Images tell us a lot about ourselves and the world around us. Wouldn’t it be better if we can convey meaning through perfectly edited and styled pictures? Simultaneously, wouldn’t it be better to rank on Google and garner millions of website visits?
That’s why you need stunning product photography. You want to capture your viewers’ attention, make the visit worthwhile, and result in sales. Photography should be at the forefront of your eCommerce website strategy.
Today, half of Americans with internet access are shopping online. That number is only growing as years progress. Many Americans believe being able to physically see and touch the product is worth way more than a click on a website. Americans want to keep their money close to them and only spend on what matters.
Even more, you need to make the eCommerce shopping experience the most convenient. You need to make your website look as much as a physical storefront as possible. That means your product photos need to be clear, eye-catching, and convincing. You need to give your website visitors the confidence to click the order button.
Product photography shouldn’t be just pointing your camera and snapping a photo. You must have the correct equipment, photography space, and lighting to make a sale. Though, the good news is that the tools you need for effortless product photography may already be on hand. And you may be able to edit your photos conveniently when you’re finished.
Follow along for tips and tools to edit and style product photography. You’ll get some real examples to take with you.
Props, Story, Brand Storytelling, & Successful Product Photography
The props you use in your product photos should only tell a story and showcase it in its entirety. You might not get a sale if your images are not high-quality. If you sell on a marketplace like Etsy or Amazon, you are put up next to competitors. The differentiating factor between you and your competitors in your niche is that show-stopping product photo.
It doesn’t always boil down to aesthetics, though; we’re talking about your perceived value. Perceived value is what your customer takes away from your website or product offering. And the immediate difference between a high and low perceived value is the quality of your product photography.
The first notion every business owner or manager has is that product photography includes expensive setup. The truth is, there are product photography tools that are affordable and effective to get the job done all on your own.
You may be a lean startup or bootstrapped. It’s understandable if you want to keep your spending on the lower end. The truth is, most of the product photography props can be DIY. And it doesn’t take much to work with your camera and product to look clean and professional while still showing your brand story. It’s simple.
From finding household items to window lighting, you can arrange your photos to be high quality while on a budget with high-quality results. Cards and window light setups can be done with less than $20 in your pocket.
Start With a Creative Brief
To be the most professional, you need to have a plan. Maybe you run your own business, perhaps you work in-house, or work with a client. Create a document that answers questions that will help you understand the shoot’s goals better and get the designed product photography shoot achieved.
Try to go in-depth with these questions. Try to shy away from clients throwing out vague terms like “fun.” That’s entirely subjective. Your understanding of the end goal may be completely different. So, try to get a picture in your mind of the result by asking yourself or others more in-depth questions.
Always have a plan written down before your photoshoot begins, starting with the props you need to achieve the final look. Then, set the mood. You or your client may want a light and airy backdrop. Plenty of companies sell backgrounds and props specifically for product photography in mind. You can search for an array of backdrops from marble for a light look, concrete for an industrial look, or dark wood for a rich look.
Product Photography Gear You Should Own
Product photography isn’t for the faint of heart. Even if you are new, you should be budgeting for the correct product photography gear. But spending an arm and a leg on camera gear isn’t going to make your product photography any better, is it? Here are a few things you’ll need to set up your product photography:
You can shoot with any DSLR or mirrorless camera. Great cameras range from small budgets to high budgets. For recommended cameras, check out our product recommendations. You could also learn to shoot with your iPhone since you aren’t shooting at night or from varying outdoor scenarios. For best results, a DSLR is recommended, though.
Starting with a point-and-shoot camera for product photography works perfectly fine. Start with what is handy and in your budget. As long as you have the right equipment set up, you are well on your way to shooting perfect product photography.
When you shoot product photography, you will be using a small aperture for most field depth. You’ll have a wide depth of field to define a sharp focus area. This will help you get to the largest f/stop number that you can. But with a larger f/stop number, you will counter with slow shutter speed. This helps allow the most light through.
Slow shutter speeds mean a blurry subject if you are holding the camera. This is because, as much as you try not to, your hand moves. So, use a tripod, and check out the best tripods, whether using a camera tripod or a tripod for your iPhone. The tripod will act as your co-pilot as you shoot product scenarios.
Get a table to prop your products on. Any standard folding table (24-27 inches, card table, or craft table will work correctly.
If you’re using boards as backgrounds, you’ll want to tape down or use a clamp-on any loose objects to keep them secure during your product photoshoot.
The Right Room
If you’re not working with artificial light, use a room with enough natural lighting with many big windows. With more windows, you get the most out of natural lighting (which is free). Bring your product set up closer to the winder with softer light and dark shadows—the further away from a window, the more even light with sharp shadows you will have.
If you’re not using natural lighting or don’t have natural lighting available, you will need to create artificial lighting. A softbox, lightbox, and standing light (or multiple) should be enough for you to make lighting for fine product photography.
Always cast your lighting, so you do not have any sharp shadows. Shadows tend to minimize the look of the product, not highlight it. So be sure to have multiple lights and a softbox if you have too many shadows.
To keep things simple and showcase the product in your photoshoot, you could use a white background. A white sweep is available from Amazon. We suggest using a paper sweep since the fabric sweeps get dirty quickly. Once you dirty up part of your sweep, you can cut off the dirty part and bring a brand new piece down. Posterboard is another option for a cheap sweep, especially if your products are small in size.
White Bounce Cards
Even when you’re using natural light from a window, there is the bright side from the light and shadows. The shadows may result in too dark areas of your product shots. You can use a white foam board to bounce light onto the shady side with its reflection.
Sometimes you may need deeper shadows, depending on the product. You might run into this if you are shooting a white product with a white background. A black foam board to each side will result in a dark edge on the product. If you use the black bounce cards in the back and the white bounce cards in the front, you can create a sensual feel in your product shot.
Check out foam boards on Amazon. You may be able to buy in bulk, too, so you can replace it when dirty.
Styling, Composition, and Shooting Product Photography Tips
To achieve the perfect product shots, you are going to want to plan around these tips. Every time you go to set up your product photography, consider the following:
Product Photography Studio Setup
You have all your product photography gear, and now it’s time to get ready to shoot in your new product photography studio. Position your table as close to a window without casting a shadow from the windowsill. It’s always good to have the window 90 degrees to the side (right or left) of your product setup. Remember, the light will be softer if you have your setup closer to the window. Any overhead lights or lamps may intrude on the natural lighting, so be sure to have them off.
Conversely, you can make the window at 45 degrees to your product setup or have the window straight in front of the product setup. Play with natural lighting until you reach the desired effect. If you’re working in a garage, shoot with the door open. You’ll get tons of natural light on your product shots.
If natural light is not available, use a lightbox, which is made specifically for product photography. You will not have any disturbances like shadows. If your products are too big, it’s wide to use backdrops and standing LED lights for the best results.
Set Up Your Sweep
Having a vertical sweep is key for product shots. Sometimes you will have to roll up your board, so it is vertical. Place your table near the wall, then tape the sweep to the wall and the tableside. If a wall isn’t available, secure your sweep to something heavy and secure like a wooden block.
Your product should sit in the center of the flat surface of the sweep. You should let there be room for your white reflector card to go if you need one.
Now that you have your product photography studio setup, it’s time for the camera setup! Camera setups are strange for every beginner, but also because every camera is different. You may have bought a camera just to take product photography. But there are certain things you should know about the setup. Here are some product photography tips if you’re working with natural light:
White Balance & Quality
- Have your white balance set to auto (it will read AWB).
- Have your flash setting turned off.
- Images settings should be at the highest quality. RAW is on most point-and-shoot cameras, which is recommended and utilizes all the depth on a camera.
- Note: if you don’t have RAW on your camera, set it at the largest JPG setting. Some cameras have Large (L), Medium (S), and Small (S), in which most cases, large will be your best bet. Quality will be labeled Superfine (S), Fine (F), and Normal (N). Superfine will be your pick here.
- ISO, the sensitivity of the sensor, should be at 100. This is usually the lowest IDO you can set, and the less noise in the photo.
There are a few options you have when setting the exposure on your camera for product photography. Here is what you can do:
Manual (M) camera mode
- Use a Manual setting since nothing is moving during your photoshoot.
- Set your f/stop to the highest number for the most depth of field.
- Liveview should let you preview the image on your screen though everything will look dark.
- Then, change your shutter speed and rotate the dial so the image is exposed and bright enough. The number should go down from 1/60 to ¼. Remember that these symbolize fractions of a second, which will be how long your shutter opens.
- The rule of thumb is: the lower the number, the more light that is allowed in. Adjust until you get the correct preview image.
- Your camera might have aperture priority instead of a manual.
- In this case, change the f/stop to the highest number.
- The shutter will automatically adjust to what the camera believes it should be.
- Add light by adjusting the exposure compensation dial.
- Sometimes auto exposure may be your only option. That’s okay.
- With your exposure compensation dial, add +1 or +1.5 for the right exposure.
- If you are using an iPhone, tap the area you want to be exposed to your way.
- You can use the histogram on your camera to adjust the exposure. Always pay attention to the histogram to know if you have the correct exposure.
- When choosing between optical zoom and digital zoom, always choose optical zoom. Digital zoom tends to lower image quality as it is only cropping the image.
- With optical zoom, zoom in as far as you can without using digital zoom.
- Longer zooms remove distortion from a wide-angle lens.
- This is something that you will stumble upon with an iPhone as most cameras on phones have a wide-angle lens.
Setting Up Your Products
Always set up your product in the middle of the surface when shooting product photography. You will want any labels centered and may have to make slight adjustments and movements so the camera can get the best features of the product. This may take several minutes until your product is lined up perfectly. Don’t rush yourself.
Reflector Card Setup
Much like your product positioning, for product photography, you will need to adjust your reflector card for light modification. It may take you a few different angles before you find the right way for light to bounce off the shadows. The right way to angle the deflector card will all depend on your preferences.
Take Product Photography
Now, you’re ready to start snapping photos for your product photography. It’s time to get as many pictures at different angles with your reflector and experiment. Once your photos are all taken, you will be able to evaluate your product photos. Professional product photography is about trial and error. Over time, your product photography skills will improve.
To evaluate, upload your product photos to your computer. Judging by your camera screen is never accurate enough—download Adobe Lightroom to keep all your product photos in one place. You don’t have to be a professional product photographer to use Lightroom; it’s effortless to use. Lightroom makes making adjustments super easy and can be quick. Also, if you’re working on your iPhone or smartphone camera, you can use your phone photos on there, too. Check out all the other iPhone photo editing software available.
By now, you’ve found the right product photos out of the bunch. You need to retouch the photos. Professional product photography should be exposed with a light gray background. Compare your retouched images with product photos you see on the internet. Compare this by looking up your product niche on Google.
Optimize Product Photos for Your Website
Having your product photos ready to go is half the battle. But your product photos won’t go anywhere if they’re not optimized. This means having SEO or Search Engine Optimization in mind. Google takes into account a variety of factors, including:
- Optimized product descriptions with SEO keywords.
- The loading speed of the website.
- Note: make images no larger than 200 KB. Try to get them as small as possible.
Resize Your Images
By optimizing your website, you need to resize your images, including the product photos’ height and width. Here are some product photography tips:
- Did you know that product images you see on other websites is an HTML container? The image is scaled to fit inside.
- Say your container is a 650 px square. If your image is 1500 px square, it will be displayed at the same scale as your container (650 px). This means that it takes longer to load. And when you have many images of your products, Google notices that it takes longer.
- Professional product photography tip: Size the image to fit the container. Try resizing your image to be one and a half times larger than the container for the better quality of viewing.
- Find out the image container size by going into your web developer tools by right-clicking on the image and selecting “Inspect Element.” The pixel dimensions will be right there.
- There are built-in tools on your computer that allow you to resize images. Mac Preview and Microsoft Picture work just great.
- Now, resize your photos to whatever size you need, click “export,” and save your desktop as a JPEG at 100 percent.
Compress the Image
You’ve saved your product photos at 100 percent quality in Preview. Now you notice the file size is large. You need to compress the images, and not in preview. And you don’t want to compress it too much. It will remove the data not used, so the image starts to fall apart and looks blotchy.
To compress the image, you should use recommended compression apps like Adobe’s Photoshop Save For Web. As you lower the compression slider, it shows a preview. That way, you don’t have to compromise on the compression quality of your product images.
FAQ: Professional Product Photography
How can I take product photos at home?
It doesn’t matter if you have a studio at home. Product photography can be done at home quickly using a card table, a clamp, some foam boards, poster boards, and your camera phone. You can even edit photos on your phone or desktop. Stick to these tips, and soon you’ll be a professional product photographer.
How do you take professional pictures of your product?
To take professional product photos, have a white background, and center your product in the middle of your sweep. Then, adjust your brightness and exposure settings to showcase your products. Snap away. Finally, edit your photos to fit your eCommerce website.
How do I take product photos with my phone?
Product photos on your phone are super easy. If you have a newer iPhone, you can use portrait mode and tap to automatically distribute exposure and brightness just as you would with a DSLR. Then, edit your photos on your phone right there.
Professional product photography can be obtained by using your own home, items on hand, and a very simple camera. All you need to do is follow these product photography tips of the trade to get stunning photos for your eCommerce website.