Perfect product photography is critical for small businesses. Review the latest trends for brand photography to see what’s working right now.
“My advice for marketing your small business in 2023 is don’t be afraid to get weird,” the photographer Liz Clayman, whose commercial clients include the Ritz-Carlton, the Waldorf Astoria, and The New York Times, tells us.
“The static top-down feast shots, the brightly manicured hand holding an ice cream cone . . . we’ve seen it all on repeat now for long enough. When considering new photography and marketing ideas, try thinking of different, unexpected ways to tell the same story. Give yourself (or your photographer) plenty of time to riff and play around when you’re shooting.”
From Pantone’s Color of the Year (a lively magenta), to creative styling and compositions, 2023 is all about letting your individuality shine. When marketing small businesses, that means focusing on what makes your brand unique and special.
With help from some leading commercial photographers, we put together this guide. Browse through its inspiring trends, which you can tap into when brainstorming photography marketing ideas for your business.
Photography for Small Businesses: Product Photography Trends to Watch
White background product photography will always have its place, but today’s brands are branching out and thinking outside the box. “My favorite trend in commercial photography right now (especially product photography) is shooting on colored backgrounds,” the New York-based photographer James Ransom tells us.
“The color palettes that are popular right now are also inspiring—pinks, browns, and beige are really hot right now. There’s something about a colorful background that feels aspirational. I see this trend a lot on Instagram, where the visual competition is fierce and products need to stand out quickly to catch the viewer’s attention.”
License these images via Addictive Creative, Makistock – Offset, Addictive Creative, Anna Ok, and Addictive Creative.
While the last few years have been dominated by super clean, minimalist branding, we’re also seeing a push toward bolder (and perhaps more optimistic) colors, textures, and shapes. So feel free to have fun with your styling. Incorporate inspiring props, such as lush florals, fun prints, or decadent surfaces.
License these images via Leigh Beisch, Master1305, 52Ps.Studio, Carla s. Graff, Carmen Mitrotta, Michiel Spijkers, and Thomas Liggett Images.
“Authenticity, artfulness, and realism are all trending,” the San Francisco-based photographer Leigh Beisch says. “The photo styles range quite a bit, but the really captivating imagery incorporates true artistic vision.
“From bold colorful imagery with artificial lighting, to natural lighting, the images showcase a level of playfulness and individual and collective creativity and vision. Being able to shoot images with a fair amount of creative freedom has been key.”
Include Realistic People
After years of seeing heavily retouched models in commercial photography, consumers are pushing back. Brands have listened. So far, SPKTRM Beauty, Dove, CVS, and Olay have all taken steps toward being more transparent and using un-retouched beauty photos. When gathering business image examples for inspiration, consider those that feature natural skin. Don’t shy away from acne, freckles, facial hair, wrinkles, and blemishes. They are all part of what makes us uniquely beautiful.
License these images via Cavan Images – Offset, Cavan Images – Offset, Maskot Images, Paradoxe on Offset, Addictive Creative, and Addictive Creative.
“I predominately shoot luxury hospitality. During the past year, I have been thrilled to hear my clients asking for images that feel relaxed, inviting, and ‘real,’” the California-based photographer James Baigrie explains. “They are looking for gorgeous images that look like they are lit with natural, directional light.”
That’s not to say that you’re limited to natural light alone. Soft, diffused artificial light will create a similar effect. “Even though I use strobes to enhance my lighting, I always try to imbue my lighting with a natural quality,” Baigrie continues. “If you are shooting your own images, make sure the light has a sense of direction. Use a silk to soften the light if necessary. Avoid excessive front light, and try to use side or backlight.”
License these images via Floral Deco, James Baigrie, and Addictive Creative.
Even as natural light continues to trend in lifestyle and still-life photography, we’re also seeing a push in the opposite direction—particularly in product photography—toward more in-your-face, contrasty light and crisp shadows. LED lights without diffusion are perfect for this style.
“I’ve definitely seen a technical trend in the way imagery is lit,” the London-based photographer Timothy Atkins tells us. “It started in the US first, with harder light, brighter colors, and lenses that make highlights sparkle.”
License these images via Timothy Atkins and Timothy Atkins.
While commercial photography is about selling a product, editorial photography is more about telling a story. “I’ve noticed in the last few years that brands and agencies are asking for an editorial approach, even when it comes to commercial and branded work,” Laura La Monaca, a photographer based in Hawaii and Italy, explains.
“I think we can translate this concept into a candid way of shooting a campaign, focusing on the story we are trying to tell more than the product itself. Photos with a soul.”
Depending on your product and style, that could mean:
- including candid moments with models
- including some behind-the-scenes images that capture how your product is made
- just showing a hand reaching into the frame
How Do I Take My Own Product Pictures?
Before the Shoot: Create a Mood Board
A mood board is essentially a collection of images, designs, and inspirational photos that demonstrate the look and feel you want to achieve with your photoshoot. It usually includes your color palette, the lighting style, and the overall vibe (for example, light and airy versus dark and moody).
Regardless of whether you’re taking your own product pictures, hiring a photographer, or licensing photos for commercial use, you want to start with a mood board. “Create a thoughtful mood board or deck before you begin shooting,” Liz Clayman suggests. “Setting yourself up for a cohesive brand aesthetic means identifying color palettes, lighting style, and overall tone in advance—not leaving it to chance as much as you are able.”
License these images via Liz Clayman, Liz Clayman, Bondar Pavel, Mark Weinberg, Roxana Bashyrova, and The Picture Pantry.
After the Shoot: Refine in Post-Production
“Editing is an important part of the process,” the New York-based advertising photographer Mark Weinberg explains. “It often is what separates good images from great ones. People can spot mediocre Photoshop work, so this is an area not to skimp. Small business owners frequently ask about the retouching costs and if they can be sent the unedited RAW images, but I always advise against that as the images or video may not look like it should.”
Whether you’re hiring a pro photographer for retouching or DIYing it in Shutterstock Create, a few thoughtful tweaks to consider include:
- adjusting the white balance for perfect colors
- bringing out the highlights and shadows
- boosting the contrast just a bit
Use a light touch, as a little goes a long way.
Where Can I Get Photos for Commercial Use?
All the photographers interviewed for this article are Offset Artists, meaning highlights from their portfolios are available for licensing on Shutterstock. You can also browse the entire Shutterstock library for business image examples that are perfectly tailored to your brand aesthetic.
Whether you’re shooting your photography marketing ideas at a home studio, hiring a pro, or licensing high-quality images, one thing to consider when marketing your small business is visual consistency. Often, what separates a memorable brand from a forgettable one is having a signature style.
“Brainstorm ideas for what your visual style will be (keeping your core values in mind) and then create, or license, content that is consistent with that style,” James Ransom suggests. “Over time, your customers will begin to recognize your brand right away, just from the photo itself.”
Looking for more business image examples, product photography trends, and photography marketing ideas? Check out this article next.
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License this cover image via SeventyFour.