How to Choose the Right Style for Your Product Photography

bar cocktail product photography

Do you need a catalog shot or a hero shot? Selling products online can be trickier than many small business owners realize. Marketing your products starts with professional photography that draws in new customers and makes them want to learn more about your brand. It’s important that you and your photographer make detailed decisions about what type of product photos will show off your products in their best light. 

The Catalogue Shot

catalog shot product photography of a watch

The catalogue shot contains no people — just your product! This is most often done on a clean white background, allowing for catalog or web page “knockouts” to remove the background. This makes it easy to insert in a catalog or web page, often with text on or around it.

Why choose the catalogue shot:

  • Shows your product off in a more minimalist light. In some cases, this type of shot can draw attention to the product. If the product is small or slightly uninteresting to look at, a model or an environmental background might become a distraction.
  • Leaves everything to the user’s imagination. With no models or background in the shot, the customer will be able to imagine the product in their own home, being used by them.
  • To give your product photography a clean, clear look. Some modern brands choose to forgo the model or background. This makes their product photos really pop.

The Hero Shot 

Hero shot of a model showcasing custom jewelry
Lifestyle photography for custom jewelry advertising

The so-called “hero shot” usually consists of your product being used by a model, or being presented in a stylized manner. This means showing the product in an appropriate environment, such as a lipstick on a vanity or a tool on a workbench. Lighting is usually much more complex, and customized to highlight the key features of the product.

Why chose the hero shot:

  • Shows how your product is used. If your product does something it can help to show it in action. For example, a razor, an electric fan, a hair dryer, etc.
  • Can show customers what they could be if they bought your product. Makeup, skincare, and clothing photography often includes models. This shows customers what they could look like if they chose this product.
  • This type of photo tends to look much more interesting!

When to use the hero shot? If your product comes to life when it’s in use, show it off by including a model in your photo or by using customized lighting to highlight its features.

When you have a variety of images from which to choose, you can also do some audience testing to see which image(s) will appeal best to your audience. Check out a service like PicFu, who has created a thorough article about how to test product photos so you know what will sell.

See examples of how Morton Visuals’ product photography highlights products in our commercial photography portfolio.

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William Morton Owner
William Morton has been a professional photographer since 1991. Now focused on corporate photography, William travels the country providing commercial, corporate, and event photography services.

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