A Guide to Product Photography

If you’re selling products online, having a blurry or just bad photo of the product can put people off. So if you’re hoping to make more than a few sales, it’s essential that you get the photos right.
Product Photography

If you’re selling products online, having a blurry or just bad photo of the product can put people off. So if you’re hoping to make more than a few sales, it’s essential that you get the photos right. Especially when you consider how popular online shopping is these days! 

If people aren’t able to see a product in person, they are almost totally reliant on the photograph. While it’s not a bad idea to include a product description too, giving a brief overview of the product and listing its dimensions, features and uses, most people expect to see a picture too. 

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Why is Product Photography Important?

Product photography isn’t just about showing your audience what your products look like, though that is a large part of it! A great photograph can also help customers visualise how they might use or interact with your product in their day-to-day life. Research has even shown that if detailed imagery is provided, a customer will feel a psychological sense of ownership for that product

Another thing to bear in mind with product photography is that you can increase your sales through brand awareness. Imagery is a brilliant way to let people know about your brand, reinforcing what your ideals and values are. And you don’t necessarily need top-of-the-line equipment, nor do you have to have a professional photographer to increase brand awareness through photography. The key thing you’ll need is time!

Before You Start Shooting

If you’re new to product photography, there are a few things you may wish to consider before you start shooting. The below tips can be useful for any photo shoot, regardless of your primary goals or industry:

1. Don’t Panic About Your Camera

While a fancy new camera can make it easier to get stunning photos, it’s not a necessity. Just be prepared to put in more planning time, and take a lot more photographs if you don’t have the best equipment. Even a smartphone, particularly one with a high quality camera, can be used to take your product photos, though you might need some form of tripod to keep the camera steady. 

2. Lighting is Key

You could have the best camera on the market, but if the lighting is bad, your photos are likely to be too. Natural lighting usually works best, though you may be able to recreate this if you have a decent lighting setup. White backgrounds are also good, as they will reflect the lighting back onto your product. Your goal is to get diffused, or soft and even, lighting. 

3. Stay Consistent

When you’re taking photos, it’s essential that you don’t stray from your brand. For instance, if you’re a business that sells quirky children’s clothing, it’s probably not a good idea to take incredibly corporate photos. The photographs themselves should also be as consistent as possible – taken from roughly the same distance, and from the same angle. Any shots showing the product in use should additionally have a similar colour palette and tone.

4. Take Extras

When you look at product photos on a company’s website, it’s unlikely that they will just have one image per product. Usually, there will be a few shots from different angles, and perhaps an image of someone using the product. The idea is to use different photos for different purposes, from branding to demonstrating how a product works. And if you want to highlight key features or elements of your product, you may also want to include a couple of zoomed in photos.

You should also take lots of extra photos when it comes to each look you’re going for. You may be confident that you have taken the best picture first time, but it doesn’t hurt to have a few back-up options. 

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Shooting Product Photos

Once you’re ready to start taking photos of your products, there are five main steps you should follow. First, it’s important to do some research and decide what you need from your photos, then you can set up the shoot and take your photos. Once you have enough to work with, you can select the best photos and make any necessary edits.

1. Do Your Research 

Before you do anything else, it’s important to create a mood board, using photos from other businesses that capture the look and feel you’re aiming towards. Look at things like tone, colour, any props used, and the angle of the photo. What inspires you or draws you in? Although you can’t stray from your brand, getting the look and style right before you take photos is crucial, as you’ll be using these guidelines for at least this campaign, if not moving forward.

2. Write Your Brief

What photos do you need? Make a list of all the products that need to be captured, and then consider what type of shoots you’ll need for each. For example, you might want to get a normal shot, a close-up, and a lifestyle shot that will put your product in context. You may also wish to experiment with a couple of fun product shots, if this will align with your brand.

3. Set Up the Shoot

If you’re hoping to use natural light, choose a location where you’ll get a lot of it, such as by a large window. You’ll also have to time the shoot right, so you get optimum levels of light. Before the shoot itself, you’ll need to set up any backgrounds and get your products and props together. 

4. Click (and Click and Click)

Once you have the shoot set up, you can start taking photos! You’ll undoubtedly need to take a lot of shots before you get the one you want, but as it will all be digital, there is nothing to stop you from taking hundreds of photos! Make sure you regularly review the ones you have though, so that you can make any necessary adjustments to the lighting or setup. It’s also important to go through your brief, and ensure that you have taken all the photos you listed when planning your photoshoot.

5. Select and Optimise 

When you’re happy that you have all the shots you need, you can go through and select the best ones. You can make any edits using basic online software, and then start optimising the photos for the web. This will include adjusting the aspect ratio and resolution, depending on which platform you’re posting the image on.

Essentially, the photo needs to be of a high quality, but with a small enough file size that it doesn’t take too long to load. You should also name the images when posting them, and give them ALT tags, so that search engines can tell what the photo is of, and list them when people search for that type of image.

Product Photography in Action

Overall, when you are taking photos of your products, there are a couple of key takeaways. The first is planning – you’re likely to waste a lot of time and energy taking unnecessary photos if you don’t plan what you need. And if you miss any out during the first photoshoot, you’ll have to set up everything again to take more photos.

Another thing to keep in mind when shooting your product photographs is that lighting is extremely important. Try to shoot in natural light, around the middle of the day, so that you get the best possible lighting. 

And remember, you don’t need lots of fancy kit to take product photos! You can use a smartphone, a tripod, and a few simple props. Even the background can just be a few pieces of card stuck to a wall – as long as you get the lighting right, the rest should be easy!

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