Today I thought I would share a quick primer on product photography. In today’s super competitive online store landscape, having high-quality photos for your online shop is crucial for attracting customers and making sales. It feels like every avenue in online shopping from Etsy to eBay to an online store like Shopify are so saturated that it’s impossible to break through. But having great photos of your product will always make your shop stand out.
With the right techniques and equipment, you can create professional-looking product images without the need for expensive photography setups. You can do this setup using a smartphone or a pro-DSLR, but either way, you should be able to improve the images you are producing with a few simple tools like a smartphone, cardboard background, and photo editing software like Lightroom.
1. Choose the Right Lighting
Good lighting is the foundation of any great photograph. Natural light is your best friend when it comes to product photography. Set up near a window where soft, diffused light can illuminate your subject evenly. Avoid harsh, direct sunlight, as it can create harsh shadows and overexpose your images. If natural light is not available or practical, consider investing in a softbox or ring light to create a similar effect.
In my case, I am using both. I have windows on two sides of the room, both are indirect lighting, and then I have as much “white light” or daylight balanced bulbs as I can realistically get in the room. You can do this super cheap, some of my lights are can lights from Home Depot, some are studio video lights, you just need a lot of light. Just remember you don’t want “harsh” light. You want soft, reflected, indirect lighting that doesn’t cause too many shadows. The lighting I’m using in this setup is actually a little too harsh (you can tell in the green background reflections) but it will do for what I need for this product.
2. Select a Suitable Background
A clean, consistent background helps your product stand out and creates a professional look. You don’t need to invest in expensive backdrops; a simple piece of cardboard or poster board can work wonders. Choose a color or texture that complements your product, ensuring it doesn’t distract from the main subject.
White, gray, and neutral tones are popular choices for e-commerce photography. You can also use bright colors if your product has a lot of white on it. If you use a bright color instead of an earth tone just make sure it compliments the product and isn’t a distraction. Also, the key to backgrounds using cardboard (I use matte board from Hobby Lobby) is to bend the cardboard around your entire product so there are no seams.
3. Stabilize Your Camera or Smartphone
While many smartphones have excellent cameras, stability is key to capturing sharp, clear images. Use a tripod or a stable surface to keep your phone steady. This reduces the chance of blurriness caused by shaky hands, especially in low-light conditions. If you don’t have a tripod, get creative with household items like books or boxes to prop up your phone. In my case, I’m not using a tripod because I’m using a camera with IBS (in body stabilization) and a very fast (bright) lens. But you will want to do everything you can to get as stable a shot as possible for the equipment you are using.
4. Focus on Composition
Take the time to compose your shots thoughtfully. Use the rule of thirds to position your subject off-center, creating a more visually pleasing image. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to showcase your product’s unique features. Don’t be afraid to get up close and capture details that make your item special. Also, be sure to take several different shots at different angles showing the inside and outside of the product if necessary. Also, very important, know your platform. Does this shot dictate a horizontal or vertical image? Instagram images are designed for vertical shots, but most other platforms benefit from horizontal images. Know which works best, you may have to do both.
5. Use Photo Editing Software
Unfortunately post-processing is a crucial step in enhancing your product photos. This may be the most complicated step, and Adobe Lightroom is an excellent tool for this purpose (it’s not the expensive if you are going to use it all the time and not much else does what Lightroom can do), offering a range of powerful editing features. You can adjust exposure, contrast, color balance, and sharpness to fine-tune your images. Additionally, Lightroom allows you to remove imperfections, correct perspective, and add presets for a consistent look across your product listings. If you don’t want to mess with Lightroom, an iPhone photos app does have editing to adjust highlights and exposure which should work ok. One thing about backgrounds is a white background doesn’t have to go pure white (#FFFFFF white). This sometimes looks odd, so in most of my shots I go for a slightly off-white or gray.
6. Maintain Consistency Across Your Shop
Consistency in your product photography creates a cohesive and professional look for your online store. Use similar backgrounds, lighting setups, and editing styles for all your product images. This not only enhances your brand’s visual identity but also helps customers easily recognize your products.
7. Experiment and Learn
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques and styles. Take test shots, adjust settings, and learn from each session. As you become more familiar with your equipment and the photography process, you’ll develop your own unique approach that sets your online shop apart.
Below are a few I took this week for Deborah’s Etsy Shop of her new H2O 2GO Bags. When you do a quick search for similar products, the images are all over the place, which helps her product stand out among the hundreds already posted. It’s always a work in progress and a lot of the time you only have so much time and energy to commit to certain things. We have found in the past the more time you spend on the images the more it pays off in the long run.