One of the benefits of product or still life photography is the ability to present everyday objects in unique and unusual ways. They no longer then remain as humble instruments; through lighting and composition and the magnification provided by macro lenses they can be raised above the norm to glorified, monumental status.
They also don’t talk back, are never late, require no model release, and are extremely patient, enduring hours of fidgeting with lights, adjusting backgrounds, and experimentation with nary a complaint. In short, the perfect subjects.
Often these objects are indeed beautiful in their own right. It isn’t often that they are given careful visual inspection. We often take them for granted. However, a lot of time and energy (and money) went into their design. It is through the presentation in a photograph that we are given the time (and space) to truly admire them.
I try to simplify my images, emphasizing the graphic nature of the design. I have been experimenting with gelled backgrounds (being careful not to over-use them). Taking cues from color already in the product, a gradient in a background can call attention to this detail, as in the following images of a pen and a personal hygiene product:
I also really enjoy using reflections.
Industrial design can be extraordinary; the care (and skill) that went into designing these products I feel warrants the repetition that a simple reflection provides (in this case on black acrylic).
I prefer to use gelled gradients on simple forms. More complex designs – like the circuit board detail on this pen – demand simple backgrounds, as is the case here:
In either case, the role of the background is to enhance the subject. Simple subjects I feel often need complexity or color in the background. Conversely, more complex ones need something simpler. Juxtaposition is something I often employ, particularly in editorial pictures of people, but I feel that background selection in product photography calls for a very subtle, similar use of it as well.