How to Shoot Amazing Product Images without a Professional
If you’re in the business of selling, an ecommerce presence is a must. According to Forrester Research, online retail sales for the US were $231 billion for 2012, a figure that is predicted to grow to $370 billion this year. The fact is, if you want your business to prosper, you must have a cohesive online sales strategy. One of the most overlooked necessities of this strategy is having appealing and professional product photos. Realistically, representing your products online with enticing photos should be a top priority. But like any art form, photography isn’t cheap to outsource, nor is it an easy skill to master. That said, there are ways for a small business owner to take matters into their own hands when it comes to product photos, ones which will save them money without sacrificing quality. Below is our Do-It-Yourself guide to creating professional product shots for your company using very little capital. The best part? You’re probably reading this article on a smartphone, which will act as your camera.
What you’ll need
- A Smartphone: Make sure it is a relatively recent one. The camera should be able to shoot at 8 megapixels (iPhone 5s) or better. You will also want to invest $3-$5 towards getting a professional photography app for your iPhone or Android to ensure better quality photos.
- Table/Surface: You will need a flat table to shoot on. Preferably near a window so that you can employ natural light while taking your photos and avoid having to buy a light source (more on this later). You want the surface to be steady, flush against a wall, and much bigger than the objects you are shooting.
- Backdrop: Ensure this is one solid color. The best colors to use are light grey or white. You can buy a 32x40 sheet of matte paper at any art store for $7 dollars or less, or spring for a professional backdrop like one of these.
- White Reflector: Whether using natural light or a light box you will want something that will capture the light source and reflect it back at the product you are shooting. You can use simple white foam core and bend it in half so it stands on its own. Or you can purchase professional ones like the ones available on Amazon or any photography store.
- A Light Source: For this type of photograph natural light works best. If you can find a big window that lets in a lot of light, then you’re set. If you would prefer to invest in a lighting system, the Foldio is a very popular all-in-one studio setup that that includes all of the aforementioned items (aside from a table), or you can purchase professional lighting from (you guessed it) Amazon or any photography store.
- A Tripod: This is an essential tool for getting your images level, crisp, and consistent. You can typically find these everywhere, including mall kiosks, or even the dollar store (no one will notice). Make sure that the tripod has the capability to extend up and over your product to shoot from above for flat lay images.
What to do
- Set the table on a 45-degree angle from your natural light source, with its back flush against a wall. Or, if you go the professional lighting route, set it up with the lights flanking the table aimed towards the product you are shooting.
- Tape your backdrop to the wall and to the table so that there is a slight curved slope, not a distinct fold.
- Place your product about three inches out from the slope of the backdrop.
- Stand your white reflectors up so they reflect your light source back onto your product, but make sure they stay out of the frame, of course.
- Attach your smartphone to your tripod and frame the product so that there is sufficient background in the shot.
- Open your photo app and make sure you focus the camera on the product itself. Try different angles, and depths of field.
- Once you’re happy with your images, you should consider outsourcing the retouching of your photos. There are many companies that provide this service, but for as little as $4 – $10 an image, you can have a professional retouching company improve your images for you with Mister Clipping. Having an outsourced company retouch for you will ensure there is no variation in the style of your photos.
- The last step in shooting product photos is to stockpile “flat lay” images for your social media outlets. A flat lay photo is an image shot from above with multiple items that fit within a narrative. With product photos, you should aim for stock images that highlight the product itself, but with flat lay images, you can branch out and reinforce your company’s brand mantra while showing off your style. Generally speaking, you should follow the rule of threes: You should not have more than three main items in the image, flanked by smaller secondary items. You should choose three unifying colors so that the image isn’t too confusing to the eye. Lastly, consider the background as a way to add texture to the photo. Don’t be afraid to explore minimalism by having empty space, but always make sure there is a narrative in the photo. Use related products and secondary products so that the image makes sense as a whole.
As a business owner, budget and spending are always king. By following these inexpensive suggestions accompanied by a DIY mindset, not only will you succeed in saving some money, but you’ll have full control of your brand story. You will always have the final say, but creating these images yourself allow you to communicate with your customers first-hand and in the exact voice that you want.