How to take great product photos at home
When was the last time you bought a product online without looking at an image of the product first?
Whether you’re buying clothes, jewellery or a new guitar, you’ll inevitably want to look at a product photo prior to purchase.
After all, human beings are visual. Science shows that not only humans but primates have brain structures with specialised functions dedicated to vision that are not present in most non primate animals.
Research into online shopping habits, meanwhile, reveals that the quality of product images can be the biggest factor in influencing a shopper to buy.
Etsy found that 90 per cent of its shoppers said their decision to buy was influenced by the quality of the product images. This compared to 83 per cent saying they were influenced by cost.
With the above in mind, we’ve put together some tips to help you make your product photography stand out from the crowd on a budget.
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You don’t have to spend thousands on a top-of-the-range camera to create great product photography. If you’re on a budget, you can often use your smartphone, as they’re increasingly equipped with high megapixel cameras, which are great for producing the sort of high resolution images that you need for product photography.
Mobile camera phones are often simpler to use and feature less settings than a high-end DSLR camera, which can be confusing if you're undertaking your first photoshoot. And, don’t forget, whichever phone you have, there may well be a user guide on the company website, to help you get the best results.
Failing that, there may be a useful ‘how to’ video on YouTube. There’s plenty of expert advice out there, to ensure you make the most of your resources.
Another great thing about smartphones is you can often take the photos, edit them and then publish it to your website or social media page all on one device.
However, if you feel more confident with a camera, you may opt to use a DSLR camera. Such cameras allow you to control more settings manually. This allows for greater flexibility and room for tweaking the camera settings.
Regardless of your camera though, you will need to consider a variety of other things to make your product photography pop.
The background to product photographs may be at the back of your mind. But it shouldn’t be.
If you’re planning on featuring your product on your e-commerce website, you’ll need to decide on the background before you go ahead and photograph your entire product range. This will potentially save a lot of time later on in the editing process, and you know what they say, time is money.
If you plan to feature your product on its own, it’s best to use a white background. This will make it easier if products need to be cut out from the background at a later date. These types of photos are clean-cut and product-focused. The white background can also help with lighting your product, as it reflects light back rather than absorbing it.
There are a number of low-cost ways to do this at home. If you’re photographing smaller items, consider setting up a shooting table or using a chair and some craft paper. By fixing the craft paper to the chair you can create a ‘sweep’ which is a background that transitions from the vertical to horizontal surface seamlessly.
For larger products you will need a larger background ‘sweep’ which may be more expensive. But you can improvise by getting some rolls of white craft paper, fixing them to a wall, and simply using the genius of gravity.
But, if you’re looking to use your product photography on social media, you will need to consider featuring the product in another environment. These types of images are known as in-context or lifestyle-based photographs. For example, if you’re photographing jewellery, it can make the image more compelling if the item shown being worn. This is more engaging and tends to work better on social media.
So, it’s important to decide on where your product photography is going to be used and get the background right.
If you want to display your products in the best light, getting your lighting right is absolutely vital. This can be easier said than done, though. Getting the lighting correct will save time in the editing process, so don’t take this aspect of taking great product photographs lightly.
If you’re working to a tight budget, using natural light may be best as it will save the cost of studio time and the purchase or hiring of artificial lighting.
To utilise natural lighting, you will need to set up near to a window. This way you can utilise the natural light of the sun as an indirect light source.
The use of foam boards as reflectors can also help to distribute shadows more evenly and create a more professional look. But, with natural light, you will need to factor in the great British weather. Also, if you’re planning an evening shoot you may need artificial lighting. Be sure to keep this in mind.
Once you’ve taken your product photos, they’ll be ready for editing. This is where you can often take your product photographs to the next level.
There are a number of easy to use, free photo editing software programmes available. And if you do decide to use your smartphone to take your product photos you will often have a range of editing options that come built in with the phone. But, if you’re looking for greater flexibility, apps like Adobe Photoshop Express put a wide range of free photo effects and editing features at your fingertips.
If you’re planning on utilising photo editing programmes such as Photoshop, you’ll have a whole host of tools and options, too. If you find the prospect of Photoshop daunting, we’ve put together a series of how-to videos which show you how to create an image for social media, which you can view here.
So, what are you waiting for? Get snapping those product photos and remember photography is a skill, so be patient. But, done well, it can really boost your brand image.