Our Top 5 Basic Product Photography Tips

Our Top 5 Basic Product Photography Tips

by Beryl Ayn Young

If you’re a creative blogger or online shop owner, you know just how important quality product photography will be to your bottom line.

Your potential customers want to see your product before they buy, and since they can’t pick it up and physically see it for themselves, your images are the only thing they have to help them decide whether to push that Buy button or not.

In today’s post, I’m sharing with you my top 5 product photography tips for taking your photos up a notch, and helping your clients see the full value in what you’re offering.

Locate Light First

No matter what type of camera you’re using, it won’t work to its fullest potential without quality light. Let’s chat a bit about natural vs. artificial light sources.

Natural

Inside, during the day, you want to find rooms with light walls and ample window light streaming in. I like to call the best rooms in our home my “Grade A” light rooms. Take a walk around your home, office, or studio and find your own “Grade A” light areas. If you prefer to head outside, be sure to find areas of open shade. That would be places where your product is in the shade, but there is ample light in the surrounding areas (covered porches are a great example of open shade).

Find "Grade A" light areas if you plan to use natural light for your product photography.

I love the way the natural light streams in and allows the tote bags from Seeker of Happiness

Artificial

Some creatives have no choice but to take photos of their products in the evening, once the sun has gone down. My best solution for this is to turn off your flash and build a DIY lightbox instead! With $30 and 30 minutes I created this one with a large moving box, utility lamps with clamp bottoms (I picked mine up at the local hardware store), 100w daylight compact fluorescent bulbs, extension cords, tissue paper, and scotch tape.

For $30 in 30 minutes you can build a DIY light box to ensure quality product photos.

The daylight bulbs here are key. The tone of these bulbs are the most like natural light and will avoid strange color casts on your product. This is especially important for shooting mouth-watering food like this cupcake from Pink Polka Dot Baker.

Find Focus

If you’re a DSLR user, I highly recommend picking up a ‘prime lens’. Either a 50mm or 35mm lens with an F-stop opening of 1.8 will work perfectly. Without getting too technical, that lower lens opening of 1.8 will allow you to create that beautiful smooth background blur. In its simplest form, the lower you set your F-stop, the more blur you will create. In this way, you can truly focus a viewer’s eye on your product and allow the rest of the scene to blend into the background. I typically keep my F-stop at 2.8 or 3.2 for most product shots.

If you're a DSLR user pick a `prime lens` to create that beautiful smooth background blur called bokeh.

I love the smooth blur in organic wood tones in Jane Dean’s shop photos that help bring out the clear focus of her woodland series mugs. Perfect use of a low F-stop!

Use Simple Styling

It’s important to pay attention to the set-up of your shots too. Allow your product to be the focus, but don’t be afraid to add other complementary elements of interest to add texture to the frame. A bit of ribbon, some greenery or flowers, or a patterned backdrop. But make sure you don’t go overboard. In the end, you still want your customer to view your product as the focus of the frame.

Some products (such as journals, paper goods, or jewelry) work really well when styled and shot from an overhead angle.

Some products (such as journals, paper goods, or jewelry) work really well when styled and shot from an overhead angle. Notice how we added a bit of greenery and a red rose to the scene, to complement the subtle reds in the journal and add a bit more interest.

Show Real World Use

Decide if you want your photos to be staged, or if you’d like to show them being used. For example, you can stage jewelry in a studio or you can show a photo of someone wearing the piece. You can stage a tote bag hanging on a wall or you can show a mom at the grocery store with it over her shoulder. Which kind of photos speak to you more? Do you want the photos staged, do you want to show the real world application, or will you use a combination of both types of images?

If you are a fashion blogger find appropriate locations that showcase the product to snap your photos

If you’re a fashion blogger showing outfits or accessories, find appropriate locations to snap your photos. Alicia at Love Knot Photo has the perfect snow in her backyard to show of this hand-knitted scarf.

Keep Consistent

I think the most important message is: whatever you do with the photos for your creative business, stay consistent. Think about your brand message and the colors and feelings you want to convey, to help guide your styling. If you promote a clean, neutral polished look, then share that in your photos. If you are all about bright, vibrant pops of color, think about how you can best bring that into your images. The more consistent your message, the clearer the vision will become to your customers, readers, and buyers.

Keep consistent in your product photos thinking about your brand message, colors and overall feeling.

MDC artistic designs, a custom jewelry designer, recently re-branded with a clean sleek look and feel. As such her product images are all shot on a plain white or simple grey backdrop as seen here.

Beryl Ayn Young
Beryl Ayn Young is a professional photographer by chance and a teacher at heart. Check out her classes and e-books, aimed at helping you love your photos and your life. Then go download a free copy of her digital magazine Compose that will have you crafting the perfect recipe for better photos.