8 Tips for Styling Successful Generic Product Images for Stock

Generic images don’t have to be boring. Try these expert tips for making your generic product stock images perfect for multiple clients.

Product photography requires expert lighting, impeccable styling, and broad appeal. A bottle of skin cream, for example, might seem like a simple enough subject. But, behind the scenes, there’s a ton of work to be done when it comes to light diffusion, reflections, composition, and color.

A great photograph will evoke the fragrance of the cream, and at the same time, it will appeal to the eyes with striking hues and unexpected forms.

Images of everyday products, from shampoo to essential oils, will always be in demand. The trick lies in creating an image that can be downloaded again and again and used by multiple companies in a variety of different ways. When we say “generic,” we don’t mean boring or predictable. On the contrary, we’re referring to photos that are interesting and dynamic enough to capture the attention of a diverse set of buyers.

Whenever you’re shooting products for stock, remember to take out any branding or logos, and don’t be afraid to experiment with creative setups. We asked eight photographers from around the world to tell us how they make eye-popping photographs of ordinary objects, from bath products to kitchenware. Read on for their best tips.

1. “Before you start shooting, you must be clear about your concept.”
Slavica Stajic

What’s the story behind this photo?​

This is a natural stone surface. Good lighting is the key to working with textures. My idea was to set up this whole composition first and then position the herbs and flowers just before shooting. I always prepare at least a day before for my shoot (props, background, etc).

Fresh herbs are absolutely amazing, but unfortunately, they are very delicate. To keep herbs fresh, I wash and lay mint leaves on a damp paper towel, gently wringing out the water. I’ll then wrap up the leaves with the paper towel, place it in a plastic bag, and store the plastic bag in the fridge. I can keep them fresh for over a week that way. It also works for most other herbs, except basil. I use this trick with mint, parsley, oregano, and cilantro.

I love to work with natural light, but sometimes it can be a little tricky, and I need to use a dark board on the top and on the back sides to block reflections on the glass bottles.

Pro Tip

Before you start shooting, you must be clear about your concept. Photography is so much more than a click of a shutter. It’s about telling a story using your lighting, props, and set. Before you take your product photos, ask yourself what customers want. For example, shooting from above is a popular style these days; additionally, make sure you consider your negative space. Take lots of pictures of the same subject at different angles to get a few that look great. Always look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. You are only limited by your imagination.

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2. “Keep studying! Notice interesting details in the ordinary things you see every day.”
Nadin Panina

What’s the story behind this photo?​

For this photo, I used my personal cosmetics that I use every day. It was an experiment, and I was actually not going to upload this series to the site. But the result was so harmonious that I decided to upload it after all, and it became very popular. I try to use it as an example for future shoots. I’m not afraid to experiment with lighting, composition, colors, and materials.

Pro Tip

Planning is crucial. Think about your concept and the details involved well in advance of your shoot. That will save you time during post-processing. For still lifes, it’s important that the products are meticulously cleaned. Get rid of any dust, fingerprints, and trademarks or branding.

Keep studying! Notice interesting details in the ordinary things you see every day. Take master classes and research art history. Make sure that you have mastered lighting techniques, and use the rule of thirds and the golden ratio to make your composition perfect.

Color is another important element to consider. By using interesting and harmonious color combinations, you can attract and hold the attention of your customers. Your pictures should reflect current trends and have commercial value, of course.

I also like to use common materials and objects in unexpected situations. For example, you can use grated soap to make realistic snow for your photos, or you can use various colored and transparent plastics or glass fragments for a filtered effect. Usually, the most unusual ideas come from my five-year-old daughter.


3. “One simple way to create a spectacular photo is by using repetitive forms and lines that create a pattern.”
Igisheva Maria

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I love to create photo collages. Usually, I just lay out different items in the frame, but this time, I only had one glass, so I made a photomontage instead. In this case, I used hard light, and the shadows made the pattern look even more interesting and dynamic.

Pro Tip

Feel free to experiment, as that’s how you’ll find your unique style. And remember hard work pays off. One simple way to create a spectacular photo is by using repetitive forms and lines that create a pattern. Direct the viewers’ eyes by arranging your items with precision. Shoot objects from an unusual angle to make your photo interesting, but, at the same time, remember that it needs to be easily recognizable.

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4. “Don’t forget about telling stories through your images.”

What’s the story behind this photo?​

It was the last warm weekend of summer, and it was a nice idea to spend it with family somewhere outdoors. We had a long walk in a forest full of plants, wild berries, and mushrooms. It was a day for unplugging. As I picked flowers and blueberries, I had the idea to express that feeling of mindfulness and unity with nature through photography.

I was so excited by the idea that I planned a shoot late in the evening on a Saturday. I incorporated plants, cold pressed oils, essential oils in dark glass bottles, bowls of spirulina powder, turmeric, and dried lavender into my photos. All these products harmonized and looked amazing together. This picture is about taking a more natural approach to our beauty and health through herbal ingredients.

Pro Tip

First of all, it is necessary to be passionate about your subject, no matter what it is-pizza, cake, avocado, or pineapple. Nobody will like your pictures if you don’t like them yourself. Don’t forget about telling stories through your images. During my shoots, I constantly think about the end users of my pictures and how I can help them in achieving their goals through my images. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Work towards developing your photographic personality and your aesthetic taste. Hone your skills, and find your unique style.

5. “Styling is key! I use different catchy wallpapers and backgrounds to create dynamic compositions.”

What’s the story behind this photo?​

I shot this series at home. I am interested in an environmentally-friendly, zero-waste lifestyle, and as I am surrounded by these products in my daily life, I decided to do several photo sessions around this theme. I love natural products and materials, especially metal and glass, which I photograph using a special technique. I’m happy to see sustainable and environmentally-friendly products becoming more popular and trendy!

Pro Tip

It’s important to learn how to see ordinary objects in a fresh and different way. When you choose a generic subject especially, you should always put effort into making your photos interesting. Styling is key! I use different catchy wallpapers and backgrounds to create dynamic compositions.

I also always try to think like a graphic designer and leave some copy space in each photo for typography or something else. I prefer to maintain a pure, minimalist aesthetic, which allows me to focus on the essence of the product. Make sure you’re following trends and staying up-to-date about what magazines are looking for.

6. “When you’re working with products, think about how the objects interact within your composition.”
Zoia Kostina

What’s the story behind this photo?​

All the basic rules of photography apply to product photography, including the golden ratio, balance and symmetry, leading lines, etc. One unexpected thing I do during photo shoots is to imagine that the objects are alive. In this case, it was baby bath products. I arranged them carefully according to their “personalities,” and I found the best position for each of them, making sure to leave plenty of breathing room.

Pro Tip

Make sure to practice your technical skills until they come to you naturally and automatically. When you’re working with products, think about how the objects interact within your composition. A good photo always evokes an emotional response in its viewer, so use tones, color schemes, and angles to tell a story or inspire a feeling or a memory.

7. “Before I start any new product shoot, I analyze the product’s shape and colors and think about the various ways it could be used.”

What’s the story behind this photo?​

The idea for this shoot arrived with the spring weather and beautiful jasmine flowers that blossom in my garden. The scent of these flowers inspired me to create a set of aromatherapy-related images. As I already had some spa-related objects from previous shoots, all I had to do was incorporate some fresh flowers and create an appropriately luxurious atmosphere.

Pro Tip

​If you want to capture a great product shot, you’ll need to spend quite some time moving your objects around and finding some interesting angles. Also, be prepared to be overwhelmed every once in a while by little stubborn objects that never want to stay in place!

Before I start any new product shoot, I analyze the product’s shape and colors and think about the various ways it could be used. Sometimes, I’ll add in some surprising objects that you might not expect to see, as I find that can make the whole scene more dynamic. Experiment with your subjects and props, your lighting, and the post-production, and don’t forget to play some good music to make your work even more enjoyable.

8. “My wife and I work as a team, which is helpful for the creative process.”

What’s the story behind this photo?​

The idea for this photo came from personal experience. In Latvia, where we live, the first flowers to arrive in springtime are snowdrops. These are the first flowers we see and smell after a long winter. We created this picture in pastel colors to evoke feelings of health, cleanliness, and softness.

Pro Tip​

My wife and I work as a team, which is helpful for the creative process. We get our inspiration from the things that happen around us every day, including our daily responsibilities and routines. That’s part of why we’re able to create images relating to people’s practical, everyday needs. We use natural light and a tripod-that’s our style. For others, we’d recommend finding your own style.

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