Engaging, well-executed images have been a critical sales driver since the days of mail-order catalogs. Customers should be able to view your product from multiple angles, examine details, compare color and size options, and see the product in real-world contexts — so your online store mimics an in-person shopping experience as much as possible.
It’s crucial that your photos are well lit and composed to present the product as clearly and accurately as possible, while also reflecting your brand’s style. For some businesses, the best solution is hiring a professional photographer. But if you’re on a tight budget, all you need to take high-quality product photos yourself is some relatively inexpensive equipment and basic knowledge of photography principles.
The equipment you’ll need
- A digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera or smartphone with at least a 12 megapixel resolution
- White paper sweep
- Surface to set your product on (platform, table, mannequin, etc.)
- Natural light source
- Room or area of a room you can dedicate to shooting
- Masking, duct, or gaffer tape
- White foam core or card stock
- Photo editing software or smartphone app
Get to know your camera
Spend time learning about your camera’s features and settings. Whether you’re using your smartphone or a digital SLR camera, you’ll want to know what your tool is capable of and how to maximize its functionality.
Take the time to learn about exposure, focus, and color balancing. If you’re working with a smartphone, download an app that allows you to manually control these settings so you can create more consistent images. Becoming comfortable with your camera’s features and learning how to use settings appropriate to the type of photos you’re taking will not only help you produce better images, it will speed up your process and keep you working more efficiently.
Optimizing Product Photography: Tools and Techniques
1. Lens Selection: Tailored to Your Needs
When working with a DSLR camera, a standard 35mm lens serves as a foundational tool. For capturing intricate details, a 100mm macro lens is indispensable. For those leveraging smartphones, a plethora of third-party lens add-ons are accessible. You can augment your smartphone’s capabilities with macro, telephoto, wide-angle, and even anamorphic lenses, enhancing image quality and perspective.
2. Prioritize High-Resolution Photography
It’s easier to scale down a high-resolution image without sacrificing quality than to upscale a low-resolution one. Whether for printed collateral or striking hero images on your website, high-resolution images ensure crispness and detail. When using a DSLR, shooting in RAW format and subsequently saving edited images as jpgs is advisable. For smartphone users, employing the rear-facing camera and ensuring settings are adjusted to the maximum file size will garner the best results.
3. Stability with Tripods
A clear, sharp image is paramount. Tripods lend stability, eliminating blurs caused by hand movements. Establish consistent tripod placements for each angle you aim to capture, marking positions for repeatable precision. Uniformity in angles and shooting distances offers viewers a coherent browsing experience, facilitating product comparisons.
4. The Sweep: A Photographer’s Best Friend
For those unacquainted, a sweep is a continuous, seamless backdrop, ideal for product photography. This setup negates the hard corners that can cast shadows and create distracting lines. Economical choices for sweeps include large white card stock sheets or white paper rolls.
For smaller items, a simple setup involves taping one end of the paper to a wall and the other end to a table or floor, ensuring a smooth curvature. The objective is to envelop the product within the white space, minimizing any extraneous background. If inevitable, minor external backgrounds can be cropped during the editing phase.
While sweeps can come in myriad hues, white is often the preferred choice because:
- Undivided Focus: A pristine white backdrop ensures undistracted focus on the product’s features.
- Ease of Editing: White backgrounds facilitate straightforward extraction and editing of product images.
- Color Accuracy: White sweeps eliminate color casting, ensuring consistent and accurate product representation.
- Optimized File Sizes: Beyond image optimization during the post-processing stage, a white backdrop inherently maintains smaller file sizes, beneficial for website loading times.
5. Benefits of White Backgrounds
White backgrounds for product photos are prevalent for several reasons:
- Highlighting the Product: A neat, white backdrop eradicates any visual distractions, channeling the viewer’s attention directly onto the product.
- Editing Flexibility: A uniform white background simplifies the process of extracting products for edits or placement within composite images.
- Consistent Color Representation: Using a standardized white backdrop for all products ensures uniformity in color representation. Colored backdrops can inadvertently alter the product’s hue, potentially misleading customers.
- Efficient File Management: Beyond the mandatory photo optimization, white backgrounds inherently compress file sizes, ensuring quicker website load times.
In conclusion, the quality of product photography is a fusion of the right tools and techniques. By prioritizing lens choice, image resolution, stability, and background selection, you can significantly enhance the visual appeal and accuracy of your product images.
Mastering the Art of Product Photography: Tips and Techniques
1. The White Sweep Reality
While photographing against a white sweep promises a neat backdrop, achieving a true white is often elusive. The resultant shade usually oscillates between light and medium grey. Factors such as lighting, exposure, and shadows, especially towards image edges, contribute to this. Desire a pristine white? Dive into image editing tools, select, and discard the background to achieve that flawless white.
2. The Perils of Mixed Lighting
A fundamental rule of photography is ensuring consistency in lighting. Different light sources emanate varied color temperatures, culminating in disparate hues cast on subjects. For instance, juxtaposing a cool LED light with a warm incandescent bulb might distort color fidelity, complicating post-processing. For augmented light, deploy a reflector card instead of juggling multiple light sources.
3. Ditch the On-Camera Flash
While on-camera flash has its moments, beginners are better off sidelining it. Direct flash can spawn issues like:
- Glaring reflections
- Stark shadows
- Extended working distances
- Conflicting lighting hues
- Depleting battery life swiftly
As an alternative, navigate your camera settings, tweaking the aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. If manual adjustments seem daunting, rely on auto-focus, auto-exposure, and auto white balance. They might not promise perfection, but they simplify the shooting process.
4. Harness Indoor Natural Light
Natural light, when supplemented with a reflector card, is both cost-effective and efficacious. Reflectors, available in diverse forms like foam cores or foldable variants, aid in manipulating light, ensuring a balanced illumination on the subject.
Indoor settings shield you from unpredictable external factors, offering more control over light direction and intensity. Using sheer curtains can filter and soften the light, casting gentle shadows. However, shadows might still appear. To counteract this, strategically place the reflector opposite the product, redirecting light and achieving even lighting.
5. Consider An Affordable Lighting Kit
Should natural light prove inadequate or incongruent with your brand aesthetic, explore budget-friendly lighting kits. For smaller products, tabletop light boxes, ranging between $20-$150, are apt. For grander items, contemplate investing in a basic studio lighting ensemble inclusive of continuous lights, soft boxes, background stands, and sweeps, typically priced around $150-$200.
6. Quality Control: Review As You Shoot
Nothing’s more exasperating than realizing your photos lack sharpness post a lengthy shoot. Periodically inspect images for clarity, ensuring products are vivid and sharp. Scrutinize exposure and white balance, ensuring neither overexposure nor underexposure mars your shots. Consistent color balance is pivotal.
Product photography, while intricate, can be simplified with methodical approaches and the right tools. Prioritizing consistent lighting, understanding backgrounds, and routinely evaluating shots ensures your images not only showcase products effectively but also resonate with your target audience. By embracing these guidelines, even novices can capture product photos that captivate and inform.
Shoot from multiple angles
Showing your product from multiple angles will help customers better understand it. In a physical store, you can pick up an item and examine the front, back, top, bottom, and inside. In your online store, you should try to give visitors that same experience.
Move in close for detail shots or use a macro lens
Don’t rely on cropping a photo to show details of your product. The result will be somewhat out of focus at best. If you need to zoom in on extremely small details, like fabric weave, you’ll likely end up with very fuzzy images.
If you’re using a smartphone with no additional lenses, simply move in as close to your product as you can while still being able to create sharp focus. You might not be able to achieve the same level of detail you would if using a macro lens, but it will still be much better than if you take the photo from further away and then try to zoom in with your editing software.
If you’re using a DSLR camera or have the option to add a lens to your smartphone, choose a macro lens to get the clearest image with the best level of detail.
Optimizing Your Product Photography
1. Mastering Composition
When photographing isolated products or capturing lifestyle imagery, composition is key. For images with a white sweep background, ensure the product is centrally placed in shots showcasing the entire item. However, for detailed shots where parts of the product may be cropped, diversify your composition with images placed left, center, and right. This diversification aids in text placement if you choose to overlay your images with text.
2. The Power of Photo Editing
Perfection in photography can be elusive, making editing an indispensable step. Whether it’s minor adjustments like dust removal or intricate tasks like whitening the background or eliminating stray hairs, editing refines your image.
There are various photo editing tools available. Renowned ones include Adobe’s suite, which encompasses Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Lightroom, accessible via Adobe Creative Cloud subscriptions. For those seeking free alternatives, GIMP is an excellent open-source tool. Pixlr, available online and as a mobile app, offers another convenient option.
3. The Appeal of Lifestyle Photos
While product images against a plain white backdrop excel in clarity, lifestyle photos bring your product to life. They showcase the product’s utility and allow consumers to visualize its role in their daily life. These images resonate with your brand’s narrative, fostering an emotional bond with the audience.
When planning your shoot, adhere to these general guidelines:
- Clean Backgrounds: Eschew noisy, intricate backgrounds that might distract from your product or complicate text overlays.
- Diverse Orientations: Snap your lifestyle shots in both portrait and landscape modes, ensuring you capture the product on the left, center, and right. This variety ensures adaptability for diverse applications.
- Contextual Environments: Opt for settings and props that illustrate scale and encapsulate your brand’s essence.
4. Systematizing Your Photography Process
Upon finalizing your lighting, angles, and overall photography aesthetic, invest time in recording these specifics. Label positions for your equipment, like tripods, lights, and reflectors. For limited setups, color-coded tapes can suffice. For more intricate arrangements, detailed lighting diagrams on graph paper can be beneficial.
Compile this information into a comprehensive guide. This not only streamlines your workflow but ensures consistency. Moreover, it aids in transitioning the photography task to other team members. Including photos of your setups in this guide can provide added clarity.
5. Continuous Learning and Improvement
Achieving stellar product photography hinges on the right tools, continuous learning, and ample practice. If your results are not meeting expectations, delve into YouTube tutorials or online courses from esteemed platforms. The digital realm is replete with resources that can bolster your skills.
In summary, to truly elevate your product imagery, it’s essential to marry creativity with strategy, always be open to learning, and consistently refine your process.