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Creating Style with New Backgrounds & Surfaces for Lifestyle Product Photography

In this article we discuss the various options available for placing items in context using surfaces and backgrounds. Read on to find out the options available, why they’ve been chosen, and how they can be used to set off your work and products. We also delve into how different shoot conditions can alter the appearance of surfaces and backgrounds.

It’s really important to place your items in context, and lifestyle imagery does this by displaying your products in a ‘relatable’ situation or setting. It’s about evoking some form of emotional response from the viewer, with the intention of making your products appealing or perhaps indispensable. In the case of product centered shots (sometimes simply known as styled shots) it maybe a case of showing a limited area around the product, whereas other shots, usually destined for advertising purposes, more space is left around the product to create more of a mood and a scene.

Studio flash used to illuminate this artificial arrangement from Flower Studio Marlow

In this example we use a stripped vintage door as the ‘surface’ and a simply painted background, painted quite roughly so that the texture can be brought out within the image by using side lighting. Client : Flower Studio Marlow.

Surfaces and Backgrounds for Lifestyle Product Photography.

As we know lifestyle product photography is more than just about showcasing your products, it’s about communicating with your customers on a deeper level. They take longer to create than a standard white product shot, and therefore cost more but the potential benefits to your brand and your sales outweigh this. A setting that emulates the home in some way is very often used, any many of our inspirations are based upon contemporary and vintage interior details and features.
In addition to the use of props, surfaces and backdrops are so important that an entire industry creating backdrops and surfaces has ‘sprung-up’ over recent years. We use a combination of items, some created right here in the studio, to collecting vintage and reclaimed items. From there we’ve done our research to find some of the very best examples of commercially created backdrops we can find. The best thing about reclaimed, vintage, and pieces we have created in-house is that they are unique to us, which is essential when you don’t want your work or products setting in the same way as other’s and in particular when your work or products are intended to be aspirational. To expand upon this this we have also had our own backdrops printed from artwork we have created in-house.

 


Our Inspirations for Backgrounds and Surfaces.

There are various things that inspire us, such as vintage and contemporary interiors, in this example we’ve used an old Victorian door to emulate paneling as a backdrop. We will be developing this further and adding various colours and styles of paneling to our  studio prop store.

 

A photograph of handmade glassware

Client : Twice Fired Glass

Original Victorian white painted door

• Modernist and Vintage Interiors, generally with a contemporary twist, sometimes focussing upon features such as panelling and mouldings. Including art deco elements and mid-century.
• Hard surfaces, based upon stone, marbles, slate and of course the ever popular concrete.
• Vintage rustic wooden surfaces, showing age, history, stories and patina.
• Themes from Britain’s industrial past.
• Rooms of the home, bathrooms, lounge, kitchens which work well with associated products that ‘belong’ in those rooms.
• Organic themes, and entropy/decay.

Here’s just a few of the wooden pieces we use regularly…

WhitewashedEarly to mid century naturally faded and aged table topVintage shed door painted in whiteWooden panelled doorVintage flooring in blue

 

 

These are ideal for many different shoots, except for shoots including liquids, or anything that may leave traces on the organic surfaces. For when it isn’t practical we then use wipe clean surfaces such as acrylics and vinyl.

Different Types of Materials

When we first setup the studio we created all of our own backdrops and surfaces. Now we’re a few years down the road it’s a bit of a mixture of curating and creating. To get the best of what can be found commercially, and what can be created in-house. Some shoots use a combination of real wooden or other surfaces, and perhaps a custom printed colour backdrop. Nearly all of our pieces are at least A0 in size which makes them ideal for a number of different uses and situations. All printed surfaces we use are printed on vinyl and as such are water resistant.

The following example using a concrete style surface.

 

Example image of a wedding stationery flatlay

Client : Shells Bells Wedding Stationery

To these examples which do use a combination of a stripped vintage surface and a printed backdrop.

A styled product photograph of apothecary product bottles with an old plaster effect backdrop

 

An apothecary type product photograph demonstrating the use of marble stone backdrop

 

We also enjoy creating surfaces inspired by nature, with an organic feel, generally showing age /wear, such as stripped with two part wood bleach. this one used extensively for clients due to its rustic feel.

Vintage rustic door stripped

Showing brush strokes and other wear in use in this example for Hannah Marchant Illustrates.

Blue painted floor in use

In this example, a screengrab of a Lifestyle Product Photograph intended for advertising use, from the homepage of the British Craft Trade Fair, we used a 2.7m wide Manfrotto paper roll, and with a little manipulation in post production a really appealing dark blue resulted. Manfrotto also create a range of PVC backdrops in gloss or matt which can be very useful.

A screengrab taken from the British Craft Trade Fair homepage with one of our images shown

 

What Alters the Appearance within the Shoot?

It’s really worth bearing in mind when commissioning a shoot that depending upon a number of factors, backdrops and surfaces may appear quite differently to how you may imagine.

• Is the surface shot above/side/front on?
• Is it lit very brightly, or does it have a graduated effect within the lighting.
• Textures will be de-emphasised in shots where the lighting is front on. Alternatively when lit from the side, textures are picked out and emphasised.
• Depth of field and distance of backdrop to the camera or focus point. Sometimes when we don’t want the background to be distracting from the product, we’ll use a wider aperture which will provide a shallower (softer) depth of field which will ensure that the emphasis stays upon your product.


As you have seen we use doors and other real items to add that ‘edge’ and uniqueness but we go further as we do also have a select stock set of furniture in, including vintage table, chairs, side table, and coffee table. Check out the Props and Furniture page to see the all the surfaces, backgrounds and furniture.