Recently a client asked me a truly excellent question:
What makes product photography timeless?
Here’s a little on how this question came up, maybe it will sound familiar to you, this brand was looking to spend considerable time and effort on a gallery of evergreen images showcasing their products – artisanal handbags. They hoped to create a series of images that would:
- Appeal to a large audience
- Not look dated in only a few months
- By creating a number of options – they would only need to occasionally add one or two trendy images a season if they’d like to appeal to niche or seasonal buyers. This significantly reduces the burden of time and cost for producing original imagery.
- Create images that consumers can and will want to share across media platforms (print and digital)
So let’s walk through a few tips to help make your photos timeless:
- Avoid Bright and Bold Colors. The world is fickle when it comes to color, they love bright blues, teals and pinks in summer and deep reds, aubergine, and orange in fall. To have photos that transcend seasons and fads, stick to neutrals for any wearables that aren’t your product (clothes, accessories, etc).
For our purposes neutrals include: Black, Grey, White, Brown, Forest Green, Navy, Red, Denim, Khaki, Leather
- Keep Clothes Simple. If you’re not in the clothing business – then you’re going to want to stick to flattering, tailored clothes in neutral colors. Avoid dating your photos by sticking to full-sleeve, short-sleeve or tank top attire. Dresses and skirts should stick to common hemlines – tea length, knee-length, full-length. For a casual look, you can’t beat a pair of straight-leg jeans.
- Patterns (with a few exceptions) are a no go. Seriously – that cat patterned blouse you think is adorable and quirky now? Yeah that likely won’t have the same appeal 3 years from now. You may still like it but it will be even quirkier as it’s popularity fades. Patterns, like alcohol usually become stronger over time. If you must have a pattern stick to the staples Plaids, Pinstripes (use sparingly) and a small polka dot.
- Natural Looking Make-up is a Must. Makeup trends come and go like wildfire and it can be hard to separate fads from the real thing. Natural looking makeup that makes the subject look great is the perfect workaround for this. A pink or red lip, subtle eyeshadow and long black lashes are all solid standbys.
- Timeless isn’t boring – introduce the unexpected. A surprising photo backdrop or small stylistic touch can make a photo stand out. For the most timeless approach, keep your interesting details in the background, literally. Have models stand in front of an unexpected or unique place. You can also introduce other pops of surprise – a tiny teddy bear in a pocket, brightly colored flowers held behind someone’s back, a beautifully wrapped gift in someone’s bag. These small bits of sizzle should be used sparingly unless they’re a motif, and keep in mind that as you introduce more pattern and color you run the risk of reducing your timelessness.