Get some professional style shots with an everyday camera and natural light (above: Brush64).
Prepare with some photography basics. Rule of thirds, leading lines, diagonals and an overall understanding of your camera. All are useful, even for something seemingly as standard as product photography. Pick up a few hints in our 6 quick photography tips to better that blog and website post.
What you need
- SLR camera with a lens that covers around 35-55mm (if not a point and shoot camera or smartphone)
- Non-shiny, plain surface (e.g. wooden table)
1. Analyse your product and brand
What makes your product special? What are its best features? Who’s the audience? Is there a style to your brand or product? Keep them all in mind: it will determine the look and feel of the image.
Reloved Vintage’s tagline ‘Hand-painted furniture and vintage homeware’ comes through in its imagery (above). Note the item in full to the left, and hand painted detail and craftmanship (the handles).
They’re also not afraid to show distressed cracks in the furniture as their brand focuses on the uniqueness of individual pieces. It’s all part of the story that runs through them, their products and the website.
2. Find some natural light
You want daylight that hits the product from the left or right – ideally near a window.
If the object is particularly shiny, like the Literary Emporium badge (above), try back lighting (shooting into the light). If it still isn’ enough you can pick up a polarisation filter (around £20), or buy or make a lightbox to reduce reflections.
3. Use a matt surface
Look for simple, non-glossy textures to place the product on. Earthy textures from wood, bricks and stones work well for many food and craft products such as The New England Shop‘s ‘Love’ letters.
Glass and other reflective surfaces can be troublesome, though effective with practice.
If struggling for a surface, a white card placed flat down is the conventional makeshift product photography background. Other colours could potentially work too if there’s a strong enough contrast with your item.
5. Pick up a portrait lens
If using an SLR or hybrid camera, keep your lens around the portrait focal points – between 35-50mm.
Smartphone or point and shoot users, keep the zoom as wide as possible (towards the landscape icon) and move closer to the product rather than zoom. Digital zooming creates a degraded, blocky image.
5. Grab props (or not)
Give the product some context.
Long running watchmakers Harold Pinchbeck use a tawny leather wallet, the stoney, baroque-style background and lattice windows to great effect – adding a touch of class to the photo. The props reflect the style of the watch and brand: a premium product without being ostentatious.
Whichever, makes sure it’s in line with your brand values.
6. Turn off flash
Use natural light and shadows to light the subject. A camera’s on-board flash (especially with smartphones or point and shoot cameras) often creates poor lighting and over exposes the subject.
7. Boost the blur
If your camera has it, set the aperture to wide open for a stylistic bokeh (blurred) background, while keeping the ISO as low as you can.
8. Get the whites right in camera
Adjust the camera’s white balance to avoid blue or orange tinges as above.
If that’s the look you’re after, add in editing. An incorrectly taken image means your editing software has less information to make adjustments you need.
9. Shoot tight
Bring it all together: keep your shot tight so the product dominates the image and the surrounding environment simple. Watch out again for unwanted reflections.
10. Shoot from different angles
Play around with your environment. With and without the white card, high, low, with varied backgrounds and bokeh. Keep shooting while putting yourself in the customer’s position. What would they want to see?
11. Use photo editing software
Some light editing will make your products pop out on the screen. Try PicMonkey, it’s an easy ‘freemium’ alternative to paid software like Photoshop.
A typical improvement to photos is to bump up the colours by increasing the saturation and contrast, make the whites brighter, and shadows more black through slightly upping the highlights and shadows.
You can also change the colour temperature if the image is still too blue or orange.
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