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The evolution of product photography, according to Yeshen Venema

With a passion for working directly with creative talents, Yeshen has built one of the UK's leading product photography studios. Offering 1:1 training, workshops, and web design services, Yeshen shared with us his insights on the evolution of product photography, its importance in today's online marketplace, and tips for creative brands to stand out.

Tell us about your journey in the creative industries, from your photography work to web design.

My wife Natasha and I founded our company in 2012 to cover our work across photography, film and animation. My focus has always been on designers, makers and artists as this sector is particularly inspiring and I love working directly with these talented individuals without the need for an agency. I can proudly say I have built the business to become one of the leading product photography studios in the UK for design, craft and books.

I also offer 1:1 training and group workshops alongside our studio and location photography. A new service is on-site photography training where I visit the home or studio of a client and offer advice and hands on demonstration for equipment, lighting and workflow.

We soon added Squarespace website design and training to our services as it was starting to become popular in the UK. I have since become an official Squarespace Expert and Authorised Trainer and run many workshops with their UK team.

Can you give us your insights into product photography? What changes has the field seen in recent years, or how have you seen it evolve? 

Product photography has been around since the 1940s but my business really started alongside the rise in online selling and events for makers and designers. Platforms like Etsy and Folksy have ceramicists and textile designers the opportunity to sell direct to their customers but they need professional photos. “A good photo is worth a 1000 sales", as I like to say!

Other platforms like not on the high street followed, and the rise of Shopify really gave micro businesses the tools to grow their sales not just in the UK, but internationally. More recently I feel this sector has become quite saturated not just with online selling and social content but also craft markets on every corner and too much of the same type of products. Camera phones and apps powered by AI are revolutionary in terms of photography but you still need to understand lighting and have good a sense of styling ‘to camera’ which is seriously lacking in many images I see. I don’t think stylists get enough credit, they often create the image just as much as the photographer!

 

How can creative brands keep up in a world where this kind of photography has changed?

I would recommend using a professional photographer and stylist one to three times a year for your main images (press shots, website headers, printed materials) and for the rest of your images, investing time in setting up and learning how to use some basic lighting equipment. Keep up with new tech and ways of working for sure but, honestly anything on the phone can be a huge distraction — you can take great photos with a cheap digital camera, good lighting and the most important thing — patience. 

Can you tell us about a recent project you've worked on?

We just completed a great shoot with New Designers, the graduate design show in London. I first worked with the ND team back in 2018 and I've always loved visiting the show to get inspired by the fresh graduate talent from around the UK. This type of shoot, where we get to bring a large range of different materials and products types together, is always challenging but also incredibly rewarding. This time we were fortunate to have some wonderful furniture to work with which gave us a fantastic backdrop for the small items.

What are the next steps in your creative journey?

We are actually planning a move to Australia with our son. It’s likely we will keep doing similar things but I’m keeping an open mind to new opportunities over there. I want to develop the digital products and services we offer so I can keep in touch with our clients here in the UK and expand my education work in the craft/design community in Australia.

Follow Yeshen's journey here.

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