Perhaps it seems obvious why a business needs awesome product photography. After all, humans are highly visual creatures. However, even for those people who know the power of a high-quality image, just how helpful one can be is still stunning:
- 93% of consumers say that visual appearance is a key factor in making a purchasing decision.
- 67% of online shoppers said high-quality images were more important to them than product descriptions or even reviews.
And of course, these statistics don’t even get into using photos on social media or if you end up getting featured in a magazine.
The bottom line, then, is that whether you’re selling your product on your website, on another e-commerce site, or in print, using the best photography is absolutely essential to your success.
Of course, you may read these statistics and feel a bit intimidated. You may feel that you need a beginner’s guide to product photography. Well, if so, you are in luck for two reasons. First, with just a few tips, most people find that they are almost always able to take a photo that looks great. Second, you are in the right spot. Below, I will give the product photography tips you need!
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Pick Your Equipment
Camera equipment for product photography can be complex or simple
Of course, one key question that people ask is “What is the best camera for product photography?” The truth is that just about any camera works well. Certainly, you can buy a professional kit that will allow you to take amazing photographs. However, such a camera usually requires research or even a class before you know how to use all the various functions.
Don’t be afraid, then, to simply use the camera on your smartphone, especially if your phone was manufactured within the last few years. Smartphone cameras have improved greatly, and they now feature powerful lenses that are built for the digital world. The camera apps feature many different settings to ensure that you’re taking pictures that will look great.
After all, there is a reason that Apple has contests where people can show off the best photos they have captured on their iPhones. Although smartphones aren’t exactly as powerful as a dSLR camera, you can try to use Portrait mode (if it’s available on your phone) to blur the background and simulate a shallow depth of field with your photos.
Overall, you can definitely take some amazing product photos with your mobile phone! And when you decide that you want to take that next step, you can invest in a dSLR camera. You don’t have to buy new, either. There are likely refurbished and affordable dSLR cameras available on the market, or you can even rent one to make sure it works out for you. I use a Canon EOS Rebel T5i that I’ve had for many years, and the photo below was actually taken with my cell phone. With practice and skill, you can take great pictures no matter your camera!
One piece of equipment I would recommend, however, is a tripod. Tripods are great for making sure that your product photography is clear and consistent. You can purchase nice tripods at a reasonable price for both traditional cameras and smartphone cameras.
Choose the Background and Other Specifics of Your Photo
To be honest, while the other decisions on this list are important, the most impactful decisions you will make are about how exactly to feature your product. These decisions will have the greatest impact on conversion rates. To demonstrate, here are a few interesting statistics about product photography:
- 78% of online shoppers say that they want product photography to bring products to life. In other words, they want to see how the product can be implemented in their lives.
- A/B testing shows that when product photography helps the viewer see the benefits of the product, revenue per visitor increases by 17%.
Given these studies, you have a few directions you can go. None are inherently right or wrong; you just have to decide what is best for your products.
A white background works well when you really want to showcase how a product looks. Many customers research products online but end up actually purchasing them in person. Why? Then the customer gets a chance to experience the product in a more tangible way. Great product photography against a white background can overcome a customer’s need to see the product in person. It can help a customer really get a feel for the product. Using a 360° rotating image is a great touch as well.
A white background also works well if your product has a variety of features that you want to emphasize, and it is better to show the buttons than to try to take a photo of all the different features in action (or if it isn’t possible to really show the features.) But white backgrounds can focus the viewer to the shown features and allow the viewer to not get overwhelmed with visual stimuli.
If you do want to use a white background, I recommend using a sweep so there are no visible lines showing in the background of your picture. If you’re on a budget and just need a white wall, a white project board or foam board can be used.
Not satisfied with plain white backgrounds? Use lighting or shadows to accentuate your product!
Of course, pure white isn’t the only color you might want to use as a background. Using a different product photo background can look very classy as well and can provide visual contrast. Also, research on color psychology shows that there are many ways that different colors can influence customers.
I personally love using Replica Surfaces. These are rigid photography backgrounds with different textures and images that you can mix and match to create the scene that suits your product. In the photo below, I was able to set up 2 sets of Replica Surfaces for a different look-and-feel for each of the products:
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You may also want to choose different locations in your product photography to show the most natural place for your product. For example, if you write books, you can take photos of the book on a shelf with other books in the same genre, on the desk of your dream customer, or in a stack with other books you’ve written.
Then again, some people choose to place their products in certain settings to evoke a certain emotion, exude a certain ethos, or build a certain brand. For example, luxury cars are often pictured in front of a mansion. However, an SUV ad targeted toward rugged adventurers will show the vehicle climbing a mountain.
Show Your Product in Action
Of course, for many products, you will want to take a photo that shows the product in use. This method works well when you want to emphasize the function of a product or the problem that it solves. For example, if you sell a luxury calligraphy set, you can take photos of the perfect stroke coming from the pen’s nib.
Did you know? If you include people in your product photography, A/B testing shows that when the people are smiling, sales increase by 10%.
The topic of product photography lighting has its nuances. However, when you are considering the best lighting for product photography, you have two main choices: natural or artificial light.
You can take product photographs anywhere!
Natural light, also known as “soft light” basically refers to sunlight. Most of the time, when someone chooses natural light for their product photography, it is usually for one of these four reasons:
- The product is used outdoors or near windows, and the photographer is showing it in context.
- The product doesn’t have a lot of fine details.
- A person is in the photo. (People generally look better in natural light.)
- Natural light is free; it doesn’t require any special equipment.
Artificial light (or “hard light”) is basically any light source besides the sun. The most common sources of artificial light are bulbs or flames. Artificial light is a great choice when you want to emphasize some finer details in your product, especially when you are selling something hand-crafted or specially designed.
As mentioned above, type of lighting isn’t your only choice. As you’re taking pictures, you will want to play around with the angle of lighting to see what gives you the best look with the right shadows (or, more typically, no shadows). You can also experiment with different apertures, fill lights, and bounce cards to see what works best in your product photography.
When you’re taking product photos for a marketplace like Amazon, they may have specific requirements that the first photo has an all white background so that your product stands out. But for the next photos, you can style them with props to show how your product works and looks.
You can use props to add extra visual interest, help your users imagine the product in their space, or to just have fun!
For instance, here’s a photo I did with faux pine branches during a Christmas ornament shoot for a holiday marketing idea. In one photo, you can show how to use a product and why someone should buy.
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And you can use many props to set the scene for your viewer. I love this photo by @novellyyours because of how cozy it looks:
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So don’t neglect your props!
Take Many Different Pictures
Once you are all set up with your pre-shoot decisions, it is time to begin taking pictures. When you do, be sure to not just stop at one, even if your first one looks amazing. There are three reasons why this is best practice when doing product photography:
- Taking several pictures gives you the ability to experiment with different settings and features described above.
- Sometimes a picture that looks great on a camera screen ends up not looking great on your website. For that matter, the picture that looks best on your website may not look as good in print or on a different e-commerce site. So, the more options you have, the better.
- Different pictures can – and should — show different angles of and potentially different features of your product.
Edit Your Photo(s)
Of course, even when your shoot is complete, the process of product photography isn’t quite done yet. The last step is to edit your pictures.
The good news is that photo editing no longer requires a lot of fancy, expensive software. Many good photo editing apps are free or at a reasonable price, and they all help you crop your picture, add great effects, and much more.
As you go to use your product photography, especially on your own website, I would like to share one more interesting A/B study with you. An auction site found that larger images led to 63% higher conversions. The interesting thing is that the images actually pushed all product description off the screen. This study just reinforces how important an image is. Obviously, you don’t want a picture that is so large that the user must scroll to see it all. Also, you don’t want the image to become pixelated. However, generally speaking: big, bold images do best with consumers.
None of what I have written is meant to imply that product photography is simple. It certainly is not! Professional product photography exists for a reason, and many businesses find that hiring professionals leads to a sharp increase in sales.
Many professionals have many years of experience with different camera functions for just the right shot. What I hope I’ve provided are product photography ideas for those who want to learn how to DIY or those who don’t have the budget to hire others right now.
However, product photography can be a laborious process. If you’re finding that you need someone to take this task off your hands so you can focus on all the other elements of your business, May Dream Design offers product photography services. We pride ourselves in taking stunning photos of products that help you sell, especially when combined with our other digital marketing services.