The perceived value of your products and the trustworthiness of your brand is often judged based on the quality of your visual presentation. That means having high-quality, beautiful product photography can go a long way.
However, not every store owner can afford to invest in a professional photography studio, especially when they’re just starting out. DIY product photography provides a great alternative, and as long as you know the proper tools and techniques, taking compelling product photos is well within your grasp.
Product Photography Tips
What you’re going to need:
- A Camera
- A tripod
- A White backound
- White bounce cards made of foam board
- A table
- The Right room
Recommendations for product photography:
- Set up your table
- Set up your sweep
- Set up your camera
- Set up your product in the middle of the surface
- Set up the reflector card
- Take the picture and evaluate
- Get your pitcues retouched
But it’s not just aesthetics we’re talking about. Showcasing your products with high-quality images can also be the difference between a conversion and no sale at all. This is particularly true if you’re also distributing your products on marketplace sites like Amazon, where your product photos are displayed alongside those of your competitors.
The perceived value of your products is directly impacted by the quality of your product photography.
But when you’re just starting out, getting your product photos up to par can be intimidating because professional photography is often expensive. There are hundreds of product photography tools to help you get the job done yourself, though.
As a business owner with lean startup roots, I understand this more than anyone. I also know that sometimes the money is just not there. If that’s you and your budget is tight, have you thought about taking the DIY approach to product photography? It’s not as hard as you might think.
There are lots of techniques for shooting successful product photos, but the one I’m going to show you is commonly known as The Window Light Technique. From someone who photographs products every day, this tutorial has been specifically crafted for business owners on a budget. It’s designed to be simple while producing excellent, high-quality results for most product types.
Product photography equipment you’ll need
Gear is at the heart of photography and can be really exciting, but it can also be very confusing for newcomers.
There’s no need to spend a large portion of your budget on high-tech equipment, so keep an open mind and try not to overspend on gadgets that light your product no better than a $5 piece of card can, for example. You can probably do this window light setup for $20 or less if you already own a camera.
You’re only going to need a few things for this setup.
You don’t need a crazy camera system. While shooting images with a Nikon D810 (~$2,000) sporting a 105mm f1.4 lens ($740) is awesome, it’s also totally unnecessary in this case.
Still, if you’re feeling excited and have the budget for a new camera system for this project, I suggest reading a post I wrote on Quora, which offers tips to help you pick out a good camera for product photography. If all you have is your smartphone, that’s ok too. Check out this helpful guide to smartphone product photography .
When I did the test images for this article, I started with my older model (2008), beat-to-hell Canon G10 point-and-shoot. I love the Canon G series point-and-shoots because they can go full manual and they shoot a really nice raw file. I picked this camera because it’s definitely not top of the line anymore, allowing me to demonstrate that even with modest equipment, good results are attainable.
So what camera do you need? I would just start out with whatever you have handy and see what the results are. It’s a common myth that it’s the camera that takes the pictures. In reality, the camera is only one piece of the whole. A photograph is made up of a series of choices that includes: lighting, exposure, styling, and post-processing.
Not to get too technical, but you’re going to set your camera to a very small aperture so that you can have the most depth of field your camera is capable of.
The width of the depth of field defines the area of sharp focus and to get to that you need the largest f/stop number your camera can obtain. Shutter speed and f/stop are related. Since a larger f/stop number, like f/8, lets in less light, you’ll need to counter that by using a slower shutter speed to allow more light through.
When a camera has a slow shutter, you can’t hand hold it or the subject will be blurry, so a tripod is your answer. If you’re interested in learning more about the fundamentals of photography, check out this video I did with Harrington College of Design. I realize that most point-and-shoots may not allow you to choose your f/stop. That’s OK and there are ways to get around this, which I’ll discuss in the step-by-step.
Again, you shouldn’t need to spend a whole lot of money on a tripod at this point in your adventure and there are many, many options out there that are under $30. I did a quick search on Amazon and found something that would work for $20.
3. White background
There are lots of options for a white background and if you’re going to be shooting a lot, you may want to get a white sweep from Amazon. I prefer a paper sweep because sweeps get dirty, and you can just cut off the dirty part and roll a new piece down.
A really cheap option is to go to your local drugstore or art store and buy some poster board. I’ve seen it as low as $7 for 10 sheets of poster board. Remember to look for pure white as off-white or cream will be more difficult.
4. White bounce cards made of foam board
When you’re lighting with window light, there will be a bright side where the light is striking the product and a shadow side. This shadow side will typically be too dark and so we use something white to reflect the light back into the shadow, brightening it up. Foam board makes a great bounce card because it’s rigid and white.
Alternatively, you can use black foam board to make the shadows deeper. This is particularly helpful if you’re shooting a white product on a white background. Adding black foam board to the sides, just outside of the photo, behind the product will create a dark edge on the white product. Combine a white bounce card at the front and black bounce cards in the back for a more sophisticated lighting setup.
You can buy foam board on Amazon or at a local drugstore. Keep in mind this is just a white card, so you might be able to balance a sheet of white printer paper or use a piece of poster board instead.