catalog vs. beauty style

Catalog style Product photography vs. Beauty style photography

Catalog style photographs is what you see the most of on websites and on catalog pages. Beauty style photographs are usually used for catalog covers, magazine advertisements, posters, and website home pages.

Catalog style photography is simple. You place the object on a plain, solid color background – usually white – and light it with flat, even lighting with soft or no shadows. Catalog style photography is not as easy as it looks, however. Many photographers produce images with low contrast, off colors, not enough detail or ugly reflections. It takes experience to make the simple shots look great. Catalog photography is fast, usually once the first item is properly lit and the client is happy, I can shoot similar products at the rate of one product every two or three minutes. However if the basic reflectivity, size or shape of the product changes drastically, the lighting will have to be changed to accommodate the new products.

Beauty style photography is much more creative, artistic, and time consuming then catalog style. Beauty style photography may involve exotic backgrounds, complicated props or sets and special lighting. Lighting a beauty shot can take from 20 minutes to half a day, depending on its complexity. The backgrounds may be rock, reflective paper, wood, or a custom made set that looks like a house or restaurant. Props could include anything from fresh flowers, rocks, fruit, and gold nuggets – whatever would make the product look more desirable.

But it is lighting that sets beauty style photographs apart. There could be areas in complete shadow and darkness, lights coming from behind the product and creating a glow or starburst around the product, or lighting that clearly displays part of the product and throws the rest into shadow. In beauty photographs, where the light is not is just as important as where the light is.

When planning how much time you need for your photo shoot, you will need to tell your photographer how many catalog style photographs you need, and how many beauty style images. You could schedule perhaps 50 to 200 catalog style images to be shot in a day (I once did 450 nuts and bolts in one very long day) but only 5 to 15 beauty style images might be possible in the same day. Most clients need a large amount of catalog style shots, and a few beauty shots for advertisements. Discuss your background, lighting and prop requirements for your beauty shots with your photographer, and he / she can use that information to develop an estimate.

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