If you’re one of the many entrepreneurs around the world who is building an e-commerce business, you’ll have realized the critical role product photos play in generating sales.
And if you are reading this you have probably also realized that professional product photography for e-commerce isn’t cheap, with photographers charging anywhere between $20 and $50 per image.
These costs can quickly balloon if you want multiple images of each product, lifestyle images, or have products that are heavy, bulky, or require assembly.
However, fixing this problem isn’t as simple as picking up your mobile phone and trying to take amateur snaps against a white background.
Without some basic pointers on how to take product photos for your e-commerce store, you’re likely to end up with images that sell your products short and potentially even drive business away.
With that in mind here are some basic tips on how to take product photos for your website.
Before you start taking your product photos, it is a good idea to draw up an inventory of the types of shots you’ll require and identify any setup work or potential issues with getting a good shot.
Start by considering the following:
– Are your products heavy and bulky, requiring an assistant to set up your shots?
– Do you want to take group images of your products?
– Will you be using props in your product photos to display them in context?
– Do you want lifestyle images of your products, and if so do you have someone to model your products?
This will help you determine what you want out of your product, shoot ahead of time, and plan what resources and equipment you need to get the best out of your efforts.
Using a smartphone
Unless you are going to be taking wide-angle shots of large objects, you shouldn’t require specialized camera equipment for your product photos.
A modern smartphone is more than capable of taking great product photos. However, to get the best results there are some basic requirements to keep in mind:
1. Ensure your smartphone can take images over 12 megapixels in resolution, and that the camera is set to use this resolution when you take your product shots.
2. Invest in a mini-tripod for smartphones. These can be bought inexpensively and will help ensure uniform image size and depth of field across your product photo catalog.
3. Find an optimal distance from your photo. You don’t want to shoot too close-up as you’ll want room to crop your images, but don’t sacrifice image quality for distance.
4. Test the exposure of your images before you get started. It’s very frustrating to take a set of photos only to find that they are overexposed and must be taken again.
There are also some things you should avoid when using your smartphone:
– Don’t use the front camera (selfie camera) as this takes lower quality images than the back camera/s.
– Do not use the image zoom function on your camera, which will also reduce photo quality.
– Do not use a flash or the phone’s LED light as this will overexpose images with unnatural light.
Getting lighting right
Natural light is sufficient to take good product photos, provided you take the following points into account:
– Set up your shoot in an area close to a large window that is not obstructed by any exterior objects like trees or buildings.
– Ensure you shoot your products on a clear day.
– Shoot in the mornings, as this will usually offer the brightest, clearest light.
– Shoot in a south-facing room in the northern hemisphere or a north-facing room in the southern hemisphere to avoid direct sunlight.
If you are struggling to get a consistent, strong source of natural light you can use an artificial light source instead.
This needn’t cost a fortune — studio light kits can be purchased online for as little as $100.
Product shots on white backgrounds are the standard for e-commerce photography, which means you will need to set up a white background in your shoot location.
This will reflect the available light onto the product and provide a background that can easily be removed using an image editor.
The simplest background option is to get a large sheet of white paper or a white polystyrene board, lay it flat, place your product on this background and take photos from a birds-eye-view.
If you want side-on shots of products, buy a roll of seamless background paper, push a table up against a wall and use it to create a seamless white background and surface.
It’s always a good idea to have a few white foam boards on hand as you can use these to control light levels by reflecting your light source, onto, or away from, your products.
Taking multiple shots
If you’re going to the trouble of setting up your shoot, consider taking shots of each product at multiple angles. This can help your customers better visualize your product.
There are three basic views you should include in your shoot:
– The standard eye-level view which captures the profile of the product.
– A high angle view that captures the product from a higher elevation.
– A birds-eye-view that captures the product from the top.
You can also take slanted shots of your product or low-angle shots which will bring out more of the base of your product.
Ensure that you do not change the tripod or camera angle between products. Instead, photograph your entire product set from a specific angle, then changing your camera position for the next angle.
Cycling through camera angles product-by-product will take a lot more work and create a less consistent result across your shoot.
While simple product photos on white backgrounds will get the job done on your e-commerce product pages, they are not quite as useful when it comes to marketing your products online.
Lifestyle images help your marketing audiences visualize the product in use and demonstrate how it works and looks in application.
Using people in these images also humanizes the product in the way a simple image of the product on a white background can’t match.
Creating good lifestyle images requires a different approach to taking standard product photos:
1. For a start you will likely need a model to demonstrate the product in application – for example, luxury watch ads would typically feature a celebrity wearing the watch.
2. Lifestyle images can be taken outdoors, allowing for more textured and interesting backgrounds. However, avoid taking images with overly busy backgrounds.
3. Shooting during the ‘golden hour’ following dawn or before sunset can provide soft, steady lighting that softens and enhances both human features and natural backgrounds.
Your work isn’t over once you’ve completed your shoot. To get the best out of your image set you’re going to need to do some image editing.
There are a few ways to go about this:
1. Many smartphones come with free native photo editors. The drawback of these is they typically don’t offer bulk formatting.
2. Adobe Lightroom is probably the most popular paid product photo editing app. It offers excellent pre-set filters and can be used on both mobile and desktop devices.
3. Photoshop Express is another Adobe product that is great for smartphones. You can take your images from within the app or edit images from your photo gallery.
4. If you don’t want to fork out money for a subscription, Snapseed is a free Google app that features functionality you’d expect to see on paid software.
5. Camera+ is a cheap one-off purchase app for iOS devices that is designed to get the most out of iPhone and iPad cameras and capabilities. This includes the ability to take images in RAW format to ensure there is no compression of your product photos.
If all of this sounds like too much work, but standard product photography is too expensive, on-demand product photography could be what you are looking for.
Pioneered by Cherrydeck Branded Stock™, on-demand product photography is designed to give you high-quality professional product photos at stock library pricing.
All you need to do is send Cherrydeck your sample products and brand details and they’ll set up the shoot and provide you with access to the stock library of your products within three weeks.
Best of all you will only pay for the photos you want to use from the library.
To find out more, visit Cherrydeck Branded Stock™ now.
To get more insights on how much product photography will usually cost you, read this article on our blog.