When Size Actually Matters

Hello, this article on the importance of product sizing was written by Ian for the March/April 2021 edition of CameraCraft magazine.  It explores the different ways scale can be used in packshot images and e-commerce presentation.

Our brains really are very clever things.  They take in information around them, in this case from our eyes, and they process it at lightning fast speeds and create a picture of the world around us.  Part of this processing relies on the correct interpretation of the scale of objects relative to each other.  The beauty of this process, is that it all happens without us realising that it’s even happening!

As an advertising photographer, I regularly take advantage of this subliminal processing by deliberately adjusting the scale of products relative to their surroundings.  This technique forces the brain to pause its usual processing and forces it to reassess the unexpectedly scaled objects in front of it.  The result is that the viewer is forced to pause and view the image for longer so that the brain can determine what it’s actually viewing.  It’s down to this extended period of viewing that the image is much more likely to be remembered.  

Whilst it’s always great fun to play with the viewers perception of products by using unexpected scaling of objects, there is another side to commercial photography in which the accurate portrayal of scale is absolutely essential.  This is in the world of packshots.  These are the images that you see of products online on e-commerce shop websites and images show products are isolated on a plain, generally pure white, background. 

The purpose of a packshot is to provide potential buyers with a high quality depiction of a product that entices them to buy.  However, one scale-related problem with isolating products on a white background is that there is no other object in the scene to give the viewer any reference as to the size of the product.  In some cases we have been requested to add an image of a ruler along side the product to give a reference.  Alternatively, if different sizes of product are available then we add them next to each other to show the relative scale.

Camercraft (Feb21) - Bags packshot triple Ian Knaggs

The one final option we use is a mix of advertising and packshot style images in which we include the same product at two different sizes in the same image. This technique is great for highlighting detail areas on a product whilst still showing the complete product.

Camercraft (Feb21) - Brewdog - creative packshot Ian Knaggs

 So, the next time you stop and view an advertising image for longer than expected, it may well have been down to the unexpected use of scale and proportion.

This article can be viewed in the March/April 2021 Cameracraft magazine, which is produced in association with The Guild of Photographers.