chapter 4

In-Context & Lifestyle Photography

In-context images, on the other hand, show your product being used or in the context of other objects or its intended environment. They are better at telling a story and creating an emotional link with buyers. Not only can they speak directly to your target audience, they can also be more inspiring and can even promote complementary products. While they are not the best choice for your featured image on your product page, they work very well as additional images nurturing the buyer to make a decision.

In-context images also work well in blog posts, social media, and other marketing content, where they are good at engaging people and raising awareness about your products and brand. When it comes to luxury brands and high fashion, in-context images take the shape of professional model shots.

Source: Blue is in Fashion This Year

Model shots can add value to your brand by creating appeal and promoting a lifestyle that buyers can both relate to and associate with your product. They can:

  • Boost your brand’s image
  • Show how the product fits
  • Demonstrate scale
  • Give context and explain features

Model shots can be a powerful tool across your marketing channels to boost conversion and give your brand a human face.

But they can also be expensive and time-consuming because you have to hire a model, a photographer, find locations, and organize the logistics of the shoot. Whether employing model shots is a good idea ultimately depends on the type of product you’re selling and your budget.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the basic product shooting techniques that every online store can use.


Corrine Anestopoulos has been running the Biko jewelry brand since 2005. When She joined Shopify in 2011, she also decided it was time to invest in her product photography. While her website photography would showcase the product by itself, she would also shoot annual campaigns on a set with models, to elevate her business to the next level.

“It was a huge learning curve” Anestopoulos explains, “I hired a makeup artist, stylist, photographer and creative director.” Over time, Anestopoulos took on the creative direction herself as she began to learn the ropes and understand how to articulate the vision each year. Anestopoulos admits her campaign shoots are a large expense but each year her business continues to grow and strengthen. She credits the annual professional photo shoot as critical aspect of communicate a strong, professional brand, something beyond simply a hobby or side-hustle. Reflecting on her investment, “I wouldn’t be in business if I didn’t invest in product photography.”


What You Need

The equipment you need here is the same as for product-only shots. However, if you are shooting outdoors you can often get away without lights setup.

How to Do It With $25

Smartphone

Get your smartphone, ask a friend to sport your products if they are wearable, and find cool urban or nature locations near you. Mind your natural light. For best results plan to shoot early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun hits objects under a smaller angle.

Source: Sid Verma on Unsplash

You can do in-context shoots in your office, in your home, or outdoors. Shoot in the context of a shoe closet, bring in some props like fall leaves to set the mood or rocks when staging a shoot for hiking boots. When you are on a budget you have to compensate with creativity and innovative approaches.

How to Do It With $500

Camera

Almost any Canon or Nikon camera with a 50mm lens will do a good job. Plan to spend $300-400 on a camera. If you are a shooting mostly in nature or out of studio buy extra batteries and memory cards.

Tripod

There is a world of tripods out there so pick one that is sturdy and compact at the same time. Don’t spend more than $60. If you are shooting mostly in-studio, weight is not an issue but if you are taking your shoots out in nature or around town, keeping your equipment light is a good idea.

Lights

The same equipment and rules apply to using artificial lighting for in-context photos as in basic product shoots. Keep in mind that here the composition is usually more complex with more objects in the frame and getting the lights right can be slightly trickier. You can get a basic set of lights for around $50.

Diffusers

It is always a good idea to have set of diffusers handy for any kind of product shots. They give you another lever to modify lighting and smooth over the hard shadows. You can get a set of small diffusers for about $20.

Next chapter

5. Photo Editing Basics

7 min

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