An important part of owning a small fashion business, especially one that’s primarily online, is having beautiful photos of your products. We were recently lucky enough to have a wonderful photographer named Hannah Gabrielle More take along one of our scarves on an incredible trip to Indonesia and Malaysia — creating the perfect opportunity for a product styling photoshoot how-to.
Hannah is a London-based photographer/filmmaker and winner of the Jury Award at the 'We The People's BFI Youth Day', and a passionate photographer since the age of six! With a Degree in Film Production, she helps to organise shoots for exciting global brands as a freelancer in commercial production and online content. This, combined with her experience directing short online content films for independent brands means she definitely knows a thing or two about product styling. Hannah has recently reignited her passion for photography, and finds value in slowing down and noticing all the little details around her, and capturing these in her work.
You can read more about Hannah here, but if you’ve got a small business and want a few tips from a very talented photographer, this is for you! We asked Hannah for five of her best pointers for styling your next photoshoot, and here are her fabulous answers:
Focus on the Product's Story
Once you know the product you’re shooting, think about the story it should tell through the photos. You’ll also want to take into account the product’s use and features such as colour and texture. These details will help to tell the product story. Ask questions like — is the product used for travel, is it used in the home, is it better suited for warm or cold climates? Establishing this before you even pick up your camera helps immensely when it comes to finding the right location and whittling down the props for your shoot.
When we arrived in Malaysia I wanted to be flexible with where I'd shoot the scarf, so kept my eyes peeled for shooting locations... I decided to shoot the scarf 15 floors up with a city backdrop to add a touch of luxury.
Establishing a Visual Theme
Film and theatre students could probably talk about mise-en-scène (setting a scene) for hours but I think it’s a really great thing to think about when taking product photos too. First, your location will help add depth to your photo and, as a rule of thumb, it’s often best to find somewhere that will complement the colour and use of your product. Second, when it comes to selecting your props they should feel like an extension of your focal product, as it will help to convey a stronger visual message.
I like to keep my styling simple and wanted to focus solely on the scarf, so I knew the location was vital. Sometimes, you have a location in mind and other times you need to scout for locations and constantly be taking in the details of your surroundings. Having visited the Gili Islands before, I knew I wanted to shoot the scarf on a particular stretch of beach, as many of the smaller boats harbour on this water, adding interest to the background of these photos.
Styling What’s in the Frame
Whether you’re a maximalist or minimalist style lover, styling really is trial and error, and requires a bit of product tweaking. Having decided on where I want to shoot my product, I normally lead my styling by deciding on my rough camera angle first before placing my product(s) in the frame, however, there’s no right or wrong way to do it. If you’re using more than one product, then choose one that will be your “focal product” and add layers and textures around that piece while also being mindful of your colour palette. If you’re only using one product, simply use your location to add interest to your image.
Your Lighting is as Important as your Styling
Light will give your styling life and movement! The type of light you use will change the tone of your photos and the mood you’re trying to convey. If you’re shooting inside, shoot as close to a window or open door as possible and flood your scene with natural light. The time of day you should shoot depends on the tone you want to set for your photos, but it’s widely accepted that the best light is at golden hour because the light is much softer. Early morning and early evening work well too, as the sun is low enough in the sky to provide a hazy glow and won’t be as harsh as the midday sun. Taking into account Lois Avery's beautiful and coherent brand aesthetic, I knew I wanted to shoot this series at golden hour to be in-keeping with the dreamy visuals.
Bonus Tip - If you’re shooting specifically at golden hour, make sure you have time beforehand to style and take all the shots you want before the sun disappears — it goes quick!
Keep Moving to Find the Perfect Composition
Henry Carroll puts this perfectly in his book, Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs — “Good photographers are contortionists. They’re the ones hunching, squatting and bending over backwards. They’re the ones constantly down on the ground and climbing on benches. Good photographers perform all manner of photography yoga to get the shot.” So, move with your camera, try different angles and have fun with it!
When you’ve found something that works, you’ll know!