Isolation – Product or Catalogue Photography?

A very common thing to see these days is a product completely isolated on a white background without shadow or any other discerning element in the picture. Many want their products displayed in this way for a plethora of different reasons. Some of these reasons are relevant while others are totally out of context.

I once worked with another photographer doing a swimsuit catalogue for a client. One can only assume from the previous statement that would mean exotic locations, beautiful beaches, and stunning models. Nothing could have been further from the truth! We shot about 90 swimsuits using two models in just a few hours in total isolation. The camera was in a fixed position, the models had a fixed spot, and the pose was the exact same for every shot. One of the most boring photo shoots I have ever done!

Why did the client want it done this way? The catalogue was for wholesale buyers. These buyers are experts at predicting (or creating) future trends and they do not want anything taking away from the context of the swimsuit itself when they are making buying decisions. In fact it is a requirement to show product in isolation when selling to these buyers. They will not respond to typical advertisements.

Once they make a buying decision, they will come up with their own supporting context that will connect with the customer on an emotional level and supercharge sales. They will come up with something a lot more exciting than what they want to see when they are buying.

When we choose to shoot a product in isolation, we choose to limit our context to the attributes of the product itself. Granted, when we are selling commodity type items were the winner is typically the one willing to take the lowest margin, this is all we need to do.

But if you have a unique product, relatively low competition, and the need for an emotional response on the consumers part to make the sales than you have to go for a different approach to your product photography to get every possible sales. In this situation, if you are showing your product in isolation, you are leaving money out there that could have been yours.

Conceptualizing a supporting context to support your product is a challenging task to say the least. Start by defining the essence of your product which should develop into some very creative visualization. Once you have a solid concept in mind, than start working with a product photographer to bring that idea to life.

One last thing, as a general rule, if you want a background of an exotic location using stock photography is just fine and understandable. If your concept requires a model, do everything you can to come up with original content.

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