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Striking Product Photography Trends to Try in 2021

By on September 22nd, 2020 Reading Time: 10 minutes

Satisfaction.

That’s what I feel when I see a quality product photo. I can stare at the image for minutes—admire the creativity and the overall vibe of the product.

And you know what? I’ll likely lose my heart to the product because it looked so cool. I’ll want to buy it. I’ll need it in my life. But why? What’s behind quality product photos that make us fall in love with the products in them? Let me tell you.

It’s a sprinkle of surprise, a dash of boldness, a pinch of authenticity, and a drizzle of aesthetics.

I’ve seen all of these elements in product photography trends. And I want to encourage you to learn more about what’s trending in retail photography. I’ll show you how to incorporate those latest trends in your product images (and make everyone fall in love with your products).

While it’s too soon to tell what trends will 2021 bring us, consider the below-mentioned product photography trends as projections for the retail industry.

1. Nightly vibes with neon signs

Neon signs were commonly found in the United States from the 1920s to 1960s. It seems the signs are getting more and more attention, making a statement in the nightly scenery yet again. Did you know neon signs were once nicknamed liquid fire because of the visual impact they left?

neon-night-scenery

There’s more to neon signs than the way they look. Neons give off a futuristic aura and a bit of nostalgia too. I’m a 90s baby but I’ve seen a couple of 80s movies that featured neon lights in arcades.

Consider night-time photography featuring neon lights as a way to portray cyberpunk, retro-futurism, or urban feels.

Product recommendations for night-time photography with neon signs

Night photography will need a strong focus on a light source (the neon sign). For the lights to bounce off and create that neon vibe, products with textures and reflective surfaces will work the best.

neon-signs-model-portait-product-photography-trends

Any type of apparel worn or accessorized by a model will have that textured, curved appearance and make the neon highlight the product’s fabric. As for the reflective products, anything from our custom engraved jewelry will do the trick!

Tips for product photography with neon sign accents

You can use your mobile phone to take the shots and tweak them in the editing process. However, night-time photography can be tricky to master and you’d need a capable camera to get the sharpest and most colorful results.

The scene

  • Do your research to find where neon signs are in your area and if they’d work for your photoshoot. An alternative is to order a custom neon sign or make one yourself and then create the scene indoors or outdoors.
  • Consider incorporating reflective surfaces in your shots. That can be anything from your models wearing glasses to going out to take the shots outdoors after the rain. Neon lights look wonderful when reflected.
neon-signs-city-collage

Camera settings (photography slang ahead!)

  • Get a tripod or find a surface to place your camera to minimize blurry shots.
  • To get the most light into your photograph, configure your camera aperture settings to the lowest f-number.
  • Set ISO to high. The higher your ISO, the brighter your lights will look. Make sure to test which ISO setting works best for your camera, some camera models can produce grainy photos in high ISO ranges.

Experiment to see which camera settings do wonders for your ecommerce photography.

Read more about shooting with neon signs.

2. Modernism and geometry

Geometry and product photography is a match made in heaven, and we’re here for it.

This product photography trend features sleek lines, simplicity, and composition to give off a mid-century modern, futuristic vibe. You may have noticed—mid-century modern has been all the rage in home decor and interior design for a while now. It’s a matter of time the design movement transfers to photography as well.

Mid-century modern is an American design movement in interior, product, graphic design, and architecture. The design movement was popular from 1945 to 1969. Its aesthetic is characterized by clean, simple lines, and a lack of decorative embellishments.

mid-century-modern-interior

When it comes to product photography, the key elements to execute modernism and geometry in your images are:

  • lack of decoration
  • focus on plain elements with clean lines
  • props that don’t add clutter
  • room for negative space

Let’s talk colors. Don’t just focus on the autumn-inspired color palette that’s usually associated with mid-century modern. I encourage you to explore the color wheel and choose whichever tones match your brand.

geometry-ecommerce-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers MAKI Studio and Marc Tran, Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photo.

Just imagine—contrasting colors, interesting figures, and then there’s your product, shining on top of everything. Delicious.

Product recommendations for modernism photography

The best products for mid-century photography are custom home and living products, like mugs, custom accessories, like phone cases, and grooming and beauty products, like perfumes. Any type of product with a clean, texture-free surface will look great among a geometrical background.

You can try shooting apparel in a modernism-inspired setting, but it’s difficult to create a large enough backdrop and props to compliment the product. The apparel’s textured surface also won’t contribute to the sleek porcelain-y vibes captured in modernism images.

geometry-memphis-product-photography
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers. From left: beller.pl and Maciek Miloch; SHUADAM Nufang, Hyungwon Kim, Studio hou, and Studio dosi; MAKI Studio and Marc Tran, Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photos.

Tips for modernism product photography with geometrical accents

Geometric shapes are your friends, they will add depth and perspective to your photography. Another characteristic of modernism photography is light and lots of it.

The composition

  • You can use paper or foam to shape and create the figures you’ll use in your shots. If you don’t consider yourself crafty, find an object at your home that could work in photography.
  • To appeal to customers who consider themselves quirky, use a variety of figures in different shapes and colors. Your product photos will end up looking fun and unusual.
  • To address customers who look for luxury and higher-end products, use figures similar in shapes and colors. Your photos will portray a premium feel for the product.
  • Use a couple of figures for stacking and place your product on top. This will give the notion that the product is a gift (or just won a medal).
07-geometry-inspired-retail-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers Tanel Veenre Jewellery and Holger Kilumets. Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photo.

Finally, take a look at the product photos before you publish them. See if you need to disclose what’s for sale and what’s not. Buyers have to be crystal-clear about what’s included in the price.

Read more about creating the perfect composition for your geometry-inspired photography.

3. Natural models with attitude

So what does natural really mean when it comes to a person’s appearance? What I see is a lack of face-tuning—less skin texture smoothing, more God-given beauty embracing.

Visual misinformation that starts with a couple of Photoshop’s color enhancements is such an issue that global brands like Instagram take their stand. They started reviewing and labeling false visual information in 2019 to minimize the post’s visibility in the Explore and hashtag pages, as well as Feed and Stories.

natural-models-authentic-product-photography

In general, people rather see a more natural look of a person. Just to be clear, with natural, I don’t necessarily mean the no-makeup look. 2021 will be the year of acceptance—makeup, tattoos, piercings—as long as you’re true to yourself, people will relate to you and the product that’s advertised.

Product recommendations for model photoshoots

Photographs featuring models are the best to showcase clothing and apparel accessories. The model will likely get the most attention in the photo, so might as well place your products as close to the model as possible.

Think custom t-shirts, sportswear, embroidered hats, basically anything that can be worn by a model.

I suggest avoiding models in photoshoots where you feature products that won’t be frequently touched by a person. Imagine a photo of an excited person holding a canvas. Will that look natural or forced? The product photos should imitate the actual life with the product, i.e. canvas placed on a wall.

Tips for posing and finding the right models for your product photography

First and foremost—define your target audience. Who buys your products?

Find models that look the closest to your target audience. Your customers will notice themselves in your product photography and, seeing how the products fit on models, they might want the products for themselves.

authentic-models-product-photography-trends

Go for authentic feels and emotions for your models. If your models pose in a gym, they might be sweaty, breathe with their mouth open, and feel empowered. Go for that look.

Steer clear of anything that looks unnatural, like an over-the-top smile on a model wearing a hoodie on the streets. How many people like that have you really seen?

Choose a backdrop or location where your target audience would use the product, and place your model there. If you’re selling loungewear, then organize your photoshoot in a home setting. Selling custom enamel mugs for camping? Go for a forest scenery with a couple drinking their morning coffee from your awesomely designed camper mugs.

Read more about preparing for photoshoots with models.

4. Bold, monochromatic colors

Monochromatic is used to describe having a single color. With monochrome photography, the entire image consists of a single color that’s represented in different shades.

Monochrome photography is most often used for artistic and aesthetic purposes. The photography will be effective when it comes to marketing expensive products as they’ll look fancier in a single color setting.

monochrome-retail-photography

So how is monochromatic images an upcoming product photography trend? They tie in perfectly with the ongoing satisfying content boom. People like color-coordinated content, it’s pleasing to the eye. And if a product looks pleasing, one might want to get it for themselves!

Product recommendations for monochrome photography

Any product will fit in a monochrome setting. You just have to find a background color, props, and models that match your product.

Tips for shooting monochrome product photography

My number one piece of advice for you is to go over our guide on color psychology for ecommerce. Choose your monochromatic colors considering the emotions they evoke. For example, if the product or the target audience you’re appealing to is fun and bubbly, go for yellow as it’s considered the color of the sun, openness, and activity.

monochromatic-product-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers. From left: Asa Onze Studio, Cosmonauta Inc. Still Life; Jawad Waheed, Suleman and Beautify by Amna; Maciek Miloch, Natalia Mleczak, and Zalando. Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photos.

Curate your photoshoot’s setting by adding contrasting elements. But be careful. Contrasts are so powerful that they may end up sucking all the focus to themselves (greedy, right?).

Here’s where you can be smart and make your product the contrasting element. You could highlight a tan hoodie on a turquoise dominant backdrop. Take a look at these contrasting color palettes that you can use in your photoshoots too.

Read more about product photography in a monochrome setting.

5. Natural lighting with an authentic feel

Bright and natural lighting has always been a mainstay in photography. But then… how is natural lighting with an authentic feel different?

The difference is in the studio where the photos are taken. Nowadays, photographers explore still life photography outside of the perfect studio setup. It’s a bit more challenging to find the right lighting, but when that’s done… Oh, look at the results!

natural-lighting-nude-ecommerce-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers. All three photographs taken by BetterThings Studio and Berkant Demirbek. Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photos.

The product photos still come out studio-perfect but there’s a certain quality about them. They feel authentic and, dare I say—a little intimate too. The photography also features this hearty dance of shadows that adds elegance to the featured products.

Product recommendations for product photography with natural lighting

As you see from the photography collage above—glass looks precious when photographed in natural lighting. The lights and shadows complement the glass surface so well that it looks luxurious.

To get the most out of photography with natural lighting, I recommend featuring products with reflective or see-through surfaces like sunglasses, jewelry, acrylic containers, etc. Custom framed posters could also look quaint in a well-lit room setting.

natural-light-retail-photography

You can feature apparel products too, but it may be more difficult to keep the focus on light and shadow play to create that authentic lighting vibe.

Tips for shooting product photography in natural lighting

I’ll let you in on a secret—most of the photography with natural lighting is still done in the studio. That’s right, you won’t have to look for the brightest room in your town. You too can fake it till you make it.

The right lighting

Even if you plan to cheat and bring in studio lights, I strongly suggest setting up your photoshoot space near a window (and making sure it won’t be overly cloudy on the day you shoot). The window’s natural light will have a single direction which will create natural shadows on your product and bring it to life.

Be cautious of full direct sunlight, it may cast dark shadows on your product. To soften your shadows but keep the light strong, use a thin sheet of white tissue paper, day curtains, or anything that can diffuse the light.

If you’re shooting a small product, get a light-colored backdrop to reflect the natural light onto the product. You’ll then get an evenly lit photo.

natural-light-product-photography-trends

Shooting on mobile

  • Don’t zoom in on your products with the camera. It significantly reduces the quality of the image. Instead, bring the camera closer to the product.
  • Use the back camera of your phone. It’ll get you crisper shots than the selfie camera on the front of your phone.
  • Avoid using flash. You risk casting so much light that your photo could end up looking too white and without any shadows.

Camera settings (photography slang ahead!)

  • Get a tripod or an object that will hold your camera. Your product photos will look crisper because the tripod will replace a shaky hand that results in blurry shots.
  • To keep the most detail of your product in focus, configure your camera aperture settings to the highest f-number (between f/8 and f/14).
  • Since you’re shooting in a well-lit room, you won’t need to set your ISO high. If you’re in a bright room, try setting the ISO between 300–500. I encourage you to test the ISO settings and see which result in good lighting and image quality.

Read more about ecommerce photography in natural lighting.

6. Levitating objects and movement

Say goodbye to gravity as you dive into the depths of seamlessly levitating products. Levitation and movement have been a hot trend since I can remember.

What’s different now is the overall feel the photographs portray. Do you also see Alice in Wonderland vibes happening? Magical, mystical, and just odd enough to keep your focus on the photo and the products in it.

levitating-pans-movement-product-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands and their product photographers Jordano Studio, Jordano Studio LLC. Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photo.

Product recommendations for movement-focused product photography

You’ll have an easier time shooting small products in your movement-focused photos. Any type of accessory, beauty product, wall art, jewelry, or gadget will be easy to manipulate for it to look like floating in the air.

Clothing will work too and end up looking bewitching in the final product shots. Just know that it may be more difficult to set up your clothing so it looks like levitating.

Tips for quality photography with levitating products

There are two ways you can go to produce levitation photography. You can make the objects float with props. Or you can do some editing magic by overlaying the photo of your levitating product onto the same photo that has an empty background.

Props

  • A tripod or a similar object to balance your camera on is a must.
  • Use cords or strings to make objects float in the air. Extra fine fishing line works too. After you take the photos, edit to remove the strings.
  • If you have a trampoline laying around, you can use it to bounce off your products. Another method is dropping the product on a cushiony surface, capturing it in motion. Just configure your camera so it can take photographs of moving objects.
levitating-objects-product-photography-trends
All rights reserved to the respective brands, studios, and their product photographers. From left: Renee周雨佳, Brenda方然, Henry何飞, and RED Studio 小红书官方摄影工作室; Barb Landro; Miansai, Michael Romero, and Studio Ingrid Picanyol. Full list of photography contributors displayed on the photos.

Read more about levitation photography with models.

Over to you

When you looked at the photos—did you feel the satisfaction I mentioned at the beginning of this article? Which photograph made your knees go weak? The neon light inspired collage took my heart away.

With all this photography insight at your fingertips, I encourage you to choose the trend that matches your target audience the closest. And then it’s just the matter of ordering sample products, deciding on the concept, color schemes, planning your photoshoot, etc.

But what I wish you the most, is to have fun. That’s right—have fun!

Now lay out your plan for product photography and work your way to seduce your customers with dreamy product photos.

Una specializes in third-party logistics and knows Printful's Warehousing & Fulfillment services from A to Z. She enjoys digging deep into marketing psychology, developing her creative writing skills, and fluffy corgi butts.

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