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How to Shoot Product Photography

Learning how to take professional-looking product photos is a key element for your online store’s success. Customers are more likely to be drawn to appealing images that accurately represent the products in your online store. If you want to boost sales, you’ve got to take quality product photos. 

In this article, we’ll walk you through our top product photography tips for beginners, including how to choose the right product photography equipment, how to shoot, and how to edit product photos. 

Deciding on your photography equipment

In order to get started with product photography basics, stock up on the equipment needed to take quality product shots. This includes: a camera, lighting, a backdrop, and a tripod. 

Camera and remote control

Investing in a DSLR camera is not a prerequisite to shooting product photography that sells. Since most major smartphones have high-quality built-in camera technology, your smartphone is the only camera you need when you’re starting out. Our product photography tips will help you learn and improve your skills regardless of which type of camera you’re using.

Whichever type of camera or smartphone you choose, it’s best practice to connect a bluetooth remote control to it. Using a remote to take product photos makes a difference. Even the lightest tap on your camera or phone could throw off the framing you’ve set up, so using a remote to shoot eliminates any risk of shaking the camera. 

Lighting

All high-quality product photography has one thing in common: good lighting. It doesn’t matter how nice your camera is — if your product is not properly lit, no amount of post-production editing can help save the photo. 

Natural light is a free and common light source for product photography. If you want to keep your equipment simple as you’re starting out, natural lighting could be the route for you. 

If you choose to use artificial light (also known as studio lighting), the simplest lighting tools to work with as a beginner are light sources referred to as continuous lighting. Essentially, these are lights that remain on throughout the photoshoot, as opposed to lighting such as speedlights, which offer brighter but brief flashes of light and are more complicated to learn how to use effectively. Continuous lighting options include LED lights with dimming mechanisms or incandescent tungsten bulbs. They work best for product shoots of stationary objects. 

Continuous light sources produce even lighting wherever they’re directed and can be manipulated with light modifiers such as photography umbrellas or reflectors. Modifiers like reflectors help to control how light sources soften, bounce, or spill into the scene in different ways, and are important equipment whether you choose to use natural lighting or studio lighting.

When you look through your camera or phone at what you’re about to shoot, what you see is what you’ll get with continuous lighting. That way, you can make adjustments more easily before even taking the photo. 

Backdrop

A plain white backdrop is the simplest place to start for a beginner learning how to take product photos. However, if your products are predominantly lighter shades that might not stand out well with a white backdrop, choose a more high-contrast backdrop. Whichever color you choose, backdrops vary in price, size, and quality. One of the key features to prioritize is a backdrop that won’t crease easily, since it should be a smooth, non-distracting base for your featured products. An ironed, white sheet is a great option. 

Tripod

There are tons of affordable options for tripods that can hold your smartphone or camera at adjustable heights. Tripods are an important part of your setup because they reduce blur by holding your camera steady. They’re also typically equipped with a built-in bubble level, which takes the guesswork out of eyeballing how evenly you’ve leveled your shot. 

Setting up your photoshoot

Once you’ve gathered the right equipment, it’s time to set up your home studio. This could mean clearing out any area in your home that can accommodate your equipment or, if budget allows, renting out a space somewhere else. As you’re deciding on the space, consider the size of your products, how you plan to light and style them, and the space required for your equipment.

Set up your backdrop

Drape your backdrop in such a way that it sweeps uninterrupted from the vertical plane (wall, back of chair, or free-standing backdrop holder) to the horizontal plane (floor, tabletop, seat of chair). This setup makes it easier to control light and shadow on uninterrupted surfaces, which will lead to a better product shot. 

Once your backdrop is in place, set up your tripod, camera, and one of your products. Frame the product and make sure your camera on the tripod is on a level plane before moving on to the lighting arrangement. 

Set up your lighting

If you follow only one product photography tip today, it’s this: Properly light your products. Quality lighting is the best way to make your products appear as accurately and attractively as possible. Poor lighting could stand in the way of catching the attention of a new lead or making your first sale. There are two different types of lighting to use for your product photography: studio lighting or natural lighting. 

Studio lighting

If your products are typically used indoors or have fine details, setting up studio lighting could be right for you. It’s important to consider the quantity of lights and their distance and angles in relation to the product. 

Set up at least three continuous lights from different angles to properly illuminate your product:

  • One light pointed directly at the product from one side of the camera.

  • A second light set up on the opposite side of the camera, aimed as a fill light for the whole product and backdrop setup.

  • And a third light angled from behind or above the product.

From there, experiment with your umbrellas or reflectors to manipulate the light and shadow to do what you want. The combined lighting effect should highlight the product and its features, while clearly defining it from the backdrop. 

Natural lighting

If your products are apparel or shots that include people, natural lighting could be a better option for you. A naturally lit photoshoot is also a good option if you’ll be photographing in a small space with low ceilings. (Small environments can make studio lighting trickier to control.)

Instead of setting up multiple artificial lights in your studio, set up your backdrop, tripod, and camera beside a window that gets bright but indirect light. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times of day to take product photos in natural light. However, if your only option is to shoot by a window with direct sunlight, you can hang thin white sheets from the window to diffuse that light so it isn’t as harsh. Just like with studio lighting, use light modifiers like reflectors to bounce and increase the natural light where needed to fill shadows and best represent your product. 

Whichever lighting option you choose, keep in mind: Your best resources as a beginner are a lot of trial and error with your product photography set up. 

How to shoot product photography

Your approach to product photos depends on the types of products you sell and the overall aesthetic of your brand. Here are a few styling and composition tips that will help you shoot product photography regardless of your business’s specifics. 

Styling your product photography

Contextualizing your product with props is a useful product photography technique. For example, if you’re selling food, style the shot with relevant table settings or the ingredients used to create that food. For a handmade ceramic mug, photograph it in someone’s hands to help see proportions, or on a coaster beside props that create a still life scene of a living room, bedroom, or office. Placing your products within the context they’ll be used helps your audience visualize how they’d fit into their own lives.

For inspiration on how to style or light your products, it’s helpful to research the product pages and social media feeds of other brands you admire, especially brands in your industry. 

Best practices for product photo composition 

When you’re finally ready to snap some product photos, make sure you’re up to speed on some product photography basics about composition and types of photos to take. 

Rule of thirds composition 

The most widely recognized photography technique, the rule of thirds is something you should keep in mind every time you shoot product photography. First, visualize your photographs as a grid with nine equally sized segments. (Your camera likely even has a setting for this so you don’t have to use your imagination.) The focal point of your photograph should not be the center of that grid, but instead be located along one of the axis points on the grid, where people’s eyes naturally fall. That axis point is where your product should be set up. 

Product variant photos

Never take only one photo. Shoot product photography from several different angles. During the editing process, having several photos of the same product to choose from will help you select the best fit for each platform where you’ll share them. Photos from different angles will also help you give a full view of the product to your audience. For example, if you sell shoes, take photos from each side of the shoe, as well as close-up shots of any unique detailing on the shoe. 

If you sell multiple variations of the same product, also make sure to take photos of each style or color. For example, if you sell t-shirts that share the same style but feature different patterns, style and shoot each one of those patterns. You could style them each under the theme of each pattern, or create consistency with the exact same styling and angles for each version. 

How to edit product photos

Ideally, you’ll shoot product photography that’s close to polished based on the quality of your lighting and product photography techniques. But typically you’ll need to also learn how to edit product photos to retouch things like color saturation. There are plenty of free tutorials online to help you learn how to edit product photos in popular photo editing software. 

In addition to editing the images, you’ll also need to update the file types and sizes. Make sure that your file types, sizes, and photo dimensions align with whichever marketplace or website where you’re going to showcase your products. Also consider the specifications for the product photography you’ll upload to your website template and on social media. (Sometimes you might need multiple versions of the same photo for each of the places it’ll show up.) 

Where to upload your product photos

Once you’ve shot and edited your product photos, and written your product descriptions, you’re set to launch your inventory online. With the Squarespace Commerce app, you can upload photos directly from your phone to your online store. Remember to optimize the images in your online store by including alt text for the product photos and using strategic keywords in the photo file names. 

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