Product photography tips for beginners

Between creating your products, talking to website designers, writing product descriptions and everything else that comes with running a business - chances are you don’t have much time to study the art of photography.

Luckily, we’ve got you! We’ll kick things off with 5 basic product photography tips for beginners.

#1. Use proper lighting!

Without proper product photography lighting, your product nor your background is going to appear how it does to you in person. Lighting is something that looks effortless but is the key component in any form of photography.

There are two options for product photography lighting: studio lighting and natural lighting. The product that you’re photographing, the purpose of the photo, and the platform on which you’re advertising it will help you decide which setup to go for. Natural lighting can work well for product photographs featuring edible items, people, and clothing, and these natural looking photos can work well in social media contexts, like Instagram.

If you’re photographing inside, you will want to set up your product facing a window so that you are gaining all the natural light that comes through. On the other hand, if you’re able to photograph your products outside, do it! The best times to do this are early morning and late afternoon when the sun is out but is not too harsh. Slightly overcast days are also preferable. If you take out your product catalogue at noon when the sun is beating down, you are going to get a lot of glare in your snaps.

On the other hand, if your product is primarily used indoors (e.g. cookware) or features small details (e.g. artwork/ eyelashes), or e-commerce, then artificial product photography lighting is preferable.

Using artificial product photography lighting may seem intimidating, but it’s necessary for those of you advertising on e-commerce sites. Lighting has the potential to make or break your product photos.

There are three main types of studio lights: Fluorescent, LED and Tungsten.

Fluorescent lights are energy-efficient but have a low output of light. It’s usually around 60-100 watts. The bulbs are available, cheap and easy to replace. But they can tint your image in ways you may not like.

LED lights are very energy-efficient and produce very little heat. They are composed of lots of small “light-emitting diodes” (LEDs) and generally last a long time. Ring lights are often comprised of LEDs.

Tungsten lights offer the highest output levels but also generate a lot of heat. The bulbs are quite inexpensive to replace. They can change the colour temperature if you adjust brightness levels. All my continuous light soft boxes are tungsten.

I prefer a continuous light soft box for e-commerce photography. This is because I like seeing the scene as I set it up and I find figuring out how to cut reflections easier this way. Using a continuous flash also has its benefits but I will touch on flashes in a later blog.

Soft boxes diffuse the light source however if you do not have a soft box, when using artificial light always use a diffuser to ensure that the lighting spreads across and around your product evenly, rather than casting hot spots and causing over pronounced shadows.

Hot spots are unflattering and a pain to retouch. As well as that, diffused lighting works better for white balance than a spot light. You don’t have to break the bank buying a professional diffuser, there are many cheap but effective alternatives like wax paper, tracing paper or baking paper, shower curtains or you can invest in 5-in-1 reflectors, these can technically be referred to as pro gear but they’re too inexpensive not to mention!

#2. Create a scene

This is a big area to cover but we can start here as it’s one of the most important! It’s critical that you not only think about how your product or the item you want to photograph looks, but also the area around it. Your product or food photography backdrop can really help you sell your product. You may have heard the saying:

“Don’t sell the mattress, sell a good night’s sleep.”

The same thing applies to what you’re trying to promote, it makes sense to sell the action rather than the product itself as people can really relate to a feeling! Imagine being a kid again and seeing a massive slide and being scared… after going down that slide for the first time you realise it wasn’t so scary after all, in fact you loved the feeling and every time you see a slide after that you are immediately drawn to it.

This is the feeling you want to give people, and this is what creating a scene is when it comes to product/ food photography. It makes for a more interesting photograph, which of course makes for more engaged customers.

#3. Don’t clutter the scene

What’s the point in having a backdrop if you’re audience can hardly see it? With that being said you don’t want to fill up the scene with too many objects that will take people away from the actual product, it is easy to get carried away with adding too many props making it difficult for your target audience to know exactly what they’re supposed to be focussed on.

Start with minimal props and make sure that your product is always the absolute centre of attention whether it be through composition or clever lighting, everything else should just blend into the background.

#4. Pay attention to reflections

Nobody wants a weird reflection on their product! This is one of the most common mistakes new product photographers make. Pay attention to how your lighting or even yourself, reflects on the product. You could make use of the reflection and include it in the image if it works or just remove the reflection altogether.

The best way to remove a reflection is to re-angle yourself or your lighting in a way that no longer allows the light to create a reflection, you could also retouch the image to remove it.

#5: Use a tripod

Tripods might sound like a nerdy, unnecessary piece of technical equipment, but they make a huge difference in the clarity and quality of your product photography. And they are not necessarily expensive or difficult to use! Depending on what kind of shots you are getting, it’s a low-cost investment with a high pay off, especially when you no longer have to worry about the camera shake.

Tripods are essential stands that stabilize your camera from your shaky hand. Using a tripod will ensure a reduction of a blur, which is critical if you want your product photographs to look professional and high-quality.

Whether you are using a fancier DSLR or a simple iPhone/ Android, there are many tripods on the market in varying price ranges for every type of camera out there. Go on Amazon and get one for your equipment of choice. It is 100% worth taking the extra minute to set up a tripod for better looking product photographs.


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