Product photography can seem like a daunting prospect and it’s certainly not something that everyone gets right. A good product image can do many things, but most importantly it needs to draw attention to a listing, appeal to the (potential) buyer, and represent your product and business in a positive manner. Like the rest of your website or online store, your product photographs should look 100% professional.

Many people prefer to pay professionals to photograph their products but if, for whatever reason, you choose to do it yourself, here 20+ tips you’ll need to consider to improve product photography for your online store.

The Hardware

1. Shoot products with your phone

If you choose to use your phone, ensure you’re making the most of all of its great features. Make use of the grid; it’s great for dividing up your shot and keeping your lines level. The iPhone has a ‘burst mode’, which allows you to hold down the shutter to get several pictures – up to ten per second, depending on your phone model. And take advantage of HDR (High Dynamic Range), which mixes different levels of exposure to create one detailed shot.

There are some great apps out there designed to make the process easier. Try Camera+ for iPhone or Camera Zoom FX for Android, both of which are affordably priced. If you’re a jewellery seller, Modahaus has a great tutorial for shooting jewellery with an iPhone.

Shooting product photos with your iPhone

Shooting product photos with your iPhone

2. Use a tripod

It might be tempting to try to cut costs by going freehand but a tripod can save you time and hassle, as well as improving the quality of your shots. You don’t need to spend a fortune and it’s a worthy investment. When you’re taking a professional picture, even the tiniest of movements can ruin your shot, and using a tripod can avoid this. It can also help you to take pictures from awkward angles.

Tripods with positioning heads are best for product photography. Manfrotto tripods, such as the Manfrotto 055XPROB, come with some good reviews, and their prices aren’t too steep either. For iPhone photographers, Amazon offers a selection of iPhone tripod mounts, which can be placed on a normal tripod.

Tripod for product photography

Tripod for product photography

3. Try a mini studio or a lightbox

We don’t all have a fantastically well-lit photographer’s studio to work in, so most of us just have to create our perfect conditions ourselves. A simple way to do this is by using a ready-made mini studio. These usually comprise of a background, walls, stand and lamps, and many are foldable for easy storage. The Square Perfect have received great reviews and there are many more on the market.

Lightbox for product photography

Lightbox for product photography

And if you’re into DIY, you can always make a lightbox yourself or buy a light cube on Amazon, with prices starting at $20.

DIY lightbox

DIY lightbox

4. Get a DSLR camera

If you’re in a position to buy a new camera, then do. There are plenty of affordable, quality DSLR cameras out there that will do a great job and World of Reviews have reviewed this year’s best, as of April 2015. For the very best quality and performance, a camera is best – that’s why photographers use them. Whatever you choose, make sure that you use your equipment to its full potential by learning about all of its features.

DSLR camera review, April 2015

DSLR camera review, April 2015

Camera Settings

5. Make use of macro mode

If your camera has a macro mode, use it. The button usually has a tiny flower on it so it should be easy to locate. Macro mode is great for close-ups, allowing detailed focus from short distances. It will make it harder to focus, and will reduce your depth of field, but the detail can be incredible.

Normal (left) vs. macro mode (right)

Normal (left) vs. macro mode (right)

6. Use the timer and anti-shake option

This is going one step further than the tripod in keeping your camera still. Even the click of a button can jog the camera just enough that your shot is no longer perfect. Set the timer, make any necessary adjustments, and your shot is ready. Some phone apps, such as CameraSharp, have an anti-shake mode, which you can use if you don’t have a tripod, and can give better results in poor lighting.

The Scene

7. Choose your background carefully

Most items look their best against a white background, as it eliminates distractions and makes colours ‘pop’. You can buy specialist backdrops, tents or ‘sweeps’, which are specially curved to eliminate shadows caused by sharp angles. This will give a clean look.

A simple white background is good

A simple white background is good

Many products are shown in their ‘natural environment’, such as a sofas (the product) in the living room. This is a great way of demonstrating size, and can give a customer great visualisation of how the product might look in their home, but beware of distractions. The last thing you want to do is deflect from the product itself.

The scene can highlight the products

The scene can highlight the products

Background can even make something look more expensive. Depending on your target audience and your product, the experience can differ a lot.

Which wine looks more expensive?

Which wine looks more expensive?

8. Draw attention to products

Your product needs to be the main or only focus of the image. If you’re using a stand, make sure it’s not too fussy. When photographing with other products, ensure the relevant one stands out.

Keep the image simple by keeping ‘background noise’ to a minimum – too many other items or too many colours can be confusing and take the emphasis away from the product you’re trying to sell.

Do you know what the product is which is being advertised below? It’s Lavazza coffee (she holds the cup in her right hand). The image is impressive, but can be confusing.

Attention is not on the coffee (cup) but on the picture

Attention is not on the coffee (cup) but on the picture

Eye-tracking studies reveal that when a person in the image looks at the product, a person looking at the image tends to look at the product too.

We tend to look where some one else is looking at

We tend to look where some one else is looking at

9. Don’t be lazy with your lighting

This can be one of the trickiest parts of photography to get right, but it’s also one of the most important – it can really make or break your image quality. What kind of lighting you need depends on what kind of shot you want to take. Some ‘natural environment’ shots will work really well with natural daylight. For most white background shots, you’ll need specialist lighting; take a look online as there are some pretty affordable kits around. You may need to adjust the lighting to avoid sharp shadows, which can look harsh and distract from the product image.

Light can be softened with lighboxes

Light can be softened with lighboxes

Product Positioning

10. Experiment with angles

Different shapes and colours can take different angles. Depending on the nature of the product, an unusual angle can be fun and eye-catching. Of course, don’t go crazy – you want to show off your product, not your artistic flair, after all. The image should be interesting but functional. Take photos that capture the product from different angles, showing off its different aspects.

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For example, if you’re buying a pair of shoes, you want to see them from the side, as well as the front, don’t you? And you want to see the pattern on the front, close-up, right? Your buyers are no different.

Show each side of the product

Show each side of the product

11. Support your products

If you’re selling items that won’t stand up on their own, using some kind of stand or support can really improve your photos. Hang earrings on a jewellery hook or place a soft toy against a stack of children’s books or a stand that can be hidden behind it. It will look much more professional and interesting than just lying flat on a white background. Don’t forget to mention that some items are not included.

The gray stone helps the product to stand out

The gray stone helps the product to stand out

The pool and wooden floor have a nice feel around the sofa.

The pool and wooden floor have a nice feel around the sofa.

12. Show all varieties available

If your product is available in different colours or variations, take photographs of all of them. Customers like to see exactly what they’re getting, so show them.

Show all variations of the products

Show all variations of the products

13. Keep things in perspective

If you sell items in bundles, and are combining two or more images of individual items to form one photograph, make sure they’re all in proportion with each other. Getting this wrong can look silly at best, and at worst, be totally misleading.

If any of your products is of an unexpected size, use a ruler or a dollar bill in the picture to give the customer an idea of the size.

Make sure all items are in perspective and of expected size

Make sure all items are in perspective and of expected size

14. Be accurate with what you show

Whether accidental or deliberate, misleading photographs can be a big mistake. Making an item seem bigger or in better condition than it actually is can often lead to customer complaints. So while you want to put your product’s best foot forward, it’s important to ensure that the image you choose is really representative of its subject.

When the package contains several items, show what is included in one image. This way the customer gets the full value in one glance.

Show everything that's included

Show everything that’s included

For example, if you sell a knive set, let the customer know when the storage block is included or not. You can put the included items in the image too.

What is being sold here?

What is being sold here?


15. Use more than one image

If your online shop allows it, offer your customers more than one viewpoint of your products. Use the most striking image, which shows the product as a whole, as the main image. Then add one or more additional images, perhaps with a more natural background or a detailed close-up. For example show how the product is used. After all, the aim is to give your customers as much information as possible.

Show different images of the product

Show different images of the product

16. Show the details

Add an interactive feel to your photos by using a zoom function. Customers can use this to get to know the product better by examining its material as well as smaller elements, such as logos and zips. If that’s just not possible, you can at least add a close-up image of key features to the original image.

Detailed view of the wheels

Detailed view of the wheels

17. Choose your models carefully

If you decide to use a model to display your product, whether it’s clothing or not, make sure you choose wisely. Your model needs to suit your brand and your product – he or she needs to ‘look right’ using it, and reflect the image you want your business to portray.

An example might be a fashion clothing company aimed at men and boys between the ages of 16 and 25. The company’s models should look between 16 and 25 years old. A 45 year old model would be inappropriate for the brand and would cause some serious confusion as regards to the target market, inevitably leading to loss of sales.

AdonisClothing tested picture with male models with different levels of facial hair and found that bearded man sell close to 50% better.

Bearded models tend to sell up to 50% better

Bearded models tend to sell up to 50% better

18. Be a people person

People respond to people. So use people in your product shots. Whether the person is using the product or is in the background, their very presence can increase click rates and conversion rates. And in some cases it shows how the product is used.

Show how your product can be used by a person

Show how your product can be used by a person

If you sell a watering can, you can show how someone using it

If you sell a watering can, you can show how someone using it


19. Get emotional

As humans, we’re governed by our emotions. The decisions we make are guided by how we feel at the time. If you can use photography to evoke certain feelings in your customers, you might just get a sale.

You can use colour, environment, and people to do this. For instance, if your product is a foot spa, you might want to use calming colours in your photography, perhaps a spa-like environment, and a very relaxed looking person.

Combining the end result with the product might be attractive too. Ketchup looks more tasty with the burger near it.

Don’t you need the ketchup now when you see the burger-

Don’t you need the ketchup now when you see the burger

20. Show the physical product

Most products are 3D, touchable, usable items. So prove it! Link to videos of the product in use, or make your own and put it on YouTube. Short of holding an item yourself, nothing gives a better idea of look and feel than a demonstration.

Remember the Home Shopping Network? A short two to five minute video showing the product highlights or how the product is used in a real-life scenario could persuade your customer to convert.

Good old shopping network videos, explain the product

Good old shopping network videos, explain the product

Another option is to make 360 degree images of your products. A turntable is available on Amazon for under $50 and will give a great view of the products. And with the right software, like Shutter Stream, will be a great help to stitch all the images to a movie.

Turntable which allows you to take 360 degree images

Turntable which allows you to take 360 degree images

Software which automates 360 degree image taking

Software which automates 360 degree image taking

21. Be consistent with all images

When you provide more than one image per product, it’s really important to make sure that they’re properly aligned with each other. One or more image standing out as too high or too low not only looks messy and unprofessional, but also detracts from the product itself.

pink-dress

Editing

22. Colour it pretty

Black and white images can be beautiful and artistic, and they certainly have their place. But that place is rarely in product photography. For a start, a black and white image is unlikely to stand out on a page. And even if it does, at least enough for someone to click on it, it won’t show off the product in all its glory and detail as well as a colour shot. Keep your black and white snaps for your family snaps, and take your product images in colour.

In any case, colour correction is a great way to improve the attractiveness of an image. GreyScaleGorilla has a nice tutorial on colour correction in Photoshop. Most photo apps on the phone have a colour correction option too.

Colors makes fruit look more fresh

Colors makes fruit look more fresh

 

Without color correction, white might not look white

Without color correction, white might not look white

23. Don’t crop the product

Unless you’re taking a focussed close-up, show the whole product in your image. Cutting off small parts of the product will usually look like an accident, which doesn’t make for a very professional image.

Either deliberately photograph a particular part of an item (e.g. a logo, an engraving or an embellishment) close-up or photograph the whole thing. Missing part of the necklace just makes the product not complete. The best option is to include several photos of the product, including close-ups and the whole.

Show the whole product when possible and add more picture to accentuate certain parts

Show the whole product when possible and add more picture to accentuate certain parts

Happy Shooting!

Well, it’s time for you to start taking your product photography seriously. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but better product photos can actually increase your conversion rates!

Use the tips in this post along with our Ultimate Guide to DIY Product Photography to create engaging photos that lead to more sales.