the holiday season is a whole ✨aesthetic✨ and your evergreen, year-round product photography just isn’t going to cut it. sure: it’s a great idea to refresh your content for any holiday or season but Christmas really gets people in a spending mood. that means your content has the potential to convert more if you strike a chord with your potential customers. they’re not just shopping for themselves; they’re shopping for friends. family. loved ones. but the holidays are also about a feeling. if your marketing strategy allows customers to look at your product photography and feel good about purchasing and gifting that product to someone they care about: they’re going to spend more on it. your job is to know your product and create product photos that represent exactly how it would feel to open it for the holidays.
holiday photography best practices
before you start to build your shot list for your holiday shoot: these are best practices to make sure your holiday photos have a competitive edge over thousands of other brands.
coordinate with your props
holiday product photography isn’t one-size-fits-all. the ideas we list below are a great start for inspiration. but only you know your brand identity. choose props and themes that align with your brand and keep them cohesive. do you want to place your product in a cozy cabin setting? or would you rather go with a luxurious glam vibe? kitschy felt Christmas decor or natural pine needles and snow? make these decisions with your target demographic in mind to get the most out of your photo shoot.
consider creating a slideshow of photos on IG or a hero image in the collage style. this is a great way to use close-up product photography and lifestyle photography together to set the mood.
don’t culturally alienate
while it’s totally okay to mention “Christmas sales” in your marketing: avoid using ONLY Christmas language in all posts. there are tons of other holidays celebrated during this season. using neutral language like “holiday cheer” or “season of giving” is just as effective. if people feel alienated by your brand: they won’t support it.
compete with originality
you don’t have to completely break the mold and veer away from holiday marketing. there’s a reason it comes back every year! but be aware of the overused marketing and photography techniques in your category. scroll through competitor feeds from previous holiday seasons to get an idea of what’s been done. weed out what seems trite and embrace what you think still works! add in elements unique to your brand: whether that’s humor. splashes of quirky color. or minimalist details.
holiday season product photography ideas
1. create a flat lay with winter props
if your product is small enough to fit on a tabletop: try a flat lay. a flat lay is essentially an aerial shot looking directly down onto a scene. you can utilize this technique to fit lots of fun props and create a whole vibe or to include multiple products in one scene.
✨ pro tip: the flat lay style works really well with clothing or cosmetics. for example: if your brand sells t-shirts — it’s hard to get a dynamic and visually interesting product photo out of a folded t-shirt on a table. try adding a few pine cones or a cozy mug of tea next to it on the table and you’ve got a more cohesive holiday scene.
2. use a (real or faux) fireplace backdrop
what says holiday season better than a crackling fireplace? if you have a product that makes sense in an indoor setting: try a fireplace scene! don’t stop there: throw in a cozy blanket and a book next to your product.
✨ pro tip: using a real fireplace may cause your scene to be backlit pretty heavily by the light from the fire. to combat this: use a reflector or lights from multiple sources in front of the product to avoid unwanted harsh shadows. on the other hand: if the harsh shadows are the look you’re going for: try creating a gif to capture the flicker and movement of the fire in the background.
3. incorporate wrapped presents
there’s something exciting and eye-catching about a wrapped present! wrap up some empty boxes in a style that’s cohesive with your product. imagine someone receiving your product as a gift: would it be wrapped in newspaper and twine? a shiny silver bow? a cute bag full of tinsel?
✨ pro tip: after you get your shots with your present props: rip them open and get some shots where the prop is the crumpled wrapping paper in the background and create a fun before-and-after post to really get your customers in the mood to open some presents.
4. capture steam coming from a mug
steam is pretty simple to capture on camera and can be really fun to play with in natural lighting. grab an electric tea kettle to boil some water and pour it in a mug. you may need to empty it and try again a few times to get the perfect shot — but the end result is a very moody (and cheap!) photo effect.
✨ pro tip: go a step further and set a whole scene around your mug of steamy tea or utilize a hand model to make your warm drink more believable.
5. set a warm & cozy scene
Holiday product photography is a good time to use that overly warm indoor lighting that you’re typically trying to avoid. too much warmth in photos is often the bane of a photo-editor. but if you’re going for that evening candlelight cabin vibe: you may actually want to embrace it! play around with warm lighting (fairy lights. candles. campfires. etc).
✨ pro tip: you’ll likely still need to edit your photos with these warm light sources as they can be fickle. use presets on photo-editing apps to create warm honey tones in your photos without being too dark.
6. build a classic gingerbread house
a gingerbread house kit is a tried and true way to make people feel that childlike sense of wonder that we associate with the holidays. build a gingerbread house to use in your background. then try taking bites out of it and taking photos with the gingerbread house slightly deconstructed. this will give you the chance to create a cute GIF (and your photographer gets a treat).
✨ pro tip: this idea is going to work best with products that involve food or make sense in a kitchen/table setting.
7. smoke and paper silhouettes
this background technique is fun. easy. and very affordable. you’ll need to choose a few colors of construction or poster paper. create some cutouts. and then layer them in the background of your photo shoot. for example: if you want a little mountain scene with some pine trees — create one layer of the mountain silhouette and one layer of the tree silhouette. you can also do a cute city silhouette or a little cottage with children playing.
✨ pro tip: if you want to take this idea a step further: create steam or smoke between the layers for an instant moody effect. it gives the feeling of walking home at twilight after a snowball fight of Christmas Eve.
8. play in fake snow
fake snow is easy to create in a variety of ways. you can order it online or make it out of household items: just depends on the look you want! you can even add in a little extra snow in post-production using a photo-editing app!
✨ pro tip: if you’re going to utilize fake snow: be sure to also use a prop that gives the feeling of warmth. using just snow is a little too chilly for a holiday photo shoot. incorporate a cozy pair of mittens or a mug of hot chocolate to balance out the brrrr.
9. set the table with fine crystal
for holiday photos that transition into New Years well: use gorgeous crystal cocktail glasses (and be sure to fill them with some sort of bubbly drink for realistic effect).
✨ pro tip: don’t just use glasses alone on a table. set out some candles. a table runner. and maybe even some silver or gold glitter to really bring the celebratory look together.
10. utilize a model for mood
imagine this: you have a product sitting in front of a fireplace that’s crackly and warm. it’s just sitting on the hearth. that makes you feel warm and cozy right? but what if there’s a person holding it. unwrapping it. feet tucked in. their fuzziest sweater on. they’re smiling as they see their present. and their adorable dog is sitting next to them. see what a difference that model (and dog model) makes?
✨ pro tip: models (dog and human alike) present a great opportunity for GIF usage. GIFs or videos provide a more visually interesting final product that will hold your potential customer’s attention and convey your message more strongly.
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