Don’t worry. If you’re a small operation and don’t have the resources to have a photographer shoot your products, you can still achieve great results by yourself.
We’ve put some tips together to help you get started with your product photography. Following these tips won’t make you an expert, but will help you on your first steps towards professional-looking product photos.
1. Research and plan
The fact you’re reading this post is a good sign that you’re thinking ahead about your shoot. The most important step in the process of getting great product shots is knowing exactly how you’re going to take them.
From a practical point of view, you need to ensure you’ve collected everything you’ll need to physically take the photographs. This will include:
- Lights and equipment
- Set / location
- Models (if relevant)
Here are some additional things to consider:
Will you be shooting with natural light or artificial? What’s the color scheme of your shoot? Which angles make your products look the most attractive? What camera settings will you use?
There’ll still be surprises and experimentation while you’re shooting, but having thought about all the other points ahead of time will put you in the best position to get great shots.
2. Know your brand identity
One of the most important factors to keep in mind when you’re planning and executing your shoot is how the final shots will suit your brand’s identity.
Your product shots aren’t just an opportunity for customers to see what your products look like, but also a chance for you to tell a story about your brand, its character, and its values.
With this in mind, it’s useful to ask yourself these questions when planning your shoot:
- Who is your target audience?
- What tone are you trying to convey?
- What do you want people to think and feel about your brand?
- Where will the images be displayed?
- Will the images look at home on your website, social feeds, and marketing channels?
If you don’t currently have a strong brand identity or aesthetic, you might first turn to sites like Pinterest to create a board for inspiration. This can both help to establish your own style and learn from others’ photo techniques too.
If you’re building your website with a platform like Zyro, you can decide everything to do with the look and feel of your website. Building your own site and taking your own photos puts creative control in your hands.
3. Choose the right background
Location, location, location. Your products can be beautiful, but with the wrong backdrop, the effect can be ruined.
Lots of first-time product photographers fall back on using a plain white background. While this might be a good idea for some type of products, it can make others look flat and lifeless.
Setting your products in the context they’ll be used or in front of a fun, quirky, or interesting backdrop will help draw customers’ eyes, and make it easier for them to understand the purpose of the product.
Don’t go over the top, though. While a bold and unique background can easily gain attention, you don’t want to risk losing your products against the set.
4. Keep framing and scale in mind
There’s far more to say about composing the perfect product photo than we can cover here, and as you get experienced taking these shots, you’ll realize there’s always more to learn.
However, there are some basic points on composition that can be handy to have in your back pocket from the get-go:
- The rule of thirds. It’s been shown that most people’s eyes will be drawn to a point about one-third of the way from the bottom of a photo frame. Having your product featured prominently here will help make it the focus of the shot.
- Single point. When the object in a photo is not in the center of the shot, our minds tend to find it more interesting. Consider taking the focus product slightly to one side or another.
- Symmetry. Whether you want your shots to be symmetrical will depend on the kind of product you have. Tech products often look great in symmetrical framing, but it can look odd with food and lifestyle products.
- Balance. Every photo has different visual weight in different parts of the image. A balanced photo – one with a consistent weight in all areas – is more pleasing to the eye, and preferable for product images.
5. Think very carefully about props
Props can help contextualize your products and give your photos a sense of form and structure.
Some products might not look their best when shot alone against a plain background, but accompanied by the right props, can look fantastic.
This said, you need to be careful when choosing the props which are right for your shoot. It’s helpful to keep these points in mind:
- Your props should either give customers more information about a product (for instance, the ingredients which are in a food product), or show the setting in which the product could be used.
- The props should not be distracting. If they’re too large, colorful, or otherwise out of the ordinary, they might pull attention away from the main product.
- Think carefully about how to arrange your props in a frame. Remember, they’re only there to make the product look better – if they’re not doing that job, get rid of them.
6. Lighting = Mood
The source, type, and tone of the lighting you use for your product photos, as well as the position or absence of shadows all adds up to create the mood of your shots.
Tip 💁 – Understanding the mood of different lighting effects and how to control light in your photography will be useful for creating the right message in your product photos.
When it comes to lighting, here are the basics questions you should consider:
- Will you rely on natural light (from the sun) or artificial light (lamps and flash)? These will give different tones to your photographs.
- What’s the relationship between the angle of light and the position of your camera? What story does that tell about your products?
- Get to know basic concepts like color temperature and exposure times. This will influence your lighting decisions.
- Perform light tests before each shoot and check that your equipment is working properly. Some things can be fixed digitally, but there’s no point making extra work for yourself.
7. Get familiar with image editing software
Here’s the big secret: the vast majority of product images you see in the world have been edited and retouched after shooting.
Although you shouldn’t be dishonest about how your products look, they deserve to be shown at their best, and that often means editing light, shadow, filters, and minor imperfections digitally.
While no one expects you to be a Photoshop expert straight away, understanding the basics of tools like Photoshop or Lightroom will give you the opportunity to improve the look and feel of your images.
Don’t be afraid to experiment; you can always hit ‘undo’.
8. Stick to your style
While it might take you a little while to find the exact style you want to use for your product photos, it’s important that once you find it, you consistently use it too.
Even the best product listings with totally different photos come across muddled, unappealing, and unprofessional. Consistency will help people trust your brand.
Ensure you document everything as you go along, so you know exactly how you got the look you did, and can replicate the technique. It’s ok to evolve and improve over time, but not huge, sudden changes.
- Check out how your competitors are shooting their products. Take inspiration both from what they do right, and where you think you can improve.
- Take time to understand the settings on your camera. Even if you’re just using a high-quality smartphone camera, there will be different effects you can achieve with different settings.
- Know your target audience inside and out. Remember, you’re shooting these photos to impress specific people; understanding what they like will make planning easier.
- People tend to look at images from left to right, as if reading. It’s a good idea to have your product’s key features more to the left of the frame, so it’s the first thing viewers process.
- Think about the channel where the images will appear. Will the framing look ok with the position of the final photograph?
- Remember, the key aim of your photos is to showcase your products. You’re welcome to get artsy and experimental, but never lose focus on showing your items at their best.
When you’re ready to start shooting, be sure to give yourself plenty of time for experiments and mistakes. It’s likely you’ll need a few attempts before getting the perfect shots. You don’t want to be scrambling around against the clock.