We are all familiar with the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”. That is also true in business, just in another form. For business and marketing, it sounds more like “a beautifully shot product picture is worth thousands of dollars”. But what is product photography anyway? And why do they seem to look colorful and big when we see them? In this product photography tutorial and beginner’s guide, we will find out what the product photography niche is and some tips to get you started snapping advertisements into reality!
What is Product Photography
Product photography is a method of commercial photography that seeks to show the best visual image of a product. Good product photography studio takes the techniques of proper lighting, background fabrics, sharp camera focus and proper field depth, favorable camera angles, and careful editing into careful consideration. Having a decent portfolio isn’t enough.
Skilled photography in ecommerce allows consumers to select between competing goods better. In order to succeed in the 2021 marketplace, suppliers of products are therefore better recommended to use skilled commodity images. There are also several new forms of photos of products that were not available until very recently, which help consumers distinguish between brands even better.
E-Commerce accessibility is not everything to every customer; being able to shop goods from the living room sofa is just one aspect of what makes a good internet storefront. You will need to send your audience simple, eye-catching photographs of your items to attract the consumers with who to choose to shop online, otherwise, these visitors are not going to have confidence in your offerings and the trust they will get from walking into a store and seeing the item in person.
Yet, product photography setup isn't as easy as aiming and shooting. Also, the most simple items require the correct equipment, illumination, and room to create stunning photographs that are sold straight from the purchase page by shoppers. With that, here's a simple list of tips and tools to get you started on how to take product photos, along with actual examples and photographs of items that prove this advice.
6 Product Photography Tips that will get your product in front of the consumers
- Your smartphone camera is much more capable than you think
This is the part where I'm going to persuade you to invest in a 50-megapixel (MP) high-end camera with a screw-on lens of 100 millimeters. But I would not do that. Take advantage of it if you already own a camera that fits this definition. But do not worry as it is perfectly appropriate to shoot product photography setup photos on a smartphone with several kinds of items.
Cameras running on less than 4 megapixels were some of the first smartphones, which found it impossible to catch substantial visual elements of items where information counts. But today’s smartphones such as the iPhone 12, Galaxy S20, and Google Pixel 5 have all featured-pack smartphone cameras that will let you shoot professional-like photos without spending the money. Yes, these smartphones are not as cheap as we would like them to be but in the grand scheme of things, they are still much cheaper than high-end cameras you will find in the market.
Another thing to note is that budget smartphones are also capable of shooting professional-looking product photos. Product photography setup isn’t all about the quality, but it is how you set up the colors, edit it in post-processing, and set the tone for the photo.
A $5000 product photography studio will look better than your iPhone and tripods set up, but with the right knowledge and use of editing software, you shouldn’t worry about not having the latest and greatest of cameras. Smartphones are a technological marvel that is being used in literally everything in our daily lives, and it is time for us to include them in product photography setup.
- Make sure you shoot from a consistently placed tripod
I'm obliged to start with a cardinal rule before describing tripods: don't prop your phone against anything solid to point your lens at the subject. During the film, it is all too convenient for this makeshift setup to slide around and create irregularities in the appearance of your images. If you're putting your camera on a stack of books, say, just make sure this setup doesn't alter during the shoot.
When taking only a few product images for your e-commerce page, there's no harm in keeping your camera yourself. But as the company expands and you take more pictures of more items, while taking a handheld, it can be difficult to standardize the position of the object in each frame.
There are also mobile grips which are growing in popularity over the past years due to the surge of YouTube vloggers numbers. This offers better mobility, but seeing that we are only taking photos and not so much on videography, tripods are still the better choice.
- Be conscious of your choice with lighting
Never underestimate how certain forms of light can enhance (or hinder) the photography of your product. Remember, in-person, shoppers have the first look at an object, where they can see what they need before they purchase. The correct lighting scheme enables you to show certain crucial product decision-making features when a picture is requested for all website users.
For a particular product, a single lighting configuration does not work — a lighting system that works for certain products may undermine the appearance of others. As your primary light source, there are two forms of light you may choose:
Sunlight refers to natural light — as simple as that. It is also referred to as "soft light" because a wider, softer range of light is cast by the sun than, say, a lamp shining directly on the product. Shots of e-commerce products flourish in natural light if:
- The item is photographed outside or meant to be used outside.
- The item is used, worn on, or shot by an individual with a person (people tend to look better in natural light).
- You're trying to emphasize the environment of the product, rather than specific product attributes.
Candles, fire, and, more commonly, light bulbs include artificial light. It is also referred to as "hard light" because it produces a light surface that is smaller but more focused. This type of light caters to products that need to be highlighted to impress an online shopper with physical details.
You should stick to only one form of light per picture as a general rule — natural or artificial. Adding natural light to an artificially lit photo can soften a product that is supposed to look sharp, and sharpening a product that is meant to look soft can apply artificial light to a naturally lit photo. You do not want to get in the way by yourself.
- Learn to manipulate the light around to soften shadows
You would need to minimize the shadows of any possible hard light on the opposite end of a product, whether you use natural light or artificial light. Three ways to do this are available:
To complement your primary light, add another, less-intense source of light. This extra light is known as your fill light, which is used as a counterbalance to soften the natural shadow behind an object created by your main light. Place your fill light opposite your main light to achieve this, so that your product lies between the two sources of light.
Standalone Bounce Card
A flashbulb bounce card is not an option if you are shooting from a smartphone, because you don't have a real flash to which you can connect it. Alternatively, make your own standalone bounce card located opposite your primary source of light. This bounce card can effectively replace the fill light, which counters the hard light from the camera flash or lamp facing the front of your product, for beginners in product photography setup and studio.
Flashbulb Bounce Card
A bounce card, or reflector card, is a small card that to minimize shadows "reflects" or "bounces" the main light back onto the surface under the product.
To diffuse the light from the camera's flash, several bounce cards attach to the flashbulb of a professional camera lens. This card splashes a lighter light from above your package into the subject—instead of straight at it—so you don't get a long trail of shadows behind the target you're aiming for.
- Stick to sweep or portrait mode to emphasize the product
There is no one right place to put your items, lights, and bounce cards-depending on your context, they will change drastically. But depending on what is easier to make, don't pick a context. Backgrounds should show how you want your consumers to interpret your item while watching it online.
First, consider whether you would prefer a white backdrop or a more real-world, diverse background. Each one has a simple way to do it.
White Background: Sweep
It's not as convenient with white backgrounds as putting up a table against white drywall. On a white wall, even mobile cameras will pick up tiny blemishes that you wouldn't see with the naked eye. Using a sweep to catch a flawless white backdrop without corners or blemishes.
A sweep is a large sheet of paper that is bendable, the bottom of which serves as the surface under your object and then bends up behind the product against a white wall. On camera, the curve of the sweep is transparent, highlighting crucial product information and allowing all the attention of a website user to own the piece.
Other backgrounds: Portrait Mode
When filming items that have a particular application or are modeled by an individual, complex, real-world backgrounds are really enticing — as you saw in the image of the briefcase earlier in this guide. But, stealing the attention of the picture is simple with a real-world context, leaving it unclear which thing in the photo you're really selling.
Offer the depth and focus of your product with portrait mode, an image setting on most advanced cameras, and on many recent smartphones as well. This atmosphere blurs the backdrop such that the product's meaning is visible but does not compete against the product itself.
- Practice with a variety of products!
My last tip would be to experience practicing with different types of products. As the niche market grows, there come different types of products in all sizes, shapes, and colors. There’s no one size fits all formula to perfect product photography setup, and there is no product photography studio that will work for every product. Thus, having experience in shooting with them will give you the best knowledge you need to becoming a good product photographer!
Start with the things you have at home, then branch out to things you see in public. Experience will always be the best teacher in perfecting any niche of photography, whether it be newborn or product photography.