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How to elevate your brand's product photography

This week, we’re diving into art direction with ideas and examples that you can use to elevate photos of yourself or lookbooks for your brand.

The standard for quality content rises with our increasingly consumer-powered entertainment feeds full of always-improving photos and videos.

We’re now in an era where doing anything without some intention or storytelling falls flat.

Videos to digest on this topic


If you’re looking for last week’s newsletter on Sourcing Shows and tradeshows you can find that here.

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A primer on elevating product photography

We’ve been talking a lot about brand photography in our videos recently, and today, we’ll unpack how to use photography to leverage trust and spark creativity as you build your brand.

Before we do that, let’s explore a few examples of where creative gets… lazy.

Norda—a Canadian outdoor brand— has been known to showcase imperfections and blemishes in its products, especially on paid ads.

And here we have Flux Footwear pull off a royal rip of what looks like a similar silhouette (among the other obvious elements like the plain backdrop, same logo placement, and a scuffed sole).

Or, how about the ALD-ification of models on warmed, plain backdrops.

A few thoughts.

I get why brands end up with dupes like this in their campaigns. Maybe it’s the founder or creative director telling their marketing team they “want it to look like this.”

Or maybe it’s that the internet has become horribly circular to the point that we’re all constantly being informed by and pulling from the same references without digesting having the education needed to carve one’s own path.

HAVING SAID THAT, this is why it’s as important as ever to trust photographers and creatives at large with your campaigns and shoots because ultimately, they hold the keys to driving differentiation in a sea of sameness.

Anyway, enough of the ranting.

Let’s explore ways you can drive differentiation in your photoshoots and campaigns, whether it lives on your website, through email, on social, or in print.

Six ways to upgrade your brand’s photography

1. Setting

First, consider the backdrop, scene, placement, location, or setting you’re in. Are you in a café, a house, on a hike, in a kitchen, in a library, etc?

Setting is the foundation.

So use it to drive the narrative, and from there, you can build on the action or movement that’s happening next. Here are some setting examples.

18east’s camping collection, staged on a building in NYC

Recent Chess Players campaign by Story MFG

On horseback with For Love and Lemons

2. Action and movement

Whether or not you use a recognizable setting, it’s important to show what action is happening the shot. I promise you there are a million ways to photograph a model outside of them standing in front of a white backdrop. No need to overthink it.

Is the model walking, folding laundry, eating, playing music, jumping?

Studio shots by Husbands Paris

Gucci’s Off The Grid gardening campaign

3. Details

If you want to convey range within a product, a good idea is to focus on functional details, beyond what the fabric looks like.

Range of fit. Zippers. Technical details on accessories. All of this will add dimension to your photos.

Product lookbook by Adsum

Product lookbook by Adsum

4. Angles

Then there’s the angles you use, whether shooting from a perspective, using a particular lens, or just establishing a particular effect.

Hard to go wrong with a great overhead shot — this one from Eton x Fred Segal.

This from San San Gear is an excellent example of how to get creative in a studio space.

Photo by Lucas Monteiro

5. Edit

There’s the photos themselves, can you add subtle, or wild edits or touchups post-shoot that help you content stand out on feed?

Here’s an extreme example from Shushu Tong.

Or an impactful studio effect from Daily Paper.

Portrait by Rosanna Jones

6. Lighting

Lighting is always worth the consult with your photographer - do you want it natural, flash, an interesting effect… References that stand out in their unique ways below:

Unique light placement from Shushu Tong.

Or the way Libero uses natural mood lighting.

Banding Running campaign

Wrapping up

It doesn’t take much to think outside the box with photography. The goal, ultimately, is to have creative references that you can draw upon to build on and execute your own vision, not to blatantly or lazily rip others off.

Use any one of these six options for elevating photography. Sometimes all you need is a tweak.

In a future HYPER edition, we’ll talk about using brand storytelling to elevate with throughlines, lore, and deeper impact.

Until then…

Bonus content

Listen to Oren talk about influencer marketing, organic social for brands, and scaling content on DTC podcast ep 382.


Check out our market reports. We spend many, many hours researching markets, categories, and brands & products within the consumer space–all so that you don’t have to.

How to Source Blanks 101 — HERE  
A guide to finding and producing your own merch

Market reports on Running, Golf and Tennis — HERE A guide to each sport, the market opportunities, and how to launch your own brand

Inquiries? Shoot us a note here: [email protected]

We’d love to chat!

Oren & Clayton ❤️ you