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A Simple Trick for Adding Drama to a Product Photo


Here’s a quick tip from talented photographer, filmmaker, and YouTube star Peter McKinnon. In his latest “two-minute Tuesday” video, he showed how adding a simple overlay onto some black foam core can take a basic top-down product shot to the next level.

Given McKinnon’s YouTube success and his focus on filmmaking, many people forget that he spent 7 years paying the bills by capturing product photos and creating product trailers for a company that designed magic tricks. In other words: he had to come up with 7 years worth of ways to capture a deck of cards that didn’t feel like he was simply re-hashing the same few shots over and over again.

Which brings us to McKinnon’s tip. For this video he lays out three pocket knives on a cheap piece of black foam core and, using natural light from a window nearby, captures a “moody” product shot of the knives against a black background. But this wasn’t quite… good enough. So he imported an image of a map, set the blend mode to Color Dodge, adjusted the hue and saturation to taste, and masked this overlay off of his products to create a totally different (and better) background for his knives in just a few minutes’ time.

Now, after just a couple of minutes worth of creative editing, he has a shot that looks like it was captured on top of a dramatic map-themed background… instead of a simple piece of black foam core:

With everyone stuck inside and unable to travel, product photography can make for a great creative outlet. And while this tip might be a bit basic for many of our readers, the encouragement to try something new—think outside the box as it were—and add some effects to an otherwise bland photo shows how a little creative thinking can take a photo from a “5 out of 10” to a “9 out of 10.”

Check out the quick two-minute-tip up top. And if you want more creative, at home product photography ideas, check out this cool ink-in-water watch photography tutorial or let Dustin Dolby show you how to shoot and retouch a low-key cosmetics ad from the comfort of your home studio.