How to Take Great DIY Product Photos

Product photography is one of the most significant indicators of an online store’s professionalism and legitimacy in the eyes of consumers. Great product photos can separate you from the pack and make even the smallest business competitive with the biggest brands. At the same time, poor product photos can have a severe negative impact on whether your site’s visitors are converting to sales.

With product photos being such a big deal, you should treat them as seriously as possible. That means, if you can, hiring a professional photographer.

However, not everyone can afford a professional photographer, especially smaller businesses. And then, hiring a professional doesn’t make sense for every business. If you are coming out with new products all the time, for instance, and hiring a professional would be way too frequent of an occurrence to make financial sense, and even if you could afford it, would be a scheduling nightmare.

For some businesses, handling product photography on your own is just going to be the best or only option. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you get great product photos.

The Gear

If you can afford it or want to make the investment, consumer DSLR cameras have gotten way more affordable in recent years, and with a little patience and practice, can help you capture the most detail and get that professional look. If you don’t have the money, the cameras built into smartphones in recent years have gotten pretty impressive. With the right camera app that gives you a bit more control over what you are shooting, like Camera+ or ProCam 4 for instance, you can still get great product photos with little to no money spent. If you want something in-between these two options (better than a phone camera, but not quite as expensive as a DSLR), mirrorless cameras pack quite a punch at a very affordable price (the Sony Alpha a5000, for instance, can currently be had from Amazon for $448 with a 16-50mm lens).

You’ll also want a tripod to be able to mount your camera and hold it steady. If you’re mounting a smartphone, you’ll likely also need an adapter to fit your phone to a standard tripod, or alternatively, a smartphone-specific tripod. Just be careful if going the latter route, as some of these are much smaller in-person than they may appear in photos online (again – it’s all about the product photography!)

The Setup

One of the most crucial parts of taking great product photos doesn’t have anything to do with the camera at all. It’s the staging. You might be tempted to take your products outside or hold them up in front of interesting backgrounds. This can be a great option if you have a bit of experience and a controlled environment. For starters though, it’s best to stick with a simple white background.

Using a plain white sheet (clean), or a piece of regular posterboard, you can create an easy and portable white surface to place your products on. For bonus points, or for larger products that you don’t want to shoot from above, try taping the posterboard to the inside of a clear plastic storage bin.

The Light

You want your lighting to be bright and even, so that you don’t catch any shadows. A pair of cheap desk lamps or clamp lights from a hardware store should be enough to do the trick. Affordable lighting can also be found online. If you are stuck working with natural light, make sure you get as much as possible onto your product. You can also use another piece of posterboard to bounce additional light into your staging area.

The Framing

Once you have your product set up and lit in your staging area, it’s time to take the photos. If using a camera with detachable or adjustable lenses, make sure you avoid a wide angle lens. A wide aperture like f2.8 or f4.5 to get a narrow depth of field for that targeted focus, blurry background look, and a small aperture like f8 or f11 for a wide depth of field for a more even focus, with the whole shot looking crisp. If using a smartphone, you’ll have much less control over these settings, but the right app should still give you some.

Make sure to also white balance, especially if you are dealing with any natural light.

When taking shots, try to take a few different angles and sizes, so you have options to show your products from all sides. This will help your customers feel like they have gotten a good sense for what the product really looks like.

Taking your own product photos is going to require a fair bit of trial and error, especially if you are new to photography. But be patient, and try to have fun with it. The more you do, the more creative you’ll be able to get, and the more your product photos will be able to stand out for the right reasons. View one of our past blogs about product photography here. While this blog focuses on a specific industry, we think you will be able to draw some helpful tips for your next product shoot.

Given it a fair shot and need some product or lifestyle photography help? Contact us today!