Top Tips: How to shoot product photography
Whether you have an online shop or you are only displaying a collection of products online, the importance of high-quality photography is paramount. Too many brands consider this an afterthought: as long as their product description is good, and the product itself is quality, nobody will care what the picture looks like? They couldn’t be more wrong.
This mindset will cost you sales and potential customers. Your shop is professional; shouldn’t your photography be professional as well? While you may know that your product is great quality, without appropriate pictures to demonstrate that, your potential customers are likely to keep scrolling, and they’ll likely resort to other means.
Lighting and Setting
One area which product photographers often neglect is possibly the most important: the setting. It’s important that your products are displayed in an attractive manner, one that catches the eye of your potential customers and entices them to look further. Simply laying your products on a table and snapping a picture won’t do: you have to play to their strengths.
Angles are important. Make sure your entire product is visible and clear. Abide by the rule of thirds, and add visual interest to your images by keeping them off-centre. Find a background that plays into the colour scheme. Bright colours, complementary to those of your product, will help draw the eye to your product itself. If you’re coming up blank regarding backgrounds, try clothes or fabric swatches! The outdoors offer a great range of eye-catching backgrounds, and you’ll be able to take advantage of the natural light, as well.
As for lighting, simply turning on a lamp and hoping for the best isn’t going to get you the best photography possible. You want well-lit images that will truly pop. While your camera’s flash can assist with this, it often has the downside of washing your images out and making the background too dim. While there are professional lighting kits to assist with this, one of the easiest ways to ensure your product is well lit is simply to add more light. Take the picture in a room with great lighting – and add more, to help.
Though you may not believe it at first glance, the camera you use for your product photography does matter. These days, everyone’s mobile phone comes equipped with a camera, leading everyone to believe they’re a photographer on some level. The good news is, these cameras have improved drastically from several years ago.
However, if you’d like professional-grade photos, camera brands such as Nikon have become far more affordable. These cameras also tend to come loaded with more customisation options, allowing your photos to mirror your vision exactly.
Regardless of what you use, you’ll want to make sure your camera remains steady while you’re taking pictures of your product. Motion can result in shaky images and unattractive blur, which will not showcase your products appropriately. Steady your camera with a tripod, and make sure that you set your camera up about a meter away from your product. This will ensure that your product remains the focus of the frame, and that your entire photograph comes together.
Shooting too closely will have an effect on the dimensions of the image, so ensure that you have a grip on the basics prior to experimenting.
On professional photography cameras, it’s easy to swap out lenses depending on what it is you’re shooting. Different lenses provide different effects for your product, as they’re set up to focus on different dimensions. Some lenses will make your product look flat, while others will make it pop. One lens may make your product appear closer to you, and another may visually 'move' it further away. Lenses take some trial and error to become accustomed to, but with a bit of playing, it’s easy to figure out which one is best for your purposes.
Aperture is a professional photography term referring to the amount of light which travels into the camera. This is decided by the lens itself, in which there’s a hole which allows light to travel through it. The size of the hole is measured in 'f-stops', and essentially, the smaller the number, the more light is allowed to travel into the lens. A smaller aperture will allow everything in your shot to come into focus, which may be fantastic for personal shots. However, if this isn’t what you’re looking for regarding your product photography, you’ll want to go for a smaller aperture. This will help your product take its starring role as the main focus of your frame, while the scenery and background become blurry.
Your shutter speed is the speed in which your shutter – or curtain – opens and closes. A higher shutter speed will help ensure the sharpness of your image, and depending on the amount of light you have, you’ll want to go higher. For instance, a photograph taken in natural light would be able to withstand a lower shutter speed and still be quite clear. However, a photo using flash would need a higher shutter speed to keep that same amount of detail and clarity.
The ISO refers to your camera’s sensitivity to light. While aperture works in reverse (the lower the number, the higher the aperture), ISO ratings work the exact opposite way: the higher the number, the more sensitive your camera is to light. If you find your image too dark, changing the ISO may help, and ISO can also help compensate for a low shutter speed if your camera is unsteady.
When you’ve mastered aperture, shutter speed and ISO, and you’ve come up with beautiful settings, and you’re a master of lighting, sometimes it happens that you just won’t be able to get a good shot. Perhaps your background isn’t cooperating, or the lighting is reflecting strangely off your product, or the photos simply aren’t coming out to your taste. It happens to the best photographers. Rather than reshoot the same image over and over, hoping that one will become usable, it may be time to look into mastering editing.
The obvious choice for editing your photos is the Adobe Creative Suite, however if you’re on a budget, there are several free options which provide the same power as Photoshop (GIMP, for instance). Once loaded into the program, you’ll be able to play with options for sharpening your photo, or blurring the background to achieve the effect you want. You’ll also be able to play with lighting. Sometimes, fiddling with the brightness and contrast is exactly what you need to make your image pop. In addition, you’ll also be able to colour correct your images. For instance, if your product itself is overcome by the brightness of the background, you can dull the background while bringing out your product by balancing the colours in the image.
While there are certain rules for product photography, it’s somewhat relieving to keep in mind that photography is an art form. Along with that, art is often all about breaking the rules once you know them.
Even if your photography is high quality, without something different to add visual interest, customers may continue scrolling. You’ll need to be able to take smart risks when it comes to photographing your products. Don’t be afraid to change the angles or play with colour.
When preparing your products for online, it can often seem overwhelming to remember everything. Beyond your product descriptions and the setup of the store itself, photography can often seem like a chore. However, product photography can still be fun and interesting, and when customers take notice of how much your products 'pop' on a page, all will pay off in the end.