How we use colour in Product Photography
Lights, Camera, Colour!
The use of colour in product photography can have a huge impact on the overall success of the images we produce. We love to use colour to complement and add vibrancy and visual interest; all within brand guidelines, of course!
When prepping for a product photography shoot we’re normally caught up with sourcing props, schedules and shot lists in the first instance. The organisation of the shoot can sometimes outweigh the creative structure which really should be the most significant part, so we have to be careful not to forget about the creative amongst the planning!
When shooting products it’s equally as important to consider what’s in the background of the frame as much as what is in the front. Colour, as well as texture, are perhaps the most important elements of a background because the right combination will help to present the product in its best light.
Our first indication that colour is going to be important for a shoot comes when we see the product we’re going to be shooting. If we see brightly coloured packaging or vibrant foods we immediately start thinking of what colours may complement them. We use a bit of colour theory initially – which tells us that some colours are proven to work better together. As humans we’re also susceptible to an inherent meaning or feeling that certain colours generate. Oranges and yellows tend to be positive and energetic and greens and blues are very fresh and outdoorsy. Colours can also be linked to everyday actions in certain industries. Just look at ‘sale’ signage in the shops – they’re almost always red, aren’t they?
In other instances, we’re fans of using neutral backgrounds to force the foreground product colours to ‘pop’ – this can be incredibly effective.
Sometimes inspiration can come from the brand colours a client may have but other times it is completely up to us what colours we use to highlight what’s in frame, and sometimes it’s a mixture of both. Knowing you can be brave and break the rules sometimes also helps 🙂
We have loads of great examples of how we’ve used colour, but most recently our shoot with tea company OFFBLAK gives us a great example of how colour matching helps to reinforce brand and product colours. OFFBLAK wanted imagery produced for their website and social media platforms to be based around their product collections.
Looking at OFFBLAK’s products we were immediately struck by the design of their boxes. Quirky illustrations and bold lettering were set to rectangular boxes of yellow, purple and green pastel shades – one colour for each collection of teas. They were very interesting and distinctive. We had to be careful not to drown out the on-pack designs, which meant that simplicity was going to help here.
So we knew from the outset that we wanted to incorporate their product brand colours as backgrounds in the shoot, but they also had variety boxes of tea that featured a few different collections, so we had to work together to decide which colours would work best for consistency.
Additionally, they also wanted to shoot some of the teas with a Chinese New Year theme, so we then had to think of what colours would best represent that. Once we knew what colours we were going to need for this product shoot it was time to go source the backgrounds.
Sourcing backgrounds can be a breeze depending on what colours you are looking for. Primary colours are easily found but as each of our clients have unique brand colours or requirements it can become a challenge.
Our regular haunts for sourcing coloured backgrounds are Paperchase, Cass Art, Cowling and Wilcox and Hobby Craft, and nine times out of ten we end up going to all four on a single day to find the exact shades and sizes we’re after. The size of the background we use for product photography can vary but in general we look to get A1 sized card as this works for most products we work with. We’re mindful of the card weight as well, as some are too thin which crease easily and are thin enough to let light through – which then impacts the tone of colour that reaches the final captured image.
We also tend to buy duplicates when preparing for product shoots as it doesn’t take much to damage a background, particularly if we’re working with food or ingredients, as it can get very messy! You should see how many we’ve ruined with turmeric in this past year! 🙂
There’s a strange satisfaction in searching all day for a particular colour tone and finding it just when you lose all hope, dampened only by the realisation you now have to carefully carry several pieces of A1 card home, battling crowds of Londoners and public transport; not very enjoyable!
After the backgrounds are sourced, and all other prep is complete, it’s time to shoot. On the day of the shoot coloured backgrounds are handled VERY carefully, as one crinkle or tear can be disastrous. Even though we have backups we want to ensure we’re doing everything we can to avoid damaging them. But once the backgrounds are in place and the camera is set, we’re ready to go.
We always allow plenty of room for adjustment. We’ve always said that planning is important, but so is the ability to be okay with deviating from that plan if another option looks better or what was predicted on paper doesn’t look as good in reality. Of course it’s not just the products and colour that work together to give us the best results; we also need the correct lighting to bring everything to life.
As soon as we have the shots after the shoot day, we get to work on the images in post, where tweaking the overall exposure and white balance for accuracy gives us clear and bright results. Adding contrast usually has the effect of deepening colours, and unless we really need to, we avoid adding additional saturation so that results don’t look unrealistic.
We were very happy with the results we got from shooting with OFFBLAK. Ultimately, the success of this shoot was pre-defined by the decision to match backgrounds and product colours, so this is a really simple example. You’ll find other examples in our portfolio that demonstrate other ways that we’ve used colour for previous clients and the effects that they have.
This task was specifically to capture product photography for Instagram and social media, and you can see the results on OFFBLAK’s website and other social media channels.