How to Take Professional Looking Product Photos Without Being a Professional Photographer
Taking product photos isn’t always the first thing you think about when setting up your store, but it definitely shouldn’t be an afterthought. The images you use for your products can mean the difference between a customer purchasing or walking away. When selling wholesale, images can be even more important. Retailers want to carry products that represent their brand and will sell well. If your images are too busy, or unpolished it could mean they look elsewhere. That’s a lot of money you could be losing out on.
You might be thinking “I’m not a professional photographer, how can I do this?” A good camera is not a cheap investment, and neither are the accessories you might be tempted to buy in hopes that they will amp up your photography skills. But you don’t need to worry as much as you think. Taking great quality product photos can be done for very little money, often with equipment you already own. And if you did want to make investments you can purchase a few extras that will massively elevate your images.
Now, let’s go through the steps you should follow when taking product photos to ensure they are high quality and high converting, as well as some options if taking your own images isn’t something you can or want to do.
Setting up your photos can seem challenging, but there are things you can do to make it easier. When selling wholesale we recommend two types of photos; one that displays your product with a simple, neutral background, and a second photo with the product in use, or with additional decorations to jazz it up. The second photo often requires a bit more creativity. Something that can be helpful is finding inspiration in product photos from a competitor or even just businesses that you think have really great images.
Some examples of stores with great images are GymShark, All Birds, and Magnolia. These brands have high-quality photos that show their products in use and by themselves. Their images are clear and not overly cluttered, which displays their products in a way that entices potential buyers. Although they are big brands, you can still look to them for inspiration along with smaller brands within your niche. This will help you get an idea of the number of images you should provide, the angles you could show the product from, and how to design a lifestyle photo or flat lay. Another added advantage of looking through other brand’s stores is you’ll also be able to gain an idea of where you can improve and stand out from your competitors.
If you own a smartphone and have a spot to take pictures, then you’re basically ready to take product photos. The place you take those photos doesn’t need to be fancy and could be as simple as your kitchen table or a nice blanket in a well-lit space. If you have a DSLR camera available – or want to invest in one – that’s fantastic, however, any smartphone from within the last five years will be more than adequate and result in clear, crisp photos.
Other equipment you could consider would be a photo lightbox, which can be cheap and really help if you don’t have the best lighting situation. A lightbox is an empty box with translucent, white sides that helps to bounce and diffuse light, and gives a cohesive background to your image. You put your product in the box and take a photo. Very simple.
A tripod is also a great tool to ensure your product photos are sharp and reduce any blur you might experience from holding the phone or camera in your hand. They don’t have to be expensive and many models often work with both a smartphone and a DSLR. Extra lights can also be a bonus, especially in cases when a lightbox won’t work, such as lifestyle images. Something like an aperture light, which can be bought cheaply, will make a huge difference if you aren’t able to work with natural light. If you’re unsure about lighting and what you need, learn about your options in the video below.
So now you have your equipment, and a better idea of the kinds of photos you want. Now it’s time to actually set up and take your photos. If you have a lot of products to take photos of it can be good to take them all in one set up, then move on to a new set up if you’re taking different types of photos. This can save you some time.
Images with a plain background can be quick to set up, whereas staged lifestyle shots and flat lays require extra accessories; for example, a model or different locations. If you’re new to photography, start with plain background photos to get a feel for things before moving on to staged photos, such as flat lays. This will help you to gain a better understanding of lighting and the angles where your product looks best.
Something else that can help with staged photos is having a quick drawing or mock-up prepared for reference. When creating the mock-up, consider what accessories or decorations you want to include with your product. Keep in mind that it should be obvious what your product is. Too many extras can detract from your product and make it hard to understand exactly what you’re selling; the accessories should complement your product. For example, if you’re selling loose-leaf tea you could have a teacup, some of the tea sprinkled out in front, and the container the tea comes in. Simple, but it effectively showcases your product in a creative way without having too much noise in the photo.
Take some test shots with different lighting or from different angles to start. See what works for your product. Shooting from a lower or higher angle can make a huge difference, even with a simple white background. Take multiple shots from each angle or position just in case some come out blurry or there is an aberration on your lens. Always take more photos than you think you need. You can also play with light and shadow to give your images a more moody or airy look – whichever highlights your product best. If you feel the lighting wasn’t quite what you wanted, don’t worry, you can edit images to look a certain way afterward. As long as your product is in focus and the image is clear you’re on the right track. Once you feel like you have enough photos of your products you can move on to editing.
Editing your photo is where you can actually make massive improvements. Doing something as simple as increasing the brightness or contrast can drastically change how your product stands out. The best way to edit your photos is by using an app or program you have access to and that you feel you can handle. You don’t have to immediately jump into Photoshop. It can be overwhelming and other, more simple programs will likely be all you need. Here are some recommendations for both your computer and your phone:
1. Lightroom (mobile and desktop)
You can do things like add presets to make all your photos match, crop or resize your images, play around with brightness, saturation, and shadows. Lightroom is an Adobe product so it has some similar features to Photoshop without being quite as complex. It is available in both a mobile version and a full desktop option and there are plenty of fantastic tutorials online if you’re unfamiliar with it.
2. Snapseed (mobile)
Popular among any would-be photographer for editing on the go. You can use overlays, edit brightness, contrast, and shadows. You can even make more specific edits like increasing the way a certain color looks or adding effects to your images. It is very simple to use and it is free.
3. Photoshop (mobile and desktop)
Chances are pretty good you’ve heard of photoshop. You can edit all parts of your image. From small corrections to brightness and contrast, to adding and removing entire elements from the image. It is definitely not the most beginner-friendly, but if you have something specific that you need to have done you can always find a YouTube video that walks you through it.
4. GIMP (desktop)
GIMP is a free program that does many of the same things Photoshop does. If you already know Photoshop – or are willing to learn – but don’t want to pay the big price tag, you could look into GIMP. It has a similar look and feel as well making it fairly easy to switch to.
5. VSCO (mobile)
This is a great, simple phone app that offers basic editing and filters that you can apply to each image to create a more cohesive look. Additionally, their filters can be lowered and further edited so they do not obscure your images.
If you need a bit more help with taking and editing your photos check out Product Photography for Ecommerce from Shopify Compass. This is a comprehensive guide that even includes tips you can apply to your B2C sales and improve website SEO.
You can also see some simple examples of product photography that I took with a very basic setup. One is the product (a plant pot) on its own and the other is to showcase it in a lifestyle setup. Both use the same background – a simple white sheet – and natural lighting.
Editing was done using the Snapseed app on my Samsung Galaxy S9, which is a three-year-old phone. Both photos display the product and were incredibly easy to set up.
Not comfortable taking your own photos? No problem. A local photographer who specializes in business or product photography will be able to help you out. This option is not free, but will result in amazing images and it will allow you to spend more time on other parts of your business.
Below we have a list of a few photographers from around the country who you could hire to do your product photography. Don’t see anyone local to you? No worries, we also have some resources you can use to find a photographer in your city.
- Midknight Genius – Farmingdale, NY
- Fashion Photographer Los Angeles – Los Angeles, CA
- Olivia I. – San Francisco, CA
- From The Hip Photo – Denver, CO
- Andrew Bennet Photography – Austin, TX
- Camerawerks – Phoenix, AZ
- The Line Studios – New York, NY
- Products on White Photography – Chicago, IL
- Pro Photo Studio – Miami, FL
Still looking for a photographer? There are some great websites out there for freelancers and finding photographers that you can use to find the right fit for your brand and that are in your area.
Now you have all the tools you need to create better product photos. It will take some practice, but you’re sure to have better results using these tips.