You can improve your photography dramatically by merely practicing a little product photography. And no, you don’t have to be a product photographer to benefit from this practice. Portrait, architecture, macro, and even landscape photographers can all benefit from a little product photography practice.
All photography, no matter the subject matter, requires the control of light and shadows. And the power of the highlights and the shadows is what gives life to an image. Think for a moment of photographing a landscape in the middle of the day, an approach that is highly discouraged if you want a more exciting photograph. Why? Because the light is flat, it doesn’t provide enough contrast to make the image interesting. The highlights and shadows needed for that contrast don’t exist. That’s why Elia Locardi in the Photographing the World series is always photographing early or late in the day. The time of the day that produces the most contrast between highlights and shadows.
But just knowing you need to incorporate contrast in your images isn’t enough. You need to understand how moving the light or the subject relative to the light is going to impact the image. How can you practice for portrait photography without finding a model or a willing subject to practice on? Well, the use of a sphere, cylinder, and a cube as Jay P. Morgan of The Slanted Lens uses in this video can be great tools in developing your photography skills for almost any style of photography. By practicing with these objects in your house or studio, you will be able to refine your eye for how the light is impacting your subject when you are shooting the type of photography you usually shoot.