In this article I share some advice to help create photos for publications. Since I’m a product photographer, the examples used are products but the ideas behind it can easily be adapted to other  types of photography.

What is the picture for

When an editor requests images to illustrate an article, there is always a story to be told, and the photographer’s contribution is to create images that complement and illustrate this story.

I believe that the photographs created for portfolio should follow the same logic, i.e. they should tell a story, which will make it easier in decisions regarding what should enter or not in the photograph, what props to use, what kind of lighting and environment to create.

Create a story

It may seem like a simple task, but it’s rather complicated to have completely new ideas, so here are a few suggestions on how to start:

  • Is the product for men, women or undifferentiated?
  • Is the product to be used on a specific occasion? Christmas, Carnival,…?
  • Is the product to be use during the day, night or is it indifferent?
  • Is the product to be used in a specific environment?
  • What adjectives help describe the product?
  • What’s unique about it, that should be highlighted?

All these questions help to create a context, making the process of decision making more coherent.

Create a mood board

Now that there is a story to be told, it’s important to have visual references to help give context to history, and a mood board is an excellent way to show it.

The mood board should contain images with a similar environment to what you want to create, props that can work with the object to be photographed, and ideas about where the story happens.

For example, assuming you’re going to photograph a bottle of beer. If you imagine that this beer will be served to an old man, in a tavern, in an old town area, this will help select the type of background, lighting and props. On the other hand, if we imagine that the same beer will be served in a modern bar for a group of young people, this will guide the image and it’s contents in a different direction.

As an example, below is a mood board for footwear photography for an autumn / winter campaign. To illustrate my ideas, I used materials, reference images and a color palette that fits the specific time of year.


Define a color palette

The Color palette should be defined before looking for the props or backgrounds. To define the color palette, I usually start with the dominant color of the product.

Depending on the desired environment, you choose a color relationship (monochrome, complementary,…) that best helps tell the story. This choice will help a lot in selecting the props to use.

Extra Tip: if you do not find a prop with the desired color, you can always change in post-production but pay attention to the reflected light of this prop because it can introduce undesirable colors in the image.

The Images below show a few color tests. Basically, I start with the main color of my product and then, using a ryb color wheel, I look for some combinations to see which will work best in the image


At this stage, you should have a very clear idea of the environment that you need to create. If it is a simple composition, a simple color scheme should be used. If it is a more complex scene, a more elaborate combination of colors may be more appropriate.

Horizontal / Vertical

Most of the time, it is necessary to create an image in a specific orientation. -With the new sensors of millions of megapixels, you can photograph from a distance, then crop the image to the intended format, but it is not the same as composing the image for a specific orientation.

My advise is compose for the intended orientation. After the image is captured, rotate the camera and adjust whatever is necessary for the scene to work in the new orientation. This ensures greater flexibility in the event of a last-minute change and the image is needed on a different orientation.

Below are some examples. The first image was created in horizontal format and then, removing only a few elements, a new image was created in the vertical format.



In Renaissance painting, painters developed a style of representation they called chiaroscuro. They abandoned the traditional form of painting and sought a representation that would convey greater tridimensionality. This was achieved through strong and directional lighting, creating strong contrasts.

In photography, this concept can be applied to most compositions, by changing the position of the main light.

In the two photographs below, you can see the same composition. By changing the direction of the light, the environment changes completely.


The photograph on the left has the light coming from the behind giving a lighter feeling, which is in line with a spring / summer environment. This is because in summer there is much more light reflected and filling the shadows.

In contrast, the photograph on the right has no illumination of the background which makes it darker, and all light comes from one side and in a very controlled way. This image evokes a winter environment, when light is weaker and shadows are darker.

Quick note regarding the color palette, to mention how in these images the background has the same color hue as the glasses giving consistency to the image.

Example: Magazine Cover

When shooting for publication, it’s really important to remember that text will be overlaid on the images. Therefor leaving negative space for copy should be present at all stages of the shooting process.

In the images below, I’ve created two studies: a cover and a spread for a magazine. The cover has all the usual information: title, main articles and barcode. The spread includes notes about the images.

I use png files with the transparent background while photographing, as a photo overlay, to check composition and later in post-production for final verification.



Hope all these information is helpful and that it inspires you to create images that are a true expression of your vision.