History of product photography

What is product photography and what is its origin?

Every time you unfold the pages of an advertising brochure, browse your favorite restaurant menu, or go to an online store website, you are touching the world of product photography.

This kind of photography is one of the last types that occurs with the development of online marketing. It is also called product shooting and is part of the advertising or so-called commercial photography.

In the beginning there was the Daguerreotype

We can not talk about the history of product photography without making a very brief overview of the origin and development of photography (we promise will be very short).

It all began in 1837, when Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre was able to produce the first successful photographing. In a few words, this process of photography is known as a daguerreotype and represents the technological process for capturing images of real objects using silver iodine to capture the image.

This was the beginning of photography.

The daguerreotype of Daguerre was a real sensation, but it had two very serious drawbacks – the equipment was not only very bulky and difficult to move, but so expensive that it could only be bought and used by quite wealthy people.

This, of course, did not appeal to people with more modest financial status who began to look for ways to make this art accessible to more people. Inventors from all over the world have embarked on searching for easier and more affordable ways to print images, and the results have not been delayed.

In 1840, the Englishman Thomas Talbot patented a technological process called calotype. The Talbot process consisted of applying silver chloride on a paper sheet, with the aim of creating an intermediate negative image.

The invention of the Englishman was successful, and an unlimited number of photographs could be created very soon and the equipment itself was not so expensive and difficult to carry. Then a number of inventions followed that began to shape the image of photography at a time when it did its first steps.

Progress was really enormous, but it was still perceived as a form of art, and it was used most often to capture the most important moments of people’s lives.

„You press the button, we do the rest”

Everything changed when a small factory called Eastman Kodak Company appeared on the world stage that made the cameras accessible to ordinary people. This happened in 1889 when George Istman patented the first celluloid photographic tape and the first Kodak camera. With the advent of Kodak’s camera – Kodak Brownoni in 1901, the beginning of modern photography was also set.

And when it (photography) met advertising, the story of advertising photography began, part of which is our current main character – product photography.

Although at first we mentioned that the history of product photography is relatively new and its development is due to the development of new technologies and in particular the popularity of online commerce, the truth is that the first steps of this kind of photography were made during the first years of the last century.

From the very beginning, advertising photography was used primarily to create advertising catalogues for the military industry. The first detailed and complete catalogue was made by the French photographer Lafont. He was hired by Hochchins to document and print pictures of machine guns and guns produced by the company. As a result of his work, a complete informative product catalogue was created.

The catalogue that Lafont created differed from all such catalogues of the competition because it contained not only detailed information about the weapons, but also photographs of the weapons themselves, as well as pictures of the weapons that real soldiers from the French army kept in their hands.

The first attempts at product photography in the textile and fashion industry date back to 1890 when a product catalogue of the American company Munsing Underwarear appeared. The catalogue contained over 70 product images of the company, and in the sub-headline of the catalogue it was stated that the company ensures that all the goods are exactly as they are shown in the photos.

The real progress in advertising photography, however, was made at the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, magazines and newspapers realized that the drawings with which they had promoted products so far attracted a very limited consumer audience. In order to increase their readers and attract more new customers, they began to look for new ways to attract the attention of their users.

To try to change things, in 1911 Edward Steichen made his first serious attempt at advertising photography. Using a Kodak camera, he shoots a fashion session that is printed on the Art et Decoration page.

Steichen’s experience has been very successful and was immediately followed by a small company called Conde Nast, who had bought the fashion magazine Vogue several years earlier (in 1909). Thanks to the photographs printed on its pages, Vogue from a small unpopular magazine published by an unknown fashion clothing factory turns into a world-class fashion institution, as we know it today.

Thus, with the appearance of the first pictures of models dressed in the clothes of the small fashion factory, the advertising (commercial) photography began.

The development of this type of photography was so intensive that in 1920, 15% of companies used commercials to attract consumer interest, and in 1930 this percentage exceeds 30%.

In the 1950s, and more precisely with the emergence of color photographic tapes, advertising photography literally enters all spheres of life. At that time, the first attempts were made for product food photography, interior design, and all other kinds of goods and services that producers want to promote and introduce to the already modern consumer society.

The 60s and 70s of the last century are years in which advertising reaches very high levels. These are decades in which the advertising campaigns are aimed at the middle class and the main part of attracting the interest of the average families is advertising photography.

But this is not yet the biggest boom in typical product photography. The development of this sub-type of commercial photography began with the introduction of digital technology in 1985. Digital images are becoming easier to use for manipulating, processing and storing on computer devices. Digitally created photos can be viewed immediately and processed without any delay. This leads to evolution in product photography, and with the emergence of online commerce it goes into the homes of people all over the world


What exactly is the product photography?

By the term “product photography” is meant photography, which is mainly used for commercial campaigns. This type of photography is mostly about creating photo material for advertising brochures, magazines, leaflets, online stores that a company uses to present or describe products or services to highlight their advantages and methods of application.

History of product photography

In other words, product photography is a type of advertising photography that aims to capture products for commercial use. These products can be food, clothing, cosmetics, household electrical appliances, equipment and, to put it briefly, the subject of product photography are all goods and services that need advertising.

The ultimate goal of product photography is to capture a realistic image of the object (item). This allows potential buyers to get a real idea of ​​the product being advertised. This is extremely important as customers can not see and touch the product they see. Thanks to product photography, they can get a real idea of ​​the appearance and characteristics of the product, and to want to buy it.

Where is product photography used?

This type of photography, as we mentioned several times, is used everywhere where there is a need for product presentation and advertising. Most often the product photography is needed in the food industry, fashion and cosmetics industries, in architecture and interior design, in the industrial sector, in online trade, etc., etc.


Types of product photography

History of product photography

Individual frame

This is one of the most common types of product photography in which a single item (product) is the main focal point of the image. The individual frame allows the photographer to highlight the features of the advertised product.


Group frame

Group photos in product photography are used when there are several products in one product line (for example, a series of cosmetic products). This type of photos are very appropriate when promoting one of the products or when a discount is offered if the customer purchases a product from the series but gets two for the price of one.


Detailed images

Detailed photos are used to attract the user’s attention to a particular characteristc of the advertised product. Typically, this kind of close-up shots aims to highlight the exceptional features of the product that are not available in the competitors’ product.


360 – degree photos

This type of photos play a significant role in e-commerce as they allow the user to look at the product in detail from all sides. In order to make similar shots, the product photographer needs to make several sequential pictures of the product, which he will later process together to get a continuous image.


Lifestyle frames

In this type of product photography, advertised products are displayed as part of life. This can be a juicy steak that is baked on the grill, a woman wearing a T-shirt and standing on a yacht, and the wind disarranges her hair playfully, a child who happily eats a pancake, smeared with a thick layer of liquid chocolate, a family that brings shopping products and goes to his brand new car and so on, and so on.

The story lines of the photos can be infinite, but they all aim to get consumers to imagine using the product and wanting to own it.


Studio photos

Studio photographs, or the so-called still life, are the most commonly used technique in the history of product photography where inanimate objects are shot in a studio in the absence of context and human element. This technique is most commonly used for advertising and presentation of food and food products, in fashion and especially for the purposes of e-commerce.

For photography of studio images, the environment, skills and technical equipment are of particular importance because a simple object must be presented in a way that attracts the attention and interest of the viewer.

Special features of product photography

This type of photography requires the photographer not only to have the required skills but also a high-quality equipment and additional photographic equipment. During the shooting, the photographer must be able to solve two main tasks simultaneously: to show the real characteristics of the product and to present it in the best light.

The goal of product photography is to give the audience happy emotions and to provoke in it the desire to own the viewed product. From a single photo, the client should be able to get an idea of ​​the texture and structure of the object, imagine how it can be his possession, be able to “sense” the flavor, feel the taste or touch the product to his body or tongue .