Photography marketing

Product photography, part 8: Composition essentials

Photo composition refers to the arrangement of the elements and elements of an image. For product photography, the composition has only one goal: to create an image that brings the buyer closer to the purchase.

This is the eighth installment in my series to help online merchants improve their product photography. “Part 1” discussed the importance of backdrops. “Part 2” explained the tripods. “Part 3” examined the fundamentals of artificial lighting. “Part 4” reviewed angles and views, “Part 5” dealt with choosing a camera. “Part 6” assessed the objectives and their importance, and “Part 7” focused on magnification and close-ups.

In this “Part 8” I will explain the composition of the photos and why it is important. I’ll go over two composition rules to help create exceptional product photos.

Rule of thirds

In photo composition, the rule of thirds dictates that the main subject be slightly off-center. A camera grid can help. Image:

The rule of thirds is essential when shooting products. It is easy to implement and can have a huge impact on how a buyer views a product.

Centering a product in the middle of a frame seems logical, but it won’t differentiate your articles.

Instead, apply the rule of thirds, which involves shifting slightly from the center. The rule states that the subject of an image should be placed at the intersection of predetermined vertical and horizontal lines. An iPhone camera, for example, has a grid setting to help, Settings> Camera> Grid. Almost all digital SLR cameras have a similar tool.

This type of offbeat image is useful because it creates a natural focal point that draws viewers in. Having the subject in one-third of the composition with the remaining two-thirds balanced with negative space is appealing and, more importantly, feels good to a viewer.

Rule of Chances

Image from showing two images: (a) three bottles of shower gel and (b) three sticks of deodorant.

The odds rule calls for grouping multiple elements of a photo into odd numbers, such as three or five. This example from uses groups of three.

The odds rule is another simple yet effective composition tactic for product photography. The rule is that when you shoot more than one object, always group in odd numbers. Odd groupings force the human eye to work harder to see each item.

Our brain naturally searches for order and organization. A strange pairing of products makes your subconscious work harder. The effect is to force buyers to spend more time on product images.

Procter & Gamble’s uses the concept. The shower gel and deodorant shots on the homepage, above, contain three elements. But each product in the image is unique, with slight differences in color and clarity, prompting the viewer to take a break. The result prompts buyers to click. It is a terrific and powerful photo composition.

Three or five products are usually best for product photography groupings. Differentiate between objects by stacking some of them on a different plane, pairing a larger object with a smaller object, or varying the distance or angle.

This image from Apple shows five iPhones from different angles, distances, and colors.

This image from Apple shows five iPhones at different angles, distances, and colors.

Try to break up a boring, horizontal product line by forming a triangle or vertical arrangement. (I’ll cover diagonal composition in a future article.)

Image from of three apples in a triangle.

Placing things in a triangle, like these three apples, is better than a simple horizontal line. Source:

Finally, use a camera’s lens focus to your advantage. Not all subjects in an image need to be perfectly clear, as the example of deodorant shows. Find an aesthetic layout and experiment with the best focal point. Try new arrangements and settings. Create images that will engage your buyers and drive sales.

See “Part 9: Advanced composition”.