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Small Business Tips

How do you take good product pictures?

Brian Van Buren

When selling online, you must have great photos to showcase your product. Good product photography can be the difference in making a sale but hiring a photographer may be out of your budget. With a bit of knowledge and the right equipment, you can take product photographs that are high quality, look professional, and ready to be uploaded to a website or social media. Here are a few product photography tips to get you started.

How do you take pictures of products?

The first thing you need to do is think about your product. How large is it? What color is it? Is it multiple colors? Does it have a matte finish or is it shiny? Does the surface have a texture or is it smooth? All these things inform your decisions about how to shoot your photos.

Your first choice should then be the location to set up your photos. This will depend on the product you are photographing and the background you are using. If it is a small object, then you can use virtually any space where you can set up the background you want. Larger objects will require larger spaces; if your product is very large, you might want to investigate renting a studio or soundstage.

The biggest difference between your photos looking professional or amateur is the lighting. Knowing the basics of product photography lighting will make your photos much better. You will want to choose between natural and artificial lighting. Natural lighting is softer and more diffuse but can cause unwanted shadows. Artificial lighting is harsher and produces a higher contrast photo, but you have more control over the direction and amount of light.

Also, your lighting can inform your photo location. If you want natural lighting, you’ll need to use a room with windows or shoot outdoors. Whatever you choose, you should always use a continuous light source rather than flash. Flash is tricky and best left to the professionals.

Should you take pictures of products on white backgrounds?

If you are working with a large ecommerce website, like Shopify or Big Cartel, check if they require your photos to follow a template., for instance, requires that all product photos have white backgrounds. Be sure to check before setting up your shots.

A well-known professional photography trick is known as the ‘infinity curve.’ This setup is designed to remove all angles from the background, focusing all attention on the photo subject. Creating an infinity curve is easy; just take a flexible white surface, such as card stock, and set it up against the wall and on the floor. Depending on the size of the photo subject, this could be done on a desk or table.

You may want to use a background with a solid color or texture for your product photos. If you decide to do so, it is important that it accentuates the photo subject and not distract from it. You are trying to sell the product, not the background. And infinity curves work just as well for solid color backgrounds as for white ones.

Sometimes you want to show a product in the environment in which it is used; an appliance in a kitchen for example. A great trick is to have the product in the foreground, with the environment in the far background. You should keep the product in focus, while blurring and softening the background. This will keep the attention squarely on the product.

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Can I just use my smartphone?

When taking product photos, it is tempting to just use a smartphone to take the picture. Smartphone cameras get better year after year, and they are convenient and easy to use. Also, you probably already have a smartphone on hand. However, a dedicated camera will usually be more adjustable, have greater control and more features than any smartphone could. If you plan to do a lot of product photography, buying a camera might make the most sense.

If you plan to use your smartphone, you may want to look into a few accessories. Depending on your make and model, you may want to buy lens attachments that increase focus and zoom. There are also color filters and other lens effects that you can buy, but most of those can be done later with image editing software.

If you decide to buy a camera, there are several things to keep in mind. The most important part of your camera is the lens, and there are different lenses for different needs. Most product photography is done close to the subject, so no need for long-range, telephoto lenses. You may be able to skimp on the camera body, but not the lens.

No matter which you choose, you will need something to stabilize your camera. There are tripods for both cameras and smartphones. Make sure you find one that is adjustable and sturdy. You might want to get a small one for close-up photos and a tall one for shots from a distance or from above.

Ready to shoot?

Once you have everything planned out, background and lighting just right, and camera chosen, then start shooting! A good idea is to take lots of shots, from many different angles and distances. These photos are meant to take the place of someone physically handling and looking at the object. Try to think about what a customer would want to see.

After you’ve taken your shots, it’s time to digitally retouch them. You never want to send an image out into the world without some editing. While Photoshop has become synonymous with image editing, there are lots of free and cheaper alternatives which can do the job. Programs like GIMP and Fotor are free to use, but make sure you read the licenses if you intend to use the edited photos for commercial use. Make sure you don’t edit too much or use bad photos. ‘Bad Photoshop job’ is not what you want your customers thinking about when they look at your product photos.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this has helped get you started in product photography for your small business. Now go and get that shot!

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