I am three years into owning Opal and June + three years into product photos, too!
Product and catalog photography is something that never really interested me prior to owning Opal and June and, honestly, it’s something I still struggle with. If you shoot products and feel like you’re in a bit of a creative rut, this one’s for you!
I love to shoot on my feet. Like, lots of different posing and light and environments.
My favorite location is any location I’ve never shot in before (heck, even anywhere I’ve never stepped foot in before!) and, the more unique an idea is, the more I am in! Gimme all the weird light and unexpected locations and colorful texture and I am one happy photographer. So! When I started shooting product photographs for Opal and June, I burned out pretty fast. How many times could I shoot the same setup, no matter how amazing the models + clothes were? It just felt a bit like spinning circles to me and my shoots began to feel a bit monotonous.
Three years in, though, I have a few tricks to keep my product shoots fresh.
First! I no longer just shoot on paper backdrops. The backdrops I use don’t have to be new – the backdrop in these photographs is one of my favorites but I believe I got it way back in 2014. I’ve shot this backdrop in my office before with a floral install but, for this shoot, I set my backdrop up in my living room. Rather than the front, rather bold, light I’d find in my office, my living room gave me diffused side light. Little lighting chances like this can make a hue difference in a final image.
For example, when I had my model (Savannah!) face the window, the lighting was totally different than when I had her face away from the window. Check out these pink dress photographs to see what I mean! The light from the window filters beautifully down the left side of the photograph. If I were shooting this for myself, I would have made the right side darker and the left side lighter but, since these are product photographs, I lightened the right side for a softer effect. Even so, you can see here that the right side of the frame is darker than the left. Have a hard time seeing this? Look where Savannah’s dress meets the backdrop toward the bottom of the photographs.
See the shading on the curtain? You’ve got it!
Second! I do more styling than I did at the start of Opal and June.
When Lauren and I started Opal and June, we decided to do no jewelry and no shoes in any of our photos. Our thought process behind this was pretty simple: we were shooting the rental item; not the styling. More specifically, we didn’t want someone to not rent a dress because they didn’t like the styling in the product photographs. Now, though, I’m not as worried about that. We still don’t do heavy styling but now I chat with our models and we pick jewelry + shoes + headpieces together. It’s way more fun this way! When we first started shooting products, we’d sometimes have four models and three photographers shooting at one time; nowadays I shoot all my product photographs one on one. It’s for sure a different experience and I think that shooting one on one gives me more time for fun posing + a little extra time on each outfit.
Third! I change where I shoot. For a long time, I only shot product photographs in my garage. I still shoot most of our product photographs in the garage but, because the light is so easy (lol) and the backdrops don’t move, I can burn out shooting this way. When that happens, I bring my studio inside! Typically I’ll move to my office but every once in a while I use the living room instead! This has been so great – I love shooting in different lighting scenarios and doing so keeps my photographs fresh + my creative ideas flowing.
Little Note: Because my goal is to put all of these photographs up on my website, I do need them to be cohesive. This is why my edits are sometimes different for Opal and June than my normal work. Where I’d embrace crazy light in my personal work, I tend to flatten it out in my Opal and June photographs. Even with this, changing my light scenarios helps me creatively. The shooting is different and the edits are different, even if I end up with photographs that flow seamlessly with photographs taken in static light.
And last! I literally started a cut flower garden because it was so expensive to buy flowers for every product shoot. Like, I honestly think the garden is cheaper at this point. I love gardening way more than I thought I would but, on top of that, it’s really fun and relaxing to pick out flowers and create bouquets before my product shoots. It’s a time for me to think about what I’m about to create, a time for me to decide on the vibe I want, and it’s something I can send home with my models as a little thank you gift. 10/10 would recommend!
Of course, these shoots would be nothing if I didn’t have amazing models!
I’ve been able to connect with so many amazing models over the past few years and I’m just so impressed with them. Switching out of outfits like this is hard. A lot of the dresses have complicated backs and there is a lot of pinning and tugging. Like, it can sometimes take upwards of twenty minutes for a dress to lay right. And after the twenty minutes? We might shoot for five!
This process takes so much patience on the model’s end! And Savannah? She slayed this shoot! Her favorite dress was the mint floral one. Mine’s the pink but I’m also obsessed with the mint floral one and the pink striped blazer dress. Here’s some fun photographs of my latest product shoot with model Savanna Shay! And remember! If you’re a photographer feeling creatively stuck at a shoot, the easiest thing to do is this: change. the. light. These photographs would feel totally different if they were shot in a different spot. That’s amazing!
And now! The photographs!! Savanna, you are a STUNNER. And those backyard bouquets? Not to shabby, either.
Based in Fayetteville, Lissa Chandler is a traveling portrait and wedding photographer who shoots all over the US. Lissa is also the owner of Opal and June and the creator + instructor of The Hue of You, an online (and rad!) four week editing course offered through Click Photo School.