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Cinematography Techniques: A Complete Guide to Product Shots

In our latest cinematography guide, we take a look at how to light, shoot, and design your next product photo or video shoot.

Some of the most challenging-yet-lucrative work a videographer or filmmaker can get is shooting products. It involves taking pictures and capturing video of different products, usually for corporate clients or small businesses. These types of shoots are simple by nature, but in order to blow your clients away and give them professional-quality videos, you have to know what you’re doing. With a few lighting tricks, some compositional awareness, and careful background direction, your product videos will stand out from the rest — ensuring repeat gigs. Let’s take a look at how it’s done.

First, no matter what kind of ad you’re creating, you need to consider the product. By that I mean consider every aspect of the product. Is it a liquid? A solid? What’s it made out of? How will light react to it? What sort of overall tone does it inspire?

Cinematography Techniques: A Complete Guide to Product Shots — Tabletop

For the iced tea commercial, the key ingredient for a good-looking shot was the set. The background has to work with the product as part of the overall tone. So, in this example, Todd built his own tabletop, which is basically just a bunch of boards screwed together without legs. (Cover it with polyurethane so the surface provides some reflection and a bit of shine.)

Another important detail: just because the object you’re shooting is translucent (like liquid or glass), simply pointing a light at it will do nothing for you. You have to light for the reflections. For the perfume bottle, you can see in the video that you can get good reflections with an acrylic sheet. This creates the appearance of a mirror-like surface that gives the whole a shoot a mysterious vibe, which, for perfume, is what we want. Play around with different color temperatures, depending on what colors you’re working with and what colors you want to bring out of the object.

Cinematography Techniques: A Complete Guide to Product Shots — Light Reflections

For objects that won’t yield a good reflection, it’s important to use a diffused top light so that you adequately cover the surface of the entire object. For the backlight, feel free to mix up the colors and pick whichever color looks best. In this case, the flashlight is on diamond plate that you can find at any hardware store.

Cinematography Techniques: A Complete Guide to Product Shots — Flashlight

This fits the tone of the product. So, for your own work, create a scene appropriate to the brands and the products you’re shooting.

For more cinematography tips and tricks, check out some of our past tutorials:

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