Product Photography 101: The Small Business Guide
Being a small business owner can be a very exciting journey. Thanks to the amazing capabilities of today’s website builders, you have all the tools you need to launch your eCommerce website and get your name out there in a quick and easy fashion. Saying that, being a one-man-show could also pose the challenge of having to switch hats at least twice in the process. One of those challenges (and the topic of our blog post today) is how to create attractive and vibrant images of your products.
Your photos, among many other important components on your site, reflect who you are and instill a sense of confidence in your customers. Last but (certainly) not least, having great pictures of your products will actually keep visitors scrolling for longer on your pages and even boost conversion into customers. Recent studies have shown that 78% of online shoppers want to see more images from eCommerce sites, as it helps them visualise the product better. If you’re not a natural born photographer, don’t worry! The good news is, you don’t have to be in order to achieve professional-looking results. With a bit of time, creativity and these simple steps, anyone can learn how to photograph products like a pro:
01. Lighting is everything
Whether you want to photograph your products in a studio or outdoors, one concept you should familiarize yourself with is: lighting. In essence, photography is all about finding and mastering the right light for each and every occasion. Let’s explore the two main types of lighting you can use.
- Soft lighting creates a delicate, halo-like effect that illuminates the object from all angles. This also eliminates harsh shadows which is important to consider when photographing three dimensional objects.
- Hard lighting is more contrasty. In hard light, shadows have harder edges and greater definition. Think about the shadows that are formed when standing under the sun.
For product photography, it is more common to use soft lighting which can be achieved in many different ways. For example, if you’re working with a natural light source such as the sun, try to avoid direct sunlight and instead, use a diffuser which is any material that diffuses or scatters light in some manner. If your light source is coming from a window, lamp or light, cover it safely to make it ‘softer’. This can be implemented by taping a sheet, parchment paper or light blanket on your window. But remember people, safety first! Doing so over a lamp could be a potential fire hazard so keep an eye out. Another great option would be to buy a reflector. Reflectors are an easy and inexpensive way to ‘bounce’ or flag natural and artificial light.
A lightbox (also known as a light tent, macro photo studio, or light cube) is a photography accessory that gives your photographed products a translucent surface and illuminated background. It doesn’t have to be a super expensive investment, and you’d be surprised to see that you can actually make your own right at home. With simple materials (a cardboard box, tape, transparent paper and scissors) you can make your own box which will give you the same result as a professional studio setting for a fraction of the price. Plus, it’s easy to set up and carry anywhere.
02. Know your angles
There are three angles which are commonly used for product photography:
- 90 degree angle top – down (also known as bird’s eye) is great for photographing objects from above which don’t stand up – such as shoes, clothes, boxes or kitchen tools or cookware.
- 45 angle (standing eyesight) is commonly used for emphasizing dimension. This angle is ideal for almost any kind of product, including children’s toys, electronics and home decor products.
- 0 degree angle (table level) is popular for any kind of product that stands up. This is most common for displaying bottles, jars, glasses, containers, beauty and health products.
Different shapes and colors can take different angles so, if possible, always shoot multiple images of the same product in different angles. This will give the customer a better idea of the size and dimensions. And while you can add as many photos as you like, try adding a short video to your product page. This is a great way to showcase the product “in action”.
03. Experiment with Macro settings
Macro photography will give you the ability to reach beautifully detailed close-ups from a short distance. This is ideal for photographing small products like jewelry, cosmetics, food and more. Whether you have a DSLR camera, or a smartphone, you can achieve the macro effect in many different ways. Most smartphones have a macro setting so experiment with it (usually represented by a small flower). This setting is perfect for highlighting detail. If you do happen to own a DSLR camera, using a 50mm lense will help you reach your desired result. Try to photograph the same product using different lenses and modes to get the best result.
04. Choose a background that will compliment your products
When photographing objects, consider your background as well. In most cases, products look their best against a clean, white background, as it eliminates any disruptions. Remember: you want to focus the eye on the product and give less attention to the background. That being said, some products pop out more against a dark background so don’t be afraid to experiment. If black is too dark for you, try dark grey which could also work. The colour of your background can evoke various emotions so try to think about your target audience and the goal of the end result. If your product is one colour, choosing a contrasting background can really make it pop. Keep in mind that the right background can make your products look expensive however the wrong one can make them look cheap.
05. Play with composition
Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements in a way that they complement each other. If you are photographing multiple items together, rearrange them as many times as you can to find the best fit. Sometimes within this process, you might realize that it would be better to photograph your items separately, or vise versa.
If you’re selling products that are small or won’t stand up, use props to support the product. For example, place a pair of earring on a jewelry hook, or place a box behind books to keep them standing up.
06. Keepin’ it steady
When photographing products, it’s important to keep your your camera steady. You’ll be happy to know there are some great, inexpensive gadgets available to help you do just that. These include: a camera tripod or a smartphone mount. You can either buy them online or even learn how to make your own tripod. Finally, if your smartphone or camera has a countdown timer, use it to help you snap pictures without accidentally moving the tripod or mount.
07. Beware of filters!
Many photographers enjoy using filters to give their products an artistic flair. However, these should be used carefully as they might confuse or mislead your customers. If you do want to add a filtered photo, make sure not to go overboard with the saturation or color. Like most things in life, balance is key so use a mild filter. Also, limit the number of filtered elements in your product gallery. It can be more beneficial to have only one or two edited photos, which will naturally stand out from the rest and enhance the entire collection.
08. Put it into words
Once you have your images, you can now safely upload them to your online store. Adding an interesting description is just as important as the image itself. While it might seem obvious to you, describing your product down to the dimensions, material and weight is crucial in the purchasing process of your shoppers. Adding text can also help reduce returns and complaints. You want to keep your text short and to the point. Try not to over crowd your images with unnecessary information that will draw away from the product. If you need some inspiration, look to big companies with a similar look and feel to your store and see how they lay out their product page.
Don’t forget to add alt text to all your images. Since Google and Co. can’t actually ‘see’ what your image is all about you need to explain what the image is by adding alt text. This can be a short description of the product along with some relevant keywords.
Well, there you have it. Once you’ve photographed your products, don’t forget to add them to your eCommerce website which will allow you to build, manage and promote your stunning online store. It’s easy and commission free!