Mastering product photography only takes a few tricks and basic equipment to create good quality photos that will promote your business. Here is what you need to know to go from average product photos to photos that will sell.
Good product photography has helped countless freelancers monetize their business online. Creative, clear and attractive product photography can be the difference between a buyer trusting your product quality or clicking away from your page.
When you are just starting out, finding sufficient budget for professional product photos may not be feasible so you resort to DIY skills. This no longer needs to be a problem with the following basic product photography tips.
Lighting Tips for Better Product Photography
The most important thing to master in product photography is the lighting. Getting the right angles and shadows will transform your photos from looking DIY to professional product photography.
Understanding how to control lighting does take time and practice. Fortunately, the number of photo-editing tools available to you can help you phase out the imperfections of the raw photo.
Control over lighting requires a proper setup, whether you are choosing to use natural lighting or not. If you have the budget, then getting photography equipment will help you gain this control but you can still manage with just a basic items that won’t cost you more than a few bucks.
Take a look at the following rules of basic product photography. Remember that there is a low-budget alternative for each of these steps.
Decide on Natural Light or Artificial Lighting
The first choice you need to make is which kind of light to use; natural sunlight or controlled lighting from photography flashes and studio lighting such as umbrella lighting. There are advantages and disadvantages with both options.
Natural light is free so it is the lower budget option. Even when using natural light, you can make use of a few simple items to avoid glare, reflections and unwanted shadows.
Using artificial lighting means that you need to invest in studio photography equipment but there are low-budget options available online. Artificial lighting gives your photos more consistency because you can duplicate the conditions at any time.
1. Use a Sweep
Always use a sweep during product photography. Not only will a sweep shorten the time you need to spend on editing but a clean uniform backdrop also avoids noise and glare.
A sweep is a solid colored background, usually white, that gives you a continuous backdrop i.e. you cannot see the crease between the floor and wall. Eliminating this makes composition easier and creates continuity in the photos.
Use a studio photography light box for the best artificial lighting results on smaller products, or build your own DIY light box. You can also buy a sweep or use poster board as a budget photography hack.
Photography light boxes are generally considered the best way to go for professional product shots. Light boxes for product photography come in a wide range of price points and sizes, so it doesn’t have to be expensive. If budget isn’t too much of a concern and you’re more worried about getting the perfect shot, check out our review of the Foldio 3 light box.
2. Use a Tripod for Maximum Stability
Regardless of whether you are using a DSLR or a mobile phone’s camera, you need a tripod to make sure that the product photo is in perfect focus.
Even when you use a makeshift stand to balance your camera, you can still cause tiny movements that blur the photo. Blur, even the slightest, means more photo editing needs to be done.
Pro-tip for when you are using a digital camera: use portrait mode or manually set the camera to a low aperture to create a natural focus on the product. This does mean that the camera needs more time to shoot as it is letting in more light, hence the need for the stability of a tripod.
3. Reflect Light with a Bounce Card
A white bounce card lets you brighten up areas with shadows while a black bounce card intensifies the shadows. This simple photography trick gives you more control over the lighting and shadows in the photo, even in less than ideal lighting conditions.
Keep two of each color bounce card handy when you are shooting products. Also, make sure that the bounce card can stand on its own so you have one less thing to struggle with.
A bounce card is really just a white surface so you can make do with a piece of foam board, poster board or even printer paper in some cases.
4. Keep a Fill Light Handy
A fill light is an extra light source that counteracts the shadows created by the primary light source. In studio photography, there are usually several fill lights (generally umbrella photography lights).
The fill light should be set to a lower intensity to the main light. You don’t necessarily need lighting with different brightness levels as you can also control the light by positioning in further away or using a diffuser.
When you are using a studio lightbox, it is common to use three light sources; one key light in the center with two fill lights on each side.
Pro-tip for balancing light: match the white balance on your camera to the white balance of the light sources for the best coloring.
5. Edit and Resize
Even when your raw photo is beautiful, all product photography requires some photo editing. Not only does photo editing remove the imperfections, it is also a way to create uniformity between the photo series.
Make sure the final photo has a clean bright white with minimal shadows to best show the color of the product. Don’t overdo it on the contrast and saturation though, the product photo should be a realistic representation of what you are selling.
Using tools like Adobe Photoshop you can cut out any unwanted elements such as wires or other props used to keep the product in its position. If you are using lifestyle photos for the product then make sure that the focus is on the product itself instead of the surroundings.
Finally, resize the photo according to the website standard. It’s important to choose high-resolution photos that don’t slow down the loading of the webpage.
Experiment with each of these steps to improve your product photography. Practice and attention to detail will give you professional-looking photos, even on a budget.