Content & Copywriting

6 scents-and-senses inspired product photography makeovers from a small business photo expert

Weronika Karczewska
Lifestyle photographer
Weronika shoots intimate lifestyle photography for luxe & conscious brands
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This article and all others on the Studio Cotton blog are written by humans. Please enjoy our opinions, expertise, advice, experiences, and typos.

We’re back with another round of product photography makeovers for small creative businesses. If you have missed our previous blog post and you’re not sure what the heck I’m talking about, myself (Weronika) and the lovely team at Studio Cotton, have been working on a fun project where we ask product based business owners to submit their own imagery that they would like to have reshot and improved by a professional photographer.

We’ve decided to theme each product photography makeover from now on and this one is all about scents and senses. So think candles, silky materials, beauty products, fabrics – anything that you would typically base your purchase on the feel or smell of. It can be super tricky to portray those elements through a photograph, so I’m here to help.

We’ve had lots of submissions so it was very hard to choose the final makers, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to just 6 lovely small creative businesses. So if you’d like to see a before and after of a product photography makeover and get some helpful tips on how to transform your own imagery, read on.


1. Simplicity and accuracy for Clarity Candles

Clarity Candles are made by hand in Cat’s home studio in Hornsey, London. She sources all the materials from the UK, and makes sure they’re biodegradable or recyclable. As well as creating gorgeous scents, Clarity Candles are vegan and cruelty free.


Before product shot by Clarity Candles


First up is Clarity Candles. I really love this simple set up, and I always think that less is more. It’s great to see that the product is the main focus, and the soft fabric and wooden elements complement this natural candle perfectly.

The main thing I’d like to improve on is the white balance, as at the moment everything is feeling very warm. Although I am a big summer and sunshine lover, this isn’t the true reflection of the product.

I’d also like to introduce a few more lifestyle elements in our product photography makeover – after all, we’re all buying into the idea of the life we’ll have once we purchase a product, so it would be great to make it more tangible and make it look as it was captured “in the moment”.


After product shots by Weronika Karczewska


Clarity Candles photography makeover recipe

  • I swapped out the overall fabric backdrop and instead, used a hint of linen to add softness to the image.
  • I’ve decided to give this shot a clear and fresh background, so the dark jar can stand out against a light backdrop.
  • I’ve corrected the white balance which you can see by looking at the label of the candle, which is now white, compared to the earlier image, which was yellow.
  • I’ve added a few more props that help convey that lifestyle feeling – anything that is related to the product itself as well as the scene can help make it look more tangible and relatable. In this instance, I’ve included a wick trimmer, few burnt matches, some books and a plant. It doesn’t seem like much, but with the right positioning (I like for my props to “come off” the image so they don’t distract from the product itself) you can create a photo that looks as if it had just been taken in the moment.
  • I personally really liked the shadows in the original shot, so I decided to recreate them by shooting on a sunny day.


2. Capturing the luxury feel for This is Silk

This is Silk was founded by Sonal Keay, who was inspired to create her silk brand by her struggles with her own sensitive skin. She has a passion for finding top-quality silk, and has a self-confessed obsession with how silk feels on the skin, meaning she creates the smoothest, silkiest products.


Before product shot by This is Silk

Oh face masks. Who ever would have thought they’d become our everyday essential? This one in particular is super lovely, soft and silky, and my goal was to show it off in a way where you can almost feel the fabric without actually touching it. I really like the idea of photographing it against a marble surface so I’ve decided to take this as inspiration and use it as a background in my product photography makeover shot.

I think it adds a sense of luxury and creates a lovely and simple backdrop for the product.


After product shots by Weronika Karczewska


This is Silk photography makeover recipe

  • I wanted the overall product photo to be much lighter so I shot this with studio lights which allowed me to have full control over the brightness of the image. Another option would be to shoot it by a natural source of light (windows, glass doors) on an overcast day, and using either a reflector or a foam board on the other side of the window to bounce the light back to the shot.
  • I added few lifestyle props such as a pair of hoop earrings, some coffee table books and a dried flower to make the product feel more “at home”
  • To translate the softness of the fabric into this image, I shot it using a soft focus on a low F stop which allowed me to create a lovely and delicate shot with some blurriness in the background and the very foreground.


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3. Adding depth without distraction for Zariahijabs

Zariahijabs creates hijabs in the most beautiful fabrics. Their aim is to make comfortable and elegant hijabs, of the highest quality.


Before product shot by Zariahijabs

I really love the colours of these fabrics and I think it’s a great idea to have them all next to each other to show off the variety of shades. The plain backdrop allows for the customer’s eye to focus purely on the product which is great, however I think the colour of the backdrop could be slightly bolder. This will give a better contrast and make the entire scene slightly more dynamic.

Another thing that I would like to improve on is the layout of the scarves, instead of shooting them as a flat lay, I’d like to capture them in a straight on shot so I can get the detailing of the edges of the fabric to really show off the product in its full glory.


After product shot by Weronika Karczewska


Zariahijabs photography makeover recipe

  • The first thing I changed was the colour of the backdrop. I kept it in line with the neutral shades of the product, and I used a slightly pinky colour to make the whole scene tie in together nicely. Picking out a colour that already exists within the product’s colour palette is a great starting point in choosing the right backdrop for your scene.
  • I alternated the fold of the scarf to show different parts of the material such as the stitching and the edges of the fabric.
  • I added one simple prop to give the scene a bit of a lifestyle context, the wooden stool is the perfect addition to the scene, not too distracting but not small enough that it goes unnoticed.
Follow Zariahijabs on Instagram


4. Adding more real life vibes for Two Libras

Two Libras was created by a mother and daughter, for those seeking balance in the hectic, modern world. Their products help to bring moments of tranquility to daily life. The materials they use in their candles are never tested on animals, and the glass jar is recyclable, as is their packaging.


Before product shot by Two Libras

This image has already been paired up with some lovely props, and I always think that using existing items that you may already have around you is a great way to build up your scene. The eucalyptus and the pink flowers add a lovely freshness to this set up, and the lipstick and book give a little bit of extra personality.

The main thing I’d like to improve here is to make the product feel as it’s being used and so the easiest thing to do is to simply light the candle. I would also like to change the background too, perhaps use something a little plainer to allow the product to really stand out. I like the idea of having some sort of foliage in the shot, so I’ll be using some dried eucalyptus and other dried flowers, but I will keep them slightly blurry, so the main focus stays on the product.


After product shots by Weronika Karczewska


Two Libras photography makeover recipe

  • I used a large white linen sheet as a background, having it slightly creased adds a little bit more interest to the scene without becoming too overpowering and taking the attention away from the product.
  • Like I mentioned before, I wanted to light the candle to make it look like it’s been captured in a real life situation – I’d always highly recommend to do this when shooting lifestyle content, because it helps your customer imagine your product in use. It can also instantly create a warm and cosy atmosphere, which is often the goal when photographing candles.
  • I’ve added some foliage in the background and the foreground to add some interest to the shot, dried flowers are one of my favourite props because they can be used in so many ways, and are a helpful prop to set the mood in your set up. I also used some candle related props, such as a wick trimmer and some matches, to once again portray that in the moment feeling of the product being used.


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Visit Two Libras Website


5. A touch of detail for Everything Felt Fibre Art Studio

Liz left her career in finance in 2017 to set up Everything Felt and pursue a more creative lifestyle. She fell in love with wool felting due to its versatility and creative opportunities, and began making all sorts of products, including these handmade natural soaps covered in wool fibres, which create a soft yet gently exfoliating wash pad.


Before product shot by Everything Felt Fibre Art Studio

Simple product shots can be extremely effective, but when shooting a product against a plain background without any props, it’s very important to keep in mind that there’s less to distract from things such as lighting or white balance. Product images don’t need to be shot on a white background (unless they’re being sold on big online marketplaces that specifically need white e-commerce shots) so I’d highly encourage small businesses to play around with colour, and choose something that resonates with their brand.

For my product photography makeover , I will shoot this soap without any props to show that you can achieve a lot with very little, and I’ll introduce an element of colour to add more interest to the product.


After product shots by Weronika Karczewska:


Photography makeover recipe:

  • One of my favourite ways of adding interest to the image without using props is shadows – these can either be created by artificial lights or direct sunlight. I’ve opted for studio lights because I wanted to have full control over the brightness and the angle from which the light was coming.
  • For the first shot, I split the background into two colours – I picked out the lightest shade from the product itself, and introduced it in the shot for continuity. This can easily be achieved with some textured backdrops (my absolute go-tos are Club Backdrops and CBL Backdrops) or two pieces of coloured card.
  • I brightened up the whole scene so you can see the product and the label clearly.


Follow Everything Felt on Instagram
Visit Everything Felt website


6. Light and bright for Vivian May Naturals

Vivian May Naturals was inspired by Diane’s love of candles and the joy of bringing them into a home. She wanted to create a better burning, better smelling, eco-friendly soy candle. They’re lovingly handmade in Bristol, UK.


Before product shot by Vivian May Naturals


What I really like about this shot is that it is showcasing a range of products, which can help the audience to understand what the brand has to offer. Including the packaging in the shot can be great for showing off the product as a whole, especially when the product is aimed as a gift for a loved one.

The main element that I’d like to improve is the lighting. I think that the products could stand out a little bit more, and I’d like to use a white backdrop to really let them shine. I love the use of the plant in this shot, so I’ll definitely be using greenery in the product photography makeover to add an element of freshness.


After product shot by Weronika Karczewska


Vivian May Naturals photography makeover recipe

  • The main thing I wanted to improve was the lighting – the original image is just a little bit too dark and you can’t see the products so well. Lighting is by far the most important part of photography, and it can really make or break the image. I shot this near a window, so I had lots of lovely natural light come through, and I balanced it out with a foam board on the opposite side which helped lift some of the dark shadows.
  • I really liked the element of greenery in the original image so I wanted to introduce that in my shots too – I used leaves coming into the frame.


Follow Vivian May Naturals on Instagram
Like Vivian May Naturals on Facebook
Visit Vivian May Naturals Website


And that’s a wrap for another round of our product photography for small businesses makeover.

If you’d like to take part in any upcoming projects, make sure to check out the submission form for a chance to be involved in our next project.

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