Effective product photography is the biggest ally for any marketing campaign. No matter if we are talking about e-commerce websites or brick-and-mortar stores, product photography brings much-needed attention to your products.
However, not every photo is the same – just like every photo’s effect on customers isn’t the same. So, what can be done to achieve great product photography? Continue reading to find out.
By the end of this article, we promise that if use the presented information, you’ll learn at least a couple of useful tricks. These might take your product photography a couple of steps further in the right direction and hopefully increase conversions (turn visitors into customers). Without further ado, let’s see some of the best tips and tricks for great product photography.
Use the Right Photography Equipment
We are sure you are aware of the classic rule of photography that says – the best camera is the one you have with you. This has never been more true, considering the power of today’s smartphones. However, take this with a grain of salt. Here’s all of the equipment you need to achieve great product photography:
Camera: Even though having a high-end camera like Nikon D800 might seem impressive, you’ll be fine with an average DSLR. Try to look at this as an investment. As you’re getting better, you can invest in a high-end camera. Still, remember that this is only one part of the ‘entire picture,’ so to say.
Tripod: Great product photography is all about setting the right aperture value. This allows you to take advantage of the depth of field – which is essential when shooting products and close-ups. What this also means is that you need a tripod since photos will turn out blurry otherwise.
White Background: A background plays an important part in light distribution. For starters, you need a white background that allows products to shine truly. You can use a paper sweep or even some quite affordable poster boards.
Equipment Tricks to Get You Started
As you know by now, the core set of equipment consists of a camera, tripod, and white background. With a bit of luck, and under a consistent natural light, you will be able to shoot striking product photos. However, there are two additional pieces of equipment to take your photos from striking to unforgettable.
Reflector: Without this piece of equipment, you will see a sharp shadow behind products on your photos. Sometimes, this turns out just fine. However, you can also use a reflector that bounces light across the scene. This eliminates any shadows and adds softness to colors. Reflectors come in all shapes and sizes. However, you can make bounce tools (reflectors) consisted of foam core boards.
Lightbox: Instead of creating your own set of reflectors, you can use custom made ones. These are also called mini studios since they come with everything you need to achieve great product photography. Try searching for lightboxes (also known as shooting tents) online. You’ll see that you can find them at around $60, even though their price can quickly go very high. If you’re a beginner, you’ll be good to go with an affordable lightbox.
Use Lighting and Texture to Your Advantage
Every professional photographer will say that shooting on a white background is the way to learn product photography. This is true since this helps you to understand how the light moves across different scenes. Once you’ve managed to figure that out, you can experiment with lighting and texture.
Since product photos are close-up photos, every single detail has the power to influence the outcome. One of the well-known tricks is to use tiles as backgrounds. These can add some texture, and they also reflect rays of light – which all results in striking photos.
For example, you can use a black granite tile, without any texture. This will create an interesting gradient behind a product, and it will also reflect the light – making tiny details on the product to become easily visible. The same can be done with white granite tiles. Don’t be afraid to play with the background. You can also use textured granite tiles or vinyl tiles that look like wood. However, all of these materials reflect the light differently. This means that you’ll have to try different combinations to figure out what’s work and what doesn’t.
Don’t Just Stick to One Lighting Scenario
You’re probably aware of how important the lighting is for great product photography. In fact, light influences colors and can change how we perceive them. In addition, light (artificial and natural) creates shadows and hides or showcases certain aspects of your images.
In general, there are four standard ways to cast artificial light on the scene you’re shooting. Not all of them work at all times and for every kind of product, which is why you need to experiment.
Edge Light: Products that feature fine details benefit from an edge light. This type of lighting creates a distance between a product you’re shooting and its background. In addition, it also creates a focal point in a certain spot which draws the most attention. This kind of lighting assumes having a source of light somewhere between a product and background and can be emanated only from one side.
Light Orientation: As said earlier, lighting plays a significant role in how textures are showcased. This is why you should feel free to change how lights are oriented as well as to play with different sources of light. If you fail to capture a certain detail or texture, move the product by raising or lowering it, or bringing it out or in. This can be especially helpful if you’re using a lightbox.
Background Lighting: This type of lighting brings the product in front and casts the light directly onto it. This way the background will be left behind since it won’t be as exposed as the product. This helps to draw our eyes to the center of the photo and the product that’s shown.
Foreground Lighting: In case you want to show the product surrounded by different objects or details, foreground lighting is the way to go. This is how the lighting will be evenly distributed. For example, if there’s a bottle of water that someone is holding in its hand. It’s important for the bottle to be visible as well as the hand that is holding it.
Utilize 360-Degree Product Photography
You’ve probably heard of 360º photos before, or seen them on an e-commerce website. This is the next step in product photography since it allows customers to gain a more realistic image of different products. Even though this kind of photography might seem intimidating, it is actually not as complicated as many believe.
To create 360º photos, you need a camera, tripod, lights, and background paper. However, you also need two additional pieces of equipment: a 360º turntable (which you can make yourself) and a wired remote shutter release (because your camera mustn’t move during this process). The goal is to slowly move the product in front of you and create a series of photos using the remote shutter release. Another great tip is to make sure each angle is evenly spaced which creates a seamless transition on the final 360º photo.
Finally, you will need a photo editor to merge all those images into one. You can use Adobe Bridge, which is often seen as the easiest editor for this purpose.
Don’t Just Shoot – Tell a Story!
When it comes to great product photography, don’t expect great images to come without preparation. This is because there’s an interesting story behind every great photo. Try to use different colors and different scenarios to evoke a particular emotion in those who will be looking at your photo.
In this manner, color psychology can your biggest ally. Perhaps you’ve noticed that electronics, like computers and smartphones, are often shot with a shiny black background. This is because black is typically associated with elegance, sophistication, and security. You can also do something opposite and quirky, which will capture viewers’ attention.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment with Angles
Trying to find the perfect angle that captures a product in its full glory is no easy feat. However, don’t be scared to experiment with different angles. This goes hand-in-hand with using diverse backgrounds or scenes. Here are some ideas on how to change angles and perhaps get an impressive result:
Juxtaposition: Go for something completely unexpected. Create a striking contrast that will capture your viewer’s eye and make them think about what they’re seeing. This can be done by showing a product used in an unexpected way.
Close-up Photos: Sometimes it’s a good idea to show a certain detail that makes the product stand out. For example, if it has an interesting texture. If there’s a detail that matters and that might be of interest to viewers, don’t hesitate to show it on pictures.
Immersion: The golden rule is to use a white background so that the focus of your photo is on the product you’re shooting. However, you can also go for surprising scenarios and immerse your photo into liquid (if it doesn’t damage the product, of course) or colored beads. Contrast always looks good in product photography.
Polish Your Images Using a Photo Editor
Aside from a camera, a photo editor is every photographer’s best friend. There are numerous available tools on the Web that can help you edit your images.
Postprocessing can help you eliminate any mistakes you’ve made. Sometimes even a very subtle adjustment can go a long way. However, we recommend shooting your photos in RAW format. This format has a much greater dynamic range, which is incredibly helpful when editing images. Photography enthusiasts often use applications like Lightroom – which is Photoshop’s little cousin. In most cases, Lightroom can be used to turn images into unforgettable scenes. In addition, this software is very affordable and should be seen as a wise investment.
Those of you who don’t want to spend any money on a photo editor can still count on using a free-of-charge one. Applications like Irfanview are capable of processing RAW images, which is a good place to start.
Remember that editing can be as challenging as shooting photos, and you’ll need some time for your efforts to start showing results.
The final piece of advice we can give you is to be persistent and to practice. Great product photography doesn’t come easy. No matter how many books you’ve read, you will gain knowledge only by experimenting on your own. In the end, your hard work and effort will be rewarded by professional-looking photos that showcase products in the best possible way. There is no greater reward than producing a photo that captures everyone’s attention.