How to Shoot Amazing Ad Photos

Written by Tim Edmundson

40560Z_ProductPhotographyBestPractices_Steelhouse_FB_Linkein090116-1If you’re new to the world of creating ad creative, it can seem like a daunting task. We’ve already covered some basic ad design concepts that should help you get started, and today we plan on carrying on by providing some insight into what makes for great ad photography.

One of the key features of the SteelHouse Creative Suite is that it allows you to use the content from the world around you. That means any photo or video you take can be included in your ads. So if you’re going to be using your photos, it’s a good idea to ensure they look as amazing as they possibly can.

The good news is you don’t have to be a professional to take great photos. We’ve compiled a list of helpful concepts to help you make your ads the most dynamic on the market, and create a telling visual experience to better connect with your prospective and loyal customers.


Stunning visuals are key to putting together a compelling ad – so much of today’s content revolves around the visual element, and while important, copy can often take a backseat when it comes to drawing a customer’s attention to your ad.

If there’s one thing to not forgo when building an ad, it’s spending time on choosing and editing your best possible images. People remember 80% of what they see visually when browsing internet content, so if you’re looking to make your visuals memorable follow these concepts when deciding how to visually approach your ad and your product photography.


Getting started can always be tough. Whether you’re an expert with years of experience designing creative, or a junior level marketer beginning your career, you’re going to run into roadblocks. When in doubt, don’t be afraid to go back to the Principles of Design – they are the essential building blocks that are used to arrange the structural element of any sort of creative design.

If you find yourself in need of inspiration in terms of artistic direction, look to the nine pillars of design – Balance, Emphasis, Movement, Pattern, Repetition, Proportion, Rhythm, Variety, and Unity. They can be incredibly helpful when building your content – it never hurts to go back to the basics.

If you’re feeling stuck, try limiting yourself – create a focused composition around one of the pillars, and see what you come up with. Then, begin testing yourself and seeing what principles you can combine to enhance and bring depth into your ad – maybe try combining Harmony with Variety. There are endless combinations, and they can be essential in helping you with a start.


motion_motto_1Static images simply aren’t cutting it anymore, especially when users see hundreds of ads everyday. It’s one of the reasons why video is so effective when used in ads – however, if you’re looking to use a photo in your ad, then you can still have the effect of motion without actually using it.

One of the best ways to make your ads and products stand out is to incorporate perceived motion – it’s like having the illusion of video in a normal image. Simple images like water (waves, waterfalls, streams), transportation (planes, trains, cars), or everyday objects (hammers, pots and pans, or shoes) can have a lasting effect on your customer. Having your audience interpret action allows them to visualize themselves using your product in that action.

Here are a couple technical tips when shooting photos to give off the illusion of motion:

Experiment with a low ISO on your DSLR camera – letting less light into your camera will give it the power to blur real-life motion into an image a bit cleaner.

Make sure to focus on your main subject, and make sure to slow your camera’s shutter speeds for fast moving objects/subjects. You can even try moving your camera quickly or gradually when taking the shot.

Play around with these techniques and you’ll find yourself creating much more dynamic images for your awesome campaigns.


brand_1Don’t forget: not only are you selling your product in every shot you take, you’re also selling your company’s brand. Product photography tends to be executed in a simple way – you see a lot of white backgrounds with only the product featured. This is a common practice because, quite frankly, it works. But if you feel like stepping outside the norm, feel free to do so. Showing your products in action is a great way to stand out.

It’s important to match your photography with your brand’s lifestyle, and a lot of brands are picking that up and making a strong connection with their audience. It’s important to feel comfortable – if you feel the shot isn’t right and doesn’t fit your company’s mantra, it’s probably not going to resonate with your audience. Push shots that expose not only your product, but what it stands for, who will be using it, and how they will be using it. A holistic composition can set your ads apart from the rest of the pack.


Ultimately, sometimes your greatest idea can come from something you saw in your day-to-day life or while you were on vacation. Up until now, it wasn’t easy to incorporate these into your advertisements and quickly serve them to your audience.

Now with the SteelHouse Creative Suite, you can easily pull that picture you took off your phone and into your ad. The Creative Suite gives you the leverage to take advantage of those moments in life where you have the perfect image. Of course, the perfect image can be hard to produce, and if you’re looking to be able to create them consistently rather than rely on those magic moments, here are some tips that will help you do just that.

Try to use the lowest ISO possible for exposure in order to retain clarity.

Shoot the angle and frame that you want and avoid cropping except when needed as a last resort because you may have to cut things out you originally wanted in the frame

Adjust aperture accurately before shooting, shallow depth (wide) for macros and deep (narrow) for landscapes

Work with shutter speed last if you have a tripod because it is the easiest to control. If you’re shooting action shots or without a tripod, you may have to forego some ISO or aperture, depending on the lighting in the situation.

Consult the Rule of Thirds and make sure to perfect your centering

If you’re not shooting in a studio, make sure you pick an area with soft lighting and without a distracting background. You don’t want the background to take away from the actual product.

Depending on what the product is, it is usually helpful to shoot with a rather shallow aperture in order to focus on the product and give a blurred effect in the background. (Hint: Doing this in Photoshop afterwards won’t look natural to the eye)

If you’re shooting in the studio you will have much more room for freedom but the most common technique is a white or black background using a three-point lighting system (fill light, key light and back light)

In a studio, you may think that it will look like a perfectly white or black background as soon as you upload the photos but many times it is not. This will require some editing in Photoshop. We suggest starting with contrast, white balance and RGB filtering to make it look as natural as possible.

With these tips in mind, you should be able to start taking photos that draw your customers’ eyes to your ad – and that’s half the battle. Combine your visuals with engaging copy, a compelling CTA, and a strong offer, and you should be seeing conversions in no time.

Check out the SteelHouse Creative Suite – it’s free to use. You can upload videos from YouTube, pull thousands of images from the Getty library for free, and even incorporate your own content into your ad.