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How to take great product photos

So here I go with my first guest blog post!  Who am I?  My name is Chris Lynn and I’ve been a professional photographer since 2010.  My focus (pun entirely intended) varies at different times during the year, from weddings during summer months, to studio portraits leading up to Christmas, to location shoots and commercial work throughout the year.

A good proportion of my commercial work is taken up with product photos… not very sexy, but absolutely essential if you’re selling online.

Why Do I Need Good Photos?

You’ll likely be using your photos on your website or in catalogues or brochures.  These are there for your potential customers to see what you have to offer and decide whether or not they’re going to buy from you.  This is your shop front!  If you have a real-life shop front I bet it’s spotless!  It’s got all your best stuff, presented in its best way.  All shiny and clean.  That’s exactly how your photos should look on your website.

How many times have you walked past a messy, old, tired and worn window display and made a snap decision not to go in, then walked to a different shop?  Now imagine the next shop is only a click away and you don’t even have to walk!  If your photos are messy, old, tired and worn people will just move on.

Maybe more importantly than that though is this.  You have spent a lot of time, money and effort creating your product.  You may have imported it at a cost to you.  You may have assembled it from various components or made it from scratch.  It might be a brand new invention or innovation.  Whatever – you’ve invested in this thing you’re selling.  Show it off in its best light!

How Do I Take a Good Product Photo?

The best way to guarantee good and consistent results is to employ a professional.  I’m always available, as are a good few other photographers!  We will all charge you though…  But it’s perfectly possible to do it yourself.

First, have a think about the background of your photo.  What is appropriate?  If you’re selling on sites like Amazon, they will have quite tight specifications as to what they will accept.  This usually means a clean, pure white background.  You’ll need a lightbox to achieve this.  For only £25 or so you can get something very portable and perfectly acceptable.  eBay has loads in varying sizes.

If you’re only selling on your own website though you can write the rules!  Consider putting your product in context.  If it’s glassware, why not show it in a kitchen?  Or if it’s walking boots, shoot them in a field!  Silver jewellery looks really good on a wooden surface.  Whatever background you go for, make sure it’s not messy and definitely not distracting.  Your product needs to be the star of the show!

It’s fairly obvious that your photos should be correctly exposed and in focus, but I thought it was worth mentioning.  Zoom in to check.  There’s nothing worse than a blurred image!

Think about the angle you’re shooting from as well.  What will show it off best?  Generally, this isn’t a 45 degree angle.  People seem to naturally gravitate towards this shot, but it’s generally not flattering.  To anything really…  Consider shooting from straight in front or directly above to avoid distorting the perspective of it.

How Should I Save My Photos?

That depends on exactly how they will be used.  Your web designer / graphic designer / printer will usually advise how they would like the photos delivered to them.  As a general rule though JPG images are best.  That’s what your phone will create by default.  All cameras will have a JPG setting as well.  If you decide to go a bit more advanced and shoot in RAW, your software should be able to convert it for you.

Size wise – websites generally require photos to be around 1000 pixels on their long edge at a resolution of 72 dpi (dots per inch.  Sometimes called ppi, pixels per inch).   Printers are a bit more complicated.  They are likely to use images at actual size at either 240 or 300dpi.  Exact sizes will therefore vary, so it’s worth asking them.If in doubt, send them the biggest, highest quality image you can save!

What Equipment Do I Need?

It goes without saying that the better the kit you have, the better your photos will be.  Doesn’t it?  Not necessarily.  Yes, good kit used correctly will give you sharper photos and more pixels to play with.  But you can achieve perfectly good results from a mobile phone.  All the examples here were taken on an iPhone 6s and edited with a free app called SnapSeed.  Most mobile phones have better cameras than Apple so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a good shot.  Make sure you have plenty of light and you should be fine!

If you do have the budget to buy a camera, get the best you can afford.  Your local camera shop will be able to advise on what to get for the money you have to spend.  And if you’re editing photos on a computer, Adobe Lightroom is fantastic.  I won’t go through all the editing techniques here though.  That’s a much bigger topic…

Hopefully some of this will improve your product photos and increase your sales in the process.  Whatever you’re selling make sure your photos show it off in the best way possible.  Good luck!