While professional photography is ideal, it might not be feasible for a new business to make the investment just yet. So, it’s helpful to have a few photography tricks up your sleeve until you can outsource. Here are my best tips for better product photography that you can do yourself.
1. Use natural light
Your main goal is to get bright and clean photography for your product and nothing is more important than lighting. Natural light is ideal and free! Move around your space and find the brightest window, even if it’s balancing precariously over the bathtub! You may need to filter the light through a plain white sheet or angle the blinds to avoid direct light and hard shadows.
If indoors is still too dark, you can take your product outside on a shaded patio or under a tree. You’ll want to look for indirect light that is not going to shine onto your set-up and beware of color casts from grass or bright colored walls or objects.
2. Equipment to get you started
The #1 best tool I use is white foam boards from the art supply store! These boards cost less than a latte and are amazing reflectors for getting more light onto your products. You can set up three (one on each side) facing a window and they’ll do a great job of bouncing the natural light back into the shot. You can tape three together like a tri-fold so they stand up on their own, but sometimes I like to be able to adjust them individually.
Use a camera with manual settings or a phone camera with adjustable exposure to avoid the pitfall of having too bright or too dark photos. Getting this right when you take the photo is the best way to have proper exposure (and better images), versus adjusting too much later in editing.
Pro Tip: Step 1 to getting whiter whites and accurate color is to have plenty of light and proper exposure. If needed use a lighting kit or bounce flash (my preferred method).
3. Keep backgrounds + styling simple
Keep backgrounds simple with a solid color or texture so your product is the star of the show. The white foam boards are a great background, lightweight and cheap. You can also paint them any color to match your brand.
Use household items like linens, wood cutting boards, navy poster board or marble cheese trays. I’ve even pulled in plywood, beadboard and rustic cookie sheets. Almost anything can be used if you get creative with it.
Styled product photos are a great addition to your shop images and for sharing on social media. They set the scene for your how your customers will be using the products in real life, giving context and personality to your creations. If you want to attempt styled product photography, keep the props simple and minimal – don’t use anything that will distract from the product itself.
There is no right or wrong way to style your props, but the timeless rules of photography composition (rule of thirds, golden spiral) exist for a reason and they are a great place to start. Also play with different angles, get up, get down, zoom in, zoom out. Many times you won’t know what works until you try it.
4. Do minimal editing
It’s very easy to overdue editing so proceed carefully. Most photos will need slight brightness and exposure adjustments. Sharpen with caution and be gentle with the contrast and saturation settings. Please, stay away from fades and filters! You want your product photos to be bright and clean and accurately show what your product actually looks like.
Pro Tip: Step 2 in getting whiter whites and accurate color is to adjust the “levels” in your photo editing software. Not all programs have this, so you’ll have to do some research. I do know you can adjust levels in Photoshop Elements which is a pretty affordable program compared to the full blown Adobe Photoshop.
5. Create a style + shooting “formula” for consistently awesome photos
Creating consistency in your images is key to having a well branded shop and online presence. Create a prop box and have your chosen background on hand. Decide on a formula for for your photos (background + props + edit style). Record the camera settings that worked well and note editing steps so you can duplicate them next time. Having the information and tools handy will make the process much easier so you don’t have to relearn it every time.
This might seem like a lot to think about at first, but I promise it will be worth it when you have better product photos and more sales!
About Maura Chamness
Maura is a product stylist and brand photographer who helps inspired and creative entrepreneurs enhance their online presence with photos that complement the brand they’ve worked hard to build. Through her unique process, she guides them in honing their style to create custom stock and product photography that brings their work to life online.
Maura currently lives in Houston, TX with her sassy Schnauzer, Gracie. When she’s not in the studio or trying to tame the prop closet, you can find her working on a house project, going to yoga, or celebrating Taco Tuesdays – usually with extra guac and pun-ny Instagram memes!