using jewelry boxes or a model. Try hanging earrings on a beautiful plant, or capture a pair of rings splashing into water together!
Baby or child product photography ideas.
- Capture entire outfits in a flat lay: When there’s no cute baby to dress up for the product photo, consider laying out an entire outfit against a single-color background, and photographing it from above.
- Make toys come alive: Add movement, color, and exciting lighting to bring life to stuffed animals, colorful teethers, and more.
- Take the picture in a nursery: The power of a real-life backdrop for baby items cannot be overestimated. Place the baby product in its natural environment, and let the composition of the product photograph reveal itself.
Shoe product photography ideas.
- Use a model: Photographing shoes on someone’s feet adds life and context to the final image, compared to a shot of shoes by themselves.
- Shoot a 360: A recent advancement in photography, 360 photos allow viewers to engage with the image, viewing the product from all angles.
- Focus on specific details: What’s the standout feature of the shoe — the innovative sole tread, the steel-reinforced toe, the particular type of fabric, or the unique color theme?