Industry Spotlight Series: Product Photography with Owen Pratt
Welcome to Macarta’s Industry Spotlight Series. This new series on our blog aims to highlight experts within the advertising, marketing and creative industry to deliver you more information that can help improve your Amazon business and expand your knowledge about the e-commerce ecosystem as a whole.
Today we interview Owen Pratt, Creative Director at Bracket Studios in Chicago, Illinois. Owen has over two decades of experience working with brands such as Nike, Jockey, Kellogg’s and more, helping guide their creative vision and execute a clear brand story through photography. Owen helps explain how you can improve your storytelling through product photography and video:
Q: How do you work with clients to help educate them on the importance of quality product photos?
A: Photography is problem solving – clients look to experts for a point of view and a perspective. You need to show details such as color, size, shape and scale, but beyond that you need to capture the essence of a product. That means finding the best way to show the usage, the context, and revealing it to the right audience in the right way. There is always a balance and a blend of art and science that goes into the creation and craft of a perfect product shot.
Everyone needs the hero shot, it’s tactical, useful and necessary for e-commerce. To show a product’s personality though you need the concept, the color, the light and the optics to all work in harmony. The quality of light, style of light, even the color of light, all change your perception of a product. Understanding the personality of a product informs those decisions. That’s the magic of it.
Q: It’s a crowded space online. How can you make your product photos stand out?
A: I think about the word courage a lot. I look at an image and can tell how much courage went into a photo or not. So much of this business is about trust; trusting yourself, trusting your vision, trusting your team and building trust with your clients. You distinguish yourself among competitors by being brave and making the bold decisions that can allow you to pull away from that crowded space.
If something is difficult to do, it’s probably worth it. If it’s easy, you went wrong somewhere. To break through the clutter, maybe you need to do the opposite of what your competitors are doing, but you need to do it for a reason. Otherwise, you’ve just created arbitrary pretty photos without a purpose or message. Make sure you have lifestyle photos that can help provide context to your product, as well as technical photos.
“You distinguish yourself among competitors by being brave and making the bold decisions that can allow you to pull away from that crowded space.”
Q: How can you prepare for an efficient shoot?
A: Photography is simple – “Click,” Done. You need a plan to get to that point and that’s all about organization. You don’t need to compromise, you need to organize.
Digital photography is great because you can quickly maneuver between stills and video if it is built into your plan. You can do it all at once. Ideally, a creative strategy leads a production. You develop your concept then build the plan to execute it. However, the velocity of work happens so fast that sometimes tactics fly over those strategies. You need a flexible mindset to maximize productions. Some things can and should be plotted and planned. Others are works of inspiration that happen with spontaneity and that courage.
Old world rules of photography, marketing and advertising don’t always apply to our new world living. So while you need to plan, the new model is also no model. If you’re set up, prepared for those spontaneous moments, using the right lights and camera, you can flip a switch to video, capture slow motion, whatever you might need, and capture all the content you need at once.
“You don’t need to compromise, you need to organize.”
Q: How do you know when a product needs video? What types of videos are the most successful?
A: Motion works best when you need to tell a larger story, such as a lifestyle story. Take a travel mug for example: you need to know how many ounces it holds, what type of a lid it has, all of which can be conveyed through still photos. But what’s the larger story? I make my wife a cup of coffee every morning and fill up her travel mug so she can enjoy her morning at work. That’s a story, and one that can only be told through video. People want to envision their life, see themselves reflected in these stories. Everything depends on the specific personality of each brand.
Videos are also great for tactical reasons like recipes, how-to videos and as a way of showing a progression. Video or motion doesn’t have to be that expensive anymore. If there is purposeful intent, focused post production and mindful media placement motion can significantly elevate your brand’s visual content message.
Q: What tips would you give to brands who want to create elevated content but are working with a limited budget or resources?
A: When it comes to figuring out the best way to shoot your product photography and you’re deciding between a studio or going in house, I recommend that people do what they do best. If I focus on creating great imagery, my client can focus on selling their great product, which means they’ll need more great work for me. There is never just one way to do things. Much of the creative aspect of this business is figuring out how to get it done with limited time, budget and resources and still elevating the quality if possible.
Invest in your people. Software and technology changes but people are where your good ideas and innovations will come from. Ultimately, invest in your intellectual property, everything else is just a detail.
“Invest in your people. Software and technology changes but people are where your good ideas and innovations will come from.”
Owen Pratt Creative Director, Bracket Studios.