Product Photography 101

Strike a pose! No, not you — we’re talking about your products! Product photography is all about presenting your eCommerce goods in the best possible light. While that may seem straightforward, snapping the perfect shot can get a little tricky, especially if you have no prior experience with design or photography in general.

If you and your camera just haven’t been getting along, this is the blog post you’ve been missing. Ready? Say cheese!

Why Is Product Photography Important?

Here’s the thing: eCommerce is a primarily visual medium, and people like pretty things. A poorly-lit, badly-cropped picture of your customized dog boots will do nothing to drive conversion rates — in fact, it could even turn customers away. You put in tons of hard work as a business owner, so it only makes sense to do everything you can to maximize sales. 

No one is expecting you to turn into a photography mastermind overnight, so don’t sweat it if National Geographic hasn’t blown up your phone yet. Instead, focus on what you can do to make your products pop, and then do the best you can.

What You’ll Need

Contrary to popular belief, fancy equipment is not a requirement for awesome photos. In fact, all you’ll really need in the beginning are a camera and a tripod. Yup, that’s it! And, thanks to the technological marvels of the 21st century, your smartphone’s built-in camera can do the job just fine. However, we wouldn’t recommend forgoing a tripod — even if your hands are as steady as the surety of filing taxes every year, they are bound to get the jitters every once in a while. Plus, tripods help you get sharper, more consistent images.

Oh, and how could we forget about photo editing software? No matter how thoroughly you follow our tip-top tips and tricks, you’re bound to run into some snags — but it’s nothing a little bit of saturation and contrast can’t fix. And, surprise! You can also do this from your phone. Not too bad, right?

Lastly, before you take your pictures, we suggest checking to see if your sales platform has any specific guidelines — such as image size and resolution — when it comes to product photography. Amazon, for example, is known to be very specific with their requirements

Tips & Tricks

Use Natural Light

If a dog is man’s best friend, then natural light is a photographer’s best friend. Or, when the sky’s overcast, their worst enemy. Either way, natural light is the way to go for bootstrapped business owners. It’s free, flattering, and not that hard to get the hang of. 

Is it a sunny day outside? Are you the proud owner of at least one window? Then you can absolutely take advantage of natural light — you’ll just have to move fairly quickly, as you’re essentially fighting against the clouds. Light changes constantly, and can hit from the front, side, or back. Despite its somewhat finicky nature, you’ll be amazed at how much natural light can enhance your products for only $0.00. 

Follow the Rule of Thirds

Ah, the rule of thirds. It’s every art professor’s favorite term, but what does it mean, exactly? Basically, it’s a guideline of how the elements of an image should be framed, taking into consideration what is naturally most pleasing to our eyes. 

Do you see how everything is divided into three rows, three columns, and nine total sections? According to the rule of thirds, the elements (or subjects) of an image should fall along these imaginary lines and their intersections. The idea is that this creates visual interest and contrast between the foreground (subject) and background of a photo. 

While the rule of thirds is a good thing to keep in mind, it’s more of a helpful suggestion than a commandment. If you find yourself overthinking it, just go with your gut. In time, you’ll develop killer instincts that will likely fall in line with the rule of thirds anyway. It just takes, as everything does, a little practice.

Play Around with Different Angles

Taken any selfies recently? Then you understand the significance of angles. Even if you’ve never actively thought about angles, we all have a basic understanding that whatever’s closest to us looks bigger, and whatever’s furthest looks smaller. Downward angles shorten, while upward angles lengthen. 

So what are your products’ ideal angles? Well, it depends. What do you want to emphasize? What do you want to detract? Try shooting a bunch of photos from multiple angles. It’ll take some trial and error, but the angles that make you tip your beret and go “ooh la la!” are the right ones for you.

Show, Don’t Tell

For online shoppers, your product only exists in its digital form. They can’t feel the luxurious texture of your faux-leather wallets or sniff your richly fragrant scented markers. They’re confined to what they see on-screen, which means it’s up to you to fill in the sensorial blanks.

We’re talking close-ups. We’re talking contextual shots of models frolicking in lush fields of wheat. And, if your products verge on the complex, we’re also talking diagrams. The second and third sentences are optional, but the point is that you want to give potential customers a comprehensive look into what they can expect from their soon-to-be purchase. In other words, all major selling points must be communicated verbally as well as visually.

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)

We’re neither calling you a dummy nor invoking one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Instead, we’re dropping some of the greatest advice you’ll ever hear — sometimes less is more. Visual clutter is, more often than not, a one-stop-shop to eCommerce doom. Confuse your customers, and you could turn them away for good.

When in doubt, go the simple route. Colorful backgrounds not doing you any favors? Stick to white. Crazy angles distorting your products? Opt for a no-frills, eye-level shot. Don’t think of it as boring — think of it as tried-and-true. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel.

And that’s where we leave you, photography pro! Our final advice? You can do it! Remember that you’re the one who knows your products, and it’s up to you to put their best pixels forward. 

Questions? Concerns? Extremely positive feedback? We’d love to hear from you! Just shoot us (pun intended) a line here.