Sometimes, rather than discussing specific photographic techniques, it can be fun and informative to study and comment on a photo that “just looks right.” If we spend enough time looking (and I mean really looking), we can begin to see all the individual components that add up to a really great shot.
I’ll get you started with an example of what I’m talking about, and you can take it from there and find your own favorites and see what you can learn from them. Now I realize that not everyone sells coffee on Etsy. But that doesn’t mean that you, as a creator of fine jewelry or clothing or pottery can’t learn from an example of a really nice shot of a cup of coffee. It’s from Etsy seller katherynmd, and the listing is for Sweet Mountain Mocha Organic Custom Coffee Blend.
So what’s so great about it, you ask? Well, most importantly, it catches my attention (in a good way) and makes me want it! Marketing doesn’t get any simpler than that, does it? But as I said earlier, it’s all the individual components that, in toto, lead to this wonderful composition. At the risk of being boring, here’s my list of why (as the title of this post says) I like it:
- It’s not a photo of the actual item being sold (one pound of coffee beans). That shows in one of the later photos, but those shots are not nearly as special as this one. This is the one that pleases the eye, so why not have it first?
- The color scheme is “decaffeinated.” Although we may certainly enjoy a little caffeine stimulation, good coffee is really all about taste, aroma and pleasant visuals. We don’t need to see neon or fluorescent colors to know that these beans pack a punch. We want to enjoy the brew, with all our senses, as much as the buzz. This photo makes us believe we can do just that.
- The prop materials are as natural as you would like the coffee to be. No plastic here!
- The exposure is well done. The cup and saucer come off as being bright and clean without being blown out. The shadows and the pot in the background are suitably dark without being black. In fact, a histogram (another future topic) of this photo proves it to be a well-balanced composition.
- The cup isn’t smack dab in the middle of the frame (another reminder to talk about the rule of thirds one of these days), and the angle offers a realistic and natural view, just like you would see if you were sitting at the table.
- The depth of field is controlled quite nicely. Several of the beans as well as the cup, saucer and spoon are mostly in focus, while the background gently fades. We really don’t need (or want) the table in the upper left part of the frame to be sharp and clear.
- And speaking of background, there isn’t a separate one (it’s just an extension of the horizontal surface), and there’s nothing inappropriate (like last night’s dirty dishes) back there.
- Reflections are used sparingly and wisely. The reflection of the spoon in the cup and that of the handle in the spoon serve to add a little interest to otherwise mundane items. But what you don’t see is just as important. I don’t see any reflections of the sun glaring through the kitchen windows, or an overhead light fixture, or a flash, or even the photographer’s glasses.
So there you have it. Now think about your photos. How do they compare? Are you happy with them? If not, don’t just complain — do something about it. You don’t have to be a professional photographer to get appealing product shots. But you do have to take your time, think about what you’re doing, and pay attention to the basics. Oh, and of course, read my other posts!
Until next time … Happy Shooting!