The internet is a very visual medium. You could have the most beautifully written copy, but photos convert customers. In this online shopping era, visitors rely on photos to prove the quality and value of your products. So they can mean the difference between a sale and a pass. To make your products stand out in a sea of e-commerce sites, here’s a guide to taking beautiful product photos like a pro:
What makes beautiful product photos?
The best product photos are clear and detailed, with no distracting backgrounds or features. To make sure the focus is on the products, take your photos against a white background. This not only draws the viewer’s attention to the item they’re thinking about purchasing, but it allows for consistency across your range and website.
Speaking of consistency, try to photograph your products in the same light. And to help your shoppers better visualize the products, snap them from as many angles as possible. This is the next best thing to seeing the products in person.
By experimenting with different angles, it’ll also give you an idea of which photo should be the main or ‘hero’ image.
Practical tips and techniques for product photography
1. Use the right gear
If you have a choice between a smartphone and a mirrorless or DSLR camera, reach for the dedicated camera. As sophisticated as smartphones are these days, a professional camera will help you to do your product justice.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a camera. All modern mirrorless and DSLR cameras capture high-quality photos and are fitted out with manual features that you can play around with for your shoot (more on this in a minute).
To improve your e-commerce site, consider investing in these accessories, too:
Suitable camera lens
Depending on your camera, you may be able to switch out the lenses as needed. If you’re photographing products close-up, a macro lens will help you to showcase the finer details. On the other hand, prime lenses are capable of shallower depths of field, so they’re brilliant for highlighting specific parts of your product. They also separate the foreground from the background for crisper photos.
Avoid wide lenses (like the ones you might use for landscape photography), because they’ll distort your products.
A sturdy tripod will leave you with sharp, blur-free photos and allow you to comfortably shoot from all angles. A standard tripod with a three-way head should do the trick. If you’re setting up a product photography table, a mini tabletop tripod is a cheaper option.
As we mentioned, a plain white background is the best starting point for professional product photography. You can purchase a high-quality background. Alternatively, if you’re going down the DIY route, a roll of white paper from your local art store will work just as well.
Set up the paper as a sweep, and use strong tape to hang your makeshift background. The major benefit of a sweep is that if it gets dirty, you can just cut off the dirty part and roll a new piece down.
Whether you’re using natural light or artificial lighting, to get the best shot, you’ll need to eliminate harsh shadows. A reflector or bounce card is an inexpensive and effective way to direct light in your favor and minimize shadows.
If you choose artificial lighting, try to avoid the built-in camera flash – it may produce dark shadows. Instead, go for external lighting options, such as a camera-mounted flashgun, LED lights, or a larger studio lighting setup.
The goal is soft, even lighting, so experiment with fill-light and bounce to find what works for you and your products.
Pro Tip: Think about your workspace. You’ll need a table to display your products on. We suggest positioning it in front of a wall and preferably by a window to make the most of the natural light.
2. Adjust your shooting style for product photography
Now that you’re all set up, it’s time to start shooting! If you’re new to photography, or attempting product photography for the first time, patience is key. Like any type of photography, it can take a while to get the hang of it – but these tips should help.
Switch on Manual Mode
Many of us are used to letting the camera do the work for us, but shooting in manual is a valuable skill.
By tweaking the settings, you’re more likely to end up with photos that suit your desired style. If you’re familiar with manual settings, start by changing your f/stop to a higher number (for the greatest depth of field), and adjust your exposure until you’re happy with the preview image.
If you’re not completely comfortable with manual mode, try using Aperture Priority. With this setting, all you have to do is set the aperture – and your camera does the rest. Again, a smaller aperture will keep your products crisp and in focus.
Snap lots of photos
The more options you have at the end of the day, the better! For a photographer, there’s nothing worse than flipping through your photos later on, only to realize that your hero shot isn’t as good as you thought it was, or you’ve forgotten to shoot from a certain angle.
Step outside for some lifestyle photos
Seal the deal with a few photos of your product in action. These are called ‘lifestyle’ or ‘in-context’ images, and they’re great for reminding viewers why they clicked through to your site in the first place. They add life to your products, and you could probably do with the air by now anyway!
Make sure the backdrop matches the products. For example, whimsical summer clothes work well with natural landscapes, while suitcases might suit a busy city setting.
3. Spend time on post-production
Post-production is crucial for putting the finishing touches on your images. It doesn’t need to be complicated. Once you’ve chosen a set of images you’re happy with, edit them for polish. This could mean tweaking the exposure, correcting the color, or removing flaws or mannequins.
To begin, learn the post-production basics, including levels and curves. When you’re ready, consider enrolling in an editing course.
Pro Tip: For uniformity, choose a size to crop and output your images at, and stick with that across your website.
Take product photos like a pro
Entice your customers to click ‘add to cart’ with beautiful product photos. With these tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating beautiful product photos – and save money in the process!