You have a great product, an online store, and are a natural salesperson, but can't seem to move your inventory. What secret ingredient are you missing?
We hate to be the ones to break it to you, but the answer is probably that your photos suck. People don't buy items in dented packages, eat food that looks shady, or order online products with bad photos.
Your photos could be the reason your products just aren't selling. But don't worry - taking good product photos doesn’t have to be expensive or time- consuming. Once you know how to take great photos, you can apply those skills immediately.
It's easy to doubt if your product photos are worth putting your efforts into. You already have a great product, won't any picture of it also be great?
Pictures of your product are there for two reasons: to let your customers know what they're buying, and to let your customers know the quality of the product they are buying. A single, poorly lit photo won't accomplish either of these goals. If your product pictures don't look good, what does that say about your product?
On the internet, your product photos are your first impression with customers. When they search for your items on Amazon, that thumbnail of your product and the pictures they see after clicking on it are what's going to either win them over or encourage them to keep scrolling. Don't let your products be scrollable.
22% of products are returned because they don't look like their photos
Products backed by photos are 40% more likely to be shared on social media
Over 75% of online shoppers say product photos are a deciding factor for them
So obviously it's important to have great photos. If you want great product photography services, we recommend POW Product Photography. They specialize in ecommerce photography and do a fantastic job with professional looking photos (disclaimer: we receive a small commission for referring them, but this doesn't affect your price).
Luckily, if you don't want to pay for photography services, you can actually do it yourself fairly easily – even with your phone!
Any amateur photographer will tell you that lighting is one of the most important aspects of photography. It's also one of the most common things that people get wrong when they don't know what they're doing, creating a disastrous combination.
Lighting is important for two key reasons: sharpness and temperature. First, sharpness. Have you ever taken a dark photo and tried to turn up the brightness afterward? Almost immediately, the shot starts to fill up with noise and fuzziness. Bright lighting creates sharp lines, better depth of field, and an easier editing process; like over-salted food, poor lighting can't be fixed after a picture is taken.
Second, temperature. Most indoor lighting is either too warm (yellow) or too cold (fluorescent), which can leave your product feeling mushy or harsh. Natural lighting is always best (stage your product near a window), and professional lighting is second best. If your camera phone supports it, make sure you adjust the white balance settings to the type of lighting present when you take your photos. For instance, “cloudy”, “fluorescent”, and “sunny” settings on your camera app can help automatically adjust the temperature of the photo based on the type of lighting present in the shot.
A simple feature that every smartphone camera has built-in is a grid. It's one of the easiest ways to take your photography to the next level, yet very few people use this feature. If you don't have the grid enabled on your phone, dig around in your settings and turn it on.
The grid is those four lines you see when looking through the camera app (two horizontal and two vertical, making a tic-tac-toe grid). These lines are to help you apply the rule of thirds to your photography, which is why they break your camera up into three vertical and horizontal segments.
Without going too deep into the rule of thirds, the basic principle is to align your subject matter with these lines and their intersecting points. Rather than just positioning your product in the middle of the photo, line it up using the grid. Do the same with the backdrop and any straight lines present in the photo (like a table or horizon). This is an easy way to make your photos look more professional and visually interesting.
It seems so obvious once you hear it, but it's probably the most overlooked aspect of smartphone photography. Anyone who's ever owned a traditional DSLR camera knows that they come with a lens cap. Even the most basic digital cameras have that blinking mechanism over the lens that closes when you turn it off.
Your smartphone lens isn't going to be as susceptible to scratches as traditional lenses, so it doesn't need a cover for the lens. However, that doesn't mean that your camera lens is ready to go as soon as you pull it out of your pocket. To get clean, sharp shots every time, wipe your camera lens off before you start taking pictures.
This is a great rule for all photography, but it's especially important in product photography. Negative space is the space in a photo that doesn't have anything going on.
For example, if you take a picture of an apple with a solid white background, everything that isn't the apple is negative space. This draws all of the attention to your subject (which is exactly what you want in product photography) and creates a focused, professional image.
Now, let's take that same apple and place it beside a tree, with a family standing around it and a car parked in the background. Suddenly, it's not so obvious what it is you're trying to sell, and next thing you know, customers are scrolling right by your product.
Now that we're starting to lay out the foundations of photography, it's time to look at angles. We know we want a well-lit photo of an apple, against an understated background, with the apple set in the lowest third of the frame.
It looks good, but it also looks like any other apple on the market. How do we stand apart without ruining the photo?
By choosing a creative angle! How close or far away you are from your product will change the way it looks, how low or high the camera is will show off the apple's shape differently, and an overhead shot will completely change your photo's tone.
Now, when trying to decide which angle to take a photo from...
That's right! Your product exists in the third dimension, which means it's full to the brim with polygons, curves, and straight lines. If you're just taking pictures of your product from one angle, you're not doing it justice.
Angles are especially important for products that have a more complex shape than an apple— which is just about all of them. Your customers want to know what more than just the side of a chair looks like, or the front of a blender. They want to read its dials, see how many I/O ports it has, see what it looks like in the kitchen, etc.
Setting up multiple shots may take a little longer, but it'll help your customers get to know your product before buying it.
The backdrop of your photo is what's going to frame your product, not just in a photography sense, but also in a contextual sense. There are a few different ways to go about creating the backdrop for your product, although two in particular stand out.
First is the clean and direct look. This involves creating a straightforward background that is a single color or pattern. Most often, this is a cloth draped behind your product. Simple backgrounds are ideal for products where you want to focus on the design of the product, not necessarily what it does.
The second method focuses on context. This is helpful for products where you want to convey how and why someone might want your product. For example, if you're selling a pour-over glass coffeemaker, taking pictures of it near coffee beans, being used to make coffee, and in the kitchen will reinforce its purpose.
This one shouldn't be a problem for most people, since there are very few smartphones being made these days without excellent cameras. This is especially true if you own one of the big three (an iPhone, Google Pixel, or Samsung Galaxy).
However, if your phone is more than two years old, the camera is more than likely out of date. Now, a three-year-old phone doesn't have a terrible camera by any means, but it could still use replacing if you're going to be taking product photos regularly. At a minimum, your phone should have a 12-megapixel camera.
Point number nine is directed at the last nine people still using their smartphone's flash for anything other than a flashlight. A common misunderstanding is that your phone's flash can substitute lighting, but this couldn't be more wrong.
The flash should only be used in situations where you're shooting in the dark (which we aren’t doing, because lighting is key) or going for a specific style (which we aren't doing, because this is product photography, not an art project).
Your camera's flash is the fastest way to wash out your photos, make them impossible to edit, and give your product a dated look. If your flash is set to Auto or On, please turn it off before reading any further.
Honestly, unless you're taking a fun selfie with Snapchat's latest gimmick, filters are one of the worst things you can do to your photos, especially product photos. Anyone can quickly spot a filter these days, and it immediately makes it look like you didn't put the effort into properly editing your photos.
The best way to think of a filter is as a gimmick. In the right context (see Snapchat) they can be a lot of fun and add a personal touch to your photo. Outside of that context, though, they cheapen your otherwise great photo.
If you're using filters because you're afraid of or inexperienced with editing your photos, take some time to learn the basics. You'll have better control over your photos and instantly know how to make them look better. Don't be afraid to let your photos speak for themselves!
The first step in taking your photo is the preparation. This is the place to start implementing all of the tips we just discussed: clean off your lens, turn off flash, and start setting up your product.
How you set your product up is critical. Ideally, your shot is set up so nicely that all you have to do afterward is take the picture. Make sure your lighting is perfect, whether it's artificial or natural. Set up a backdrop (a bedsheet is often all you need) or choose the setting for your product.
If you're not sure how to stage your photo or if you only have one chance to take it (e.g., you're renting a studio) try sketching your photo. This way, you'll have a reference for what you want to recreate rather than just a general idea in your head. Plus, it'll make it easier to tell if your idea is going to look good in application.
Once your product is staged and you are starting to realize your vision for the photo, it's time to take the picture. You can take as many photos as you like, and you should certainly take a few for each shot setup. This will help give you options during the editing process.
As far as taking the picture goes, there are just a few things to keep in mind. First, use your camera's focus. On most phones, you can choose where you want your camera to focus by tapping on the screen. In our case, that's almost always going to be your product.
Next, make sure the camera is steady. If you have a tripod or something you can prop the camera up against, use it. Otherwise, just try to hold your hands as steady as possible, and take deep breaths. Last, try to avoid zooming in as much as possible; instead, walk closer to your target for a sharper image.
Now that you have your product photos ready (hopefully from multiple angles), it's time to edit them! Editing should be the least stressful part since you can undo changes and experiment to your heart's content.
You can edit the photo in your phone's native photo app, on a third-party editing app on your phone (Snapseed is great), or move the files to your computer for a more professional editing experience (such as Photoshop).
Remember during editing that you want a clean, clear picture of your product. Fancy lens flares, dramatic filters, or black and white color adjustments aren't necessary. We also recommended that you use non-destructive edits. This means that anything you change with your photo can be undone. To stay on the safe side, go ahead and create a duplicate of all of your photos before you start editing.
To quickly recap everything we covered:
Though it may seem like a lot to take in, all of these tips and techniques are things you can start incorporating into your product photography right away. And once you do, it'll become second nature. You'll get more customers and fewer returns, and isn't that all we really want?