5 Photo Tips for Product Photos

Do you struggle with taking photos good enough to represent your products online?  Without good photos, you are doing yourself and your products a great disservice. Through several months of adjustments, here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Lighting is the single most important aspect of photography.  Choose natural light whenever possible. Figure out what time of day the sunlight streams into your house and set up a portable photo shop there.  For me it’s between 2 and 4:30pm in my dining room.    Some recommend outdoor photos but, for me, that has its own complications – wind blowing down my set, shadows, too many distractions to compensate for.  I prefer my indoor setting.
  2. Set the stage.
    1. Make a photo box.  Use a box larger than your items, cover the inside with white paper, add a lamp to each side and shoot.
    2.  Use a simple yet effective setup that can be put up and taken down in a few minutes. 
      1. Elevate the item being photographed.  I use a plastic container turned upside down on the table(any box will do.) This brings the item closer to eye level.
      2. Place a foam board behind the container to block out the distracting background and create a neutral backdrop.
      3. Drape fabric over everything. This eliminates horizon lines in the photo. A white sheet or tablecloth works well. 
  3. What are you photographing?  What is important in this photo that you want the buyer to see? 
    1. Get down to eye level and get a shot head on, get up above the item and photograph it straight down, turn it over and show us the back, the sides.  When selling online, the details are important. 
    2. Fill up the viewfinder with the product your are photographing.
    3. If you need something to prop up your product, slide it under the white fabric.
  4. Put your product in context.   Whenever possible show samples of how it’s used.
    1. Set the table with your plates.  Put flowers in your vase. 
    2. Can someone model your product?   
    3. Putting a ruler or coin next to smaller items gives a clear idea of size.  
    4. Get more ideas from store catalogs. 
    5. Research photos from other online sites, see what works and what doesn’t.
  5. Photoshop your photos.  Many sites to photo edit are available.  I’ve been using Picasa. It’s free and simple enough for me to use. I can redo photos as often as I like.  Photo editing helps with the most important elements for better photos:
    1. lighten your photos
    2. crop your photos

To lighten my photos, the 2 features I regularly use in Picasa are Highlight and Fill light.  You can add as much or as little light as you need to brighten your photos and it’s amazing what a difference this makes. Below are before and after photos using highlight and fill light.

Another tool that I like is the soft focus effect.  It’s a personal choice and not everyone likes it for selling their items. Soft focus softens the edges of the photo giving it a dreamy quality which I like for some of my designs.  This is an example of soft focus:

For cropping, one of the best tips is to crop the main photo using CD square.  It gives the best thumbnail. Cropping is also important to hone in on the details and give a nice close-up or clip out unnecessary background.

Other tips:   For soft lighting, take photos with the flash off.  Check for shadows and move the item around in the space or move yourself around until the shadows are gone.

All of these tips assume you have a decent digital camera to take photos with.  The higher megapixels, the better photos. Get the best camera that you can afford and make sure it has a macro on it for taking close-ups.

Before you know it, you’ll be taking better photos, you’ll find a system that works for you and you’ll feel better about representing your products online.

Good luck!

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