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How to create an atmosphere in your product shots!

Firstly, we need to define what "atmosphere" is.

The atmosphere is a mixture of gases that surrounds the earth.... oh wait no not that atmosphere!

I mean the more intangible, hard to pinpoint concept of atmosphere.

"Atmosphere" is a concept used to convey mood as well as a certain time and place.

Secondly, we need to quickly cover why this is important!

It is important because we need to:

  1. Get the viewer invested in the narrative of the image

  2. Create an emotional connection with the viewer

  3. Create a lasting impression.

People don’t remember detail so well, but will remember the feeling or vibe of the image and connect with that. This is what the atmosphere does.

It is how we can create impact, create connection and create a response in the viewer which in product photography is a potential customer turning into an actual customer.

Now we can discuss how to create an atmosphere in images.

So how do we create this oh so important atmosphere? There are lots of ways but the 3 easiest and most effective ones are:

1st way: Colour Theory & Psychology

You will hear this from me again and again but the colour is so key to creating effective product photography! Each colour and then colour combos have different emotional spectrums.

Having a basic understanding of colour theory and psychology will massively boost your image's impact across your business. To learn more about Colour Theory I would suggest reading this blog that covers colour theory and how to use it for maximum impact on social media.

Warm colours of Red, Yellow and Brown


Cool pale colours of Lilac, Light Greys and Cream

2nd way: Lighting - exposure, colouring, sources

From bright and fresh to dark and moody and everything in between, light aka exposure is how we do this.

The lighter the feeling you want to achieve, the brighter the image you want to create. But this can hark back to colour also. Again if you are aiming for a brighter, fresher image, you want to include items of white, yellow, and green.

However, when you want to go more broody and moody then you will choose darker colours and tones such as browns, dull reds and dark blues.

Apart from colour, look to your light sources choosing soft natural lights such as candles will create a warmer glow vs a light source such as neon lights which is more modern and bright!

The candles here are used purely for atmosphere, they do not add any significant light to the exposure. But they are key to enhancing that autumnal, cosy, warm atmosphere.

3rd way: Texture

The texture is referring to the feeling of the materials we include in the image. From wood to metal, to wool, to stone each comes with its own literal and metaphorical feeling and that adds to the atmosphere in images.

In general natural materials tend to create a feeling of freshness and friction. While man-made materials like plastic and metal tend to be cooler and smoother.

But like everything, colour plays a huge role here. A bright light beech wood will create a much more bright and natural feeling compared to a dark, stained walnut wood. Again, a white or cream knitted chunky blanket will create a different feeling to a rainbow colourful jumper.

Compare the different textures in these images and how it affects the overall atmosphere. The fresh flowers in the first create a fresh, bright effect, while the second one with the glitter/metal sheen pencil case and the metal scissors creates more a more modern effect while the final image woolly blanket creates a warm cosy atmosphere.

Final points:

A key point I want to make it while each of these works in isolation in theory, in practice nothing works in isolation in photography.

You need to pick and mix your items to create the desired atmosphere and therefore you need to consider how each item works with the other items. That is why I can't say wood will create this atmosphere because it depends on what wood you use, what light source you use and of course what colours are included.

Want to learn more about product photography?

Why not sign up to the Cameras & Coffee Community - a free and caffeinated community that teaches product photography through emails, live talks and courses. Read more about the community here and sign up here!

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