Brandmade: Product Photography

Your digital strategy relies on you knowing your market, your audience and your product, deciding what your brand needs to say and presenting yourself in the best way you can. This Brandmade post is going to get down to business with the do’s and don’ts of product photography – an essential component of your online presence. In product photography, your product is the star and the way it is shown has the potential to lead to sales.

The images stallholders take that we naturally gravitate towards here at Handmade Canberra, fall into one of three categories. Either they are styled beautifully, with complementary products, they were beautifully lit with lots of natural light and no glare or shadows or they were focused correctly, so that the product itself was the hero. We’ll look at why these elements make a good photo in a minute, but first, here are some tips on how to create wonderful images:

Equipment you will need

The best advice we can give you is to start with what you’ve got and go from there! There is no need to invest heavily in new equipment until you understand the capabilities of what you already have. Start small and get to know your equipment so you can determine what is and isn’t working for you with your product photography, then invest!

Camera

Gone are the days where you absolutely MUST have a digital (DSLR) camera. Mobile phone technology has come so far in the last few years and it is absolutely possible to take great product photos for use across your website, social media accounts and market with your mobile phone. If you have access to a DSLR that’s great, but if a mobile phone is what you have – start with that! You will soon work out whether you need to invest in better equipment or not, based on the quality of images you can take.

Tripod

If you have access to a tripod it will make your product photography easier, as it will help to keep the camera stable so that you can get the crispest image possible. Again, this does not need to be top of the line. Have a look online for tripods that are within your price range and start there.

Lightbox

If you are taking close up shots of small items, you may wish to use a lightbox. You can purchase these ready made, or there are instructions available online if you would like to build your own. A lightbox helps diffuse the light in the room and minimise shadows, which we will discuss next.

Working with Lighting

A white background is incredibly useful for product photography and very easy to set up. Get hold of a large piece of paper or card from an art supply shop and tape it to the wall and floor/table so you have a gentle curve with no lines. Something to shade direct light is also handy to stop the shadows – white card or foam core is easy to get hold of and easy to set up. Place your product in the centre of the card and get started on your product photography!

If you have access to a lightbox you can use the same technique as above, with the lightbox placed over the top. A lightbox will help you to create professional images by helping to reduce the shadows around your products. This also makes editing your images much easier.

If you don’t have access to a light box, that is ok too! If this is the case, natural light is your best friend for great product photography. Set yourself up near a window or door with diffused sunlight (you could hang a piece of thin white material over the door or window to help with this). Taking your photo on an overcast day will also help diffuse the light on your photos, leading to a more professional image.

Taking the steps to incorporate diffused lighting in your photography set up will guarantee that your product looks its best for your online photos.

Focus

Without getting too technical, the best product shots play with what’s known as depth of field, which is the distance between the near and far objects in a photograph. When the background is out of focus, it draws the eye to in-focus items in the foreground. Experiment with the settings on your camera or mobile phone to get the best results.

Here are three examples of product photographs that play with focus. In these images, the focus is on the product and the backgrounds are slightly blurred. This helps centre the focus on the actual product, while creating atmosphere.

Composition

Even if you are shooting your products on a plain white background, the angle of your product, the level of detail and the way it is staged will make a big difference to the outcome. It is, however, often a good idea to add props. These will allow you to tell a story with your photo. For example, rather than shooting an empty glass, fill it with lemonade and ice cubes and put a piece of lemon on its side to catch more attention. Adding props can suggest the usability of your product or the lifestyle that it can offer to your customers.

Below are some examples of some well styled photos.

Different settings can also add to the composition of your image, whether it’s through a choice of textured or coloured background or out on location.

The following jewellery images are all styled slightly differently but use texture well.

Editing

Do not despair if the images you take do not immediately look as well polished as you hoped they would! Most images need to be edited and by using some simple editing techniques, your images will soon be transformed into high quality professional looking images easily.

Using software such as Photoshop (available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud for laptops and desktops) can be quite expensive and complex to learn, however may be a worthwhile investment if you are regularly doing product photography for your business. A wonderful application for mobile devices is Adobe Lightroom Lightroom (available on iPhone and Android) and it is free (you can upgrade to the paid version if you require additional functionality). If you are earning your living from online sales that depend on great photography, it may be worth investing in the software to help you. Otherwise, make sure you know how to use what you’ve got and you’re almost there!

Finally, if you’re really interested in getting to grips with the best product photography (and therefore better branding and greater sales) you may wish to look at our partner offers to see the photography courses that are available to you as part of the Handmade Canberra community.

Happy snapping!