Taking your own product photos can be intimidating. There are so many cameras, ‘essential’ pieces of equipment, expensive editing software, and extremely detailed guides on the most complex aspects of photography. For new or small businesses, great product photos are essential to helping your customers connect with your brand and encouraging sales, and product photography doesn’t have to be difficult.
Whether you take product photos for your storefront, marketing campaigns, or to share on your social media, you can still take high quality, engaging images with little more than just your smartphone, without big investments or time lost sourcing equipment and resources.
With the right conditions you can get great product photos with the native camera app on your smartphone, but if you’re looking to level up your mobile product photography there are also a few inexpensive tools you can use too. Here’s what we chose to use to create our product photos:
Smartphone (because a “mental picture” won’t work here)
Mini tripod (to steady your product shot)
Phone Mount (to mount your phone to the tripod)
White Paper/Card (to bounce natural light)
Notebook (perfect for jotting down ideas)
Plant/Decoration (to help stage your area)
Snacks (do we really need to explain why?)
How to Plan Your Product Photography Shoot
Organisation is key to an effective product photography shoot. Make a list of all the products you need images for, as well as what kind of shots you’d like (this is where a notebook will come in handy). Depending on how you’d like your products to be displayed there are three main ways you can capture them in your product photos.
1. Product Photos
Simple and clean. Setting up against a wall with two pieces of white card (or any colour you choose) placed on a surface and against a wall. Placing your product in the center of the card will create a blank background.
2. Lifestyle Photos
Showcasing your products in use, if you have a friend or family member who would like to model (if necessary) then you can create stylish product photos in real life placement. Play with angles and lighting to find the best composition for you.
3. Flat Lay Photos
These are typically shot top down with the product on a low surface, surrounded by ‘props’ to dress the scene. In this case the background would either be a plain wood surface or a white background card. Look around your home to find items which you can use to create a great flat lay photo.
Product Photography Equipment You’ll Need
When it comes to product photography equipment, you’ll need to start with the product. Choose the products you wish to shoot and make sure they look good! It's always important to use a fresh, un-used product so your customers will see what they can expect to receive. Iron out creases for clothes, polish up jewelry, remove any fingerprint smudges and generally make sure that your products look their best. If your products are packaged or boxed it’s best to remove it from the packaging and maybe display them in a “lifestyle setting.”
The next piece of product photography equipment you’ll need is, of course, your camera. We’ll want to take clear, high resolution images so it’s best to use the best camera you have available. Most smartphones will have high quality cameras so we’ll be focusing on using a smartphone camera in this guide. Although the native camera apps are a great way to get started, if you’re looking for more creative control with your photos and confident with manual settings there are other options for camera apps for both iOS and Android. We’ve listed a few options below:
Natural light is your friend when taking your own product images. Setting up directly in front of a window, or even outside will allow you to take advantage of this. You’ll be able to use the exposure settings on your camera to help give you more control over the brightness of your image.
If you find that natural light isn’t quite enough, you can absolutely supplement with household lighting (bearing in mind that some household lights are “warmer” and can be more yellow in tone). You can also use a white sheet of card or paper as a reflector card, to help bounce light back on to your product, and reduce harsh shadows. Using flash will generally not be ideal to supplement lighting as it can create very harsh shadows and unwanted reflections.
For traditional product photos, you can utilise household items such as a clean, well-ironed bed sheet, pillow case, or cloth to create a sweep - a seamless background. A large piece of paper or card can also be used. In these cases, solid colours, usually white are a great option for professional looking shots.
White backdrops are often favoured as they help reflect light onto the product and brighten the shot. White backgrounds also offer consistency and make sure that your product is the centre of attention so they’re a great place to start when taking your own product photos for the first time.
Props are another piece of product photography equipment you’ll need for your shoot. Props (in this case a friendly household plant) can add context to your images to help your customers connect with your products and visualise how they will fit into their lives. Any props or additions should be reflective of your brand, as well as the product in question. If you’re adding props, or models, we’ll want those to highlight and showcase the product, so avoid anything that might take focus away from the product or cause confusion around what the customer can expect to receive.
How to Take Product Photos
Start by setting up your backdrop facing a source of natural light, such as a large window. For smaller products, a chair is a great option as you can drape the backdrop over the chair, and it allows for a lot of movement so you can be sure you’re getting all the light you need.
Keep your list on hand to make sure you remember all the images you need to capture, but don’t limit yourself! If inspiration strikes, embrace it. Set up your first product, check the lighting, steady your hand - or use a tripod if you have one available - and take your first picture. Check the image you’ve just taken to evaluate what should be tweaked for the next. Is the image bright enough? Adjust the exposure for your next shot, or move the product closer to the light. Is the product looking its best? Adjust the angle for the next image. Are you seeing any harsh shadows? Use some white card or paper as a reflector to bounce back the light and soften those shadows.
Take all the pictures. You’ll want to have several versions of each shot on your list, tweaking lighting and angles each time so that you’ll have plenty of consistent images to choose from when you begin the editing process. Customers want to see as much of the product as possible, so make sure to capture multiple angles in each product photo. Keep all the images you take, deleting as you go can mean you’ll lose an image that would have been perfect after some tweaks.
Using the gridlines on your camera is something I’d recommend, as this will offer guidelines to help you to take consistent, well-aligned images.
You can try using the ‘portrait mode’ or ‘selective focus’ feature (the name of this feature may vary depending on the type of phone you use) to have your phone camera take images of the product in focus, with the background slightly out of focus to draw the customers attention to the right place.
Try several different placement options to highlight your product. It's great to check the image each time to see exactly what needs to be tweaked between each shot, this will allow you take images which need minimal editing work to be ready for your website.
Take your time when working through your list of desired shots, ensuring you have several images that you’re happy with for each item before moving on to the next. Keep consistency in mind as you work, angles, lighting, positioning and white space will all factor into a consistent shoot across all your products.
Editing Apps to Use for Your Product Photos
Which product photography app works best will often come down to personal preference, and it’s often best to play with a few of them before making any investments - you may well be able to achieve what you’d like without needing a paid subscription. Many will share similar features and operate in a similar fashion. The product photography apps mentioned here are by no means your only options.
Lightroom features all the essential editing tools, as well as a Pro Camera feature, which lets you manually adjust your camera’s settings in a way that your phone’s native camera app might not allow. Lightroom is free to install and a paid subscription is required to unlock all features.
Photoshop’s PS Express product photography app, like the others I’ve mentioned here, is free to install and requires a paid subscription for premium features. This app offers a lot in terms of editing images and allows you to create ‘looks’ that you can apply to all of your images for consistency in the same way you’d use a filter.
Made by Google, this application provides you with a number of key features in photo editing with no additional costs. It’s perfect for any basic changes you’d like to make to your images as well as some more advanced features like curves, white balance, and RAW editing.
Not only is this app a great camera option, but it has in-built editing features which many use to provide a unique look to their photos. The free version of this product photography editing app will be great to get you started but there is a paid subscription available for more advanced features and video editing tools.
How to Edit Your Product Photos
The exact edits you’ll need to apply will vary depending on the image your starting with, and you’ll have made every effort during your shoot to create images that need as little work as possible but the key things to keep in mind are:
*Your product should be the clear focus of the image
The image should be bright and clean - we want to avoid grainy pictures and tidy up any marks that might be distracting.
The image should be an accurate representation of the product - edits should focus on having the product look exactly how it looks when the customer receives it.
Editing should be subtle. Aim to have your final image look like you haven’t done anything to it. *
Always keep the original image, you may wish to try editing the same image in different ways to see what you feel looks best. Take a step back and make sure you’re confident that your final images really showcase your products.
Share Your Product Photos
Now that you’ve planned, shot, and edited your new product photos, it’s time to share them with the world. Upload them to your website or your social media platforms and see how they perform. You can try rotating the image you use as your main product image to evaluate if there’s one your customer’s respond to more strongly. If you’re posting a product picture on social media, you’ll be able to use the platform’s insights to see how an image performed. Paying attention to how an image performs means that you can double down on what’s working best.
If you’d like some additional inspiration while you grow your compilation of product photos, then we have a collection dedicated to photos created by Burst and contributed by our international photographers. You never know, you may find something you like there too!
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