Product Photography…why do you have to be so Hard?

Story by Shelley Krehbiel

Do you ever think…I just want to list this ONE thing? on Etsy, on Amazon, on Facebook, on Shopify, man, it seems that everything is so hard!  In order to get a new listing up, so much goes in to it before you can even get it put up for sale.  If your customers only knew, right?

Product Photography groupProduct Photography is the number one thing you’ve got to have done before you can even begin, because let’s face it, no one buys anything they can’t see.  So start here to make the rest of it easy (er).

  • Lighting matters.

  • This is probably the single most important piece of the puzzle, it’s not your camera, it’s not the space, it’s not even the product.  If your buyer can’t see the product they can’t/won’t buy it.
    • If you can use natural light, do that.
      • Indoors, set up next to a window – the window will diffuse the light for you.
      • Outdoors, get up early or wait for evening or cloud cover, you want to shoot when the light is “soft” not harsh. Midday, you might as well take a nap, no shooting going on here.
    • If using artificial light (because you’re a night owl, like me)
      • Make sure you have the same “colored” lights if using more than one – having a soft white and a cool blue will affect your shadowing
      • Use those lumens, more light is better
      • Use white posterboard to reflect light on to your product, it’s amazing what a $0.59 cent piece of cardboard can do. If you can’t make it to the store for white, grab a piece of cardboard and wrap it in tin foil.
      • If your product is small, invest in a lightbox. Fold up ones are awesome because they are out of your way when you don’t need them.
      • If your product is big, you may need softbox lights (and more of them) so you can diffuse the light all around your product. This can be done with sheer fabric – if you’re going DIY, be sure to leave some space so the fabric doesn’t burn
      • Turn off your flash. An external flash is ok, one built in to the camera just creates a harsh light at the wrong time.

Want to build a lightbox?

  • Backgrounds

    • Always get at least one photo on a white background. This is mandatory on Amazon and just good practice for everyone else.
      • Use a backdrop with no seams, if your item is small, this could be as simple as a piece of paper from your printer that you tape against a background so that it drapes
      • Fabric also works well, as does larger paper, cardstock, posterboard. Just remember to drape, you’re going for a graceful curve here, grab some clips and tape and set up your space
    • Plan your shots, once you have the white background shot, plan the restProduct Photography on white
      • Lifestyle shots are great for social media
        • Show your customer how they would use your product
        • Tuck it in a bag, a box, on a table, help them see it in their world
        • Show the product in its’ natural habitat
      • Scale shot
        • This is a photo that communicates visually the size of the product
      • Detail shot
        • Include all angles
        • Get up close and personal
        • Show the little extras
      • Group shot
        • Cluster your products together
        • Put the product with complementary items (whether you sell those or not)
      • Packaging shot
        • This helps the customer know what to expect to arrive
        • Especially important if your item is good for gift-giving
      • Process shot
        • Do you manufacture your own items? Show them how it’s done.
        • Particularly useful if you’re a creative type (think Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work)

Cameras don’t matter.

Seriously, we are all carrying around the best cameras ever made, my apologies to Mamiya and Hasselblad.  Use your cell phone if that’s what you have.  Set up Google Photos so you can easily get to your pics online as well.  This is helpful when you have moved over to your laptop to finish the listing.

A few more things to remember.

Product Photography with propsUse a tripod, even the act of pushing the button could blur your shot.  If you don’t have a tripod, steady your hand and camera against a hard surface (chair back, table, etc.)

Frame your shot.  Use the rule of thirds and put your product on the intersecting lines.  The Rule of Thirds is simply to split your screen in thirds both horizontally and vertically.  Where the lines intersect is your focal point.

Eliminate distractions.  Look for door frames, lint, background distractions.  Make sure you keep moving around until it’s all out of the way.  Stop and look in your viewfinder, see if anything shows up that you missed, feel free to zoom in.  I found a tipped over Kleenex box in my last Facebook live that I missed.  Look at the details, far easier to take the photo right to begin with then to fix it later in Photoshop.

Most important, get ‘er done!  You can’t sell what you can’t post, you can’t post what you don’t have a photo for.

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