A beginner's guide to product photography

Here you are with a great product to sell, but how do you convince potential customers to purchase it? Product photography literally puts your products in the best possible light so the images can be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • Showcasing the product: Web, social, eCommerce
  • Promoting your product: Ads, press, wholesaler presentations, lookbooks
  • Indicating what’s inside: Packaging, labels

While you could hire a professional to shoot your product, sometimes the cost, or even the sheer number of products, means it’s just not an option. The good news is, you don’t need the latest camera or gadgets to create a professional-looking photoshoot, nor do you need to spend a lot of money.

Customers simply want proof that your product is of desired quality and value. In the article below, we’ll cover everything you need to know about product photography, and how to shoot your own product.

Table of contents: A beginners guide to product photography

What you need for product photography

Here are the five key things you need before you begin your product photography shoot.

  1. Space 

Image by Jesse Orrico via Unsplash

Your designated space might be a room or even just a table, but it should be free from interruptions. That includes things like kids, housemates, pets, or elements like a breeze that may interfere with your setup. If using the space as a backdrop for your products, try to avoid inconsistencies in images, such as varying lighting throughout the day that will change the position of shadows in your shots.

TIP: Any small imperfections will be magnified, so choose a clean wall or surface to set up.

  1. Camera 

Image by Eniko Kis vis Unsplash

If you have a professional camera, great. But you’d be surprised how much you can shoot on a smartphone, and that goes for both still photography and video. As long as it’s a recent model with autofocus and a high number of megapixels (8+), it should be enough to deliver high-quality images that will capture beautiful detail.

  1. Tripod 
Image by Sander Dalhuisen

Hand-held cameras run the risk of blurred shots, so it’s best to use a tripod, and they don’t need to cost an arm and a leg. On the topic of legs, a tripod is an adjustable three-legged stand that allows you to attach your phone or camera. When purchasing, consider the size and height so that it’s right for your product and intended shooting space. And if you’re using a smartphone, ensure the ‘head’ has a mobile grip. For small products, consider a pocket tripod so you can get in really close.

  1. Background 

Image by Hannah Busing via Unsplash

Think about what background your product would be best against a plain. Take a look at the following options: 

  • Seamless background 

Image by Alexander Rotker via Unsplash

Whether white, a brand color or palette, a seamless background is achieved using a ‘sweep’. This is a curved screen or cardboard behind the product that removes distractions and makes the product appear to be floating. A seamless background has the added benefit of making it easy to remove the product from the background using Photoshop or other editing software.

  • Horizon line background

Image by Jess Harper via Unsplash

This is a line that runs through the background, usually where the wall and the surface connect. Horizon lines create depth but are tricky when shooting multiple photos as the line should match across all images.

  • Lifestyle background

Image by The Honest Company via Unsplash

Products appear in a relevant situation to give it context, such as homewares in a beautiful house or camping equipment shot outside. Including a person in the shot is great for indicating size or giving context on how to use the product but be aware, adding variables, such as people or natural light, can be a lot more work.

TIP: Use simple props that don’t take the spotlight away from your product.

  1. Bounce board 

Image by Dose Media via Unsplash

Bouncing light is when you redirect or diffuse the harshness of a flash to create soft lighting on your product. It may sound complicated but all you need is a white or reflective surface, such as cardboard, positioned to capture the flashlight and redirect onto your product. You can experiment with test shots, moving the board around to get the best light.

Building your product photo portfolio

Image by Lena Kudryavtseva via Unsplash

You may only have one product… for now but if all goes well, it’s good to think of the bigger picture. And this is especially true when shooting multiple products. You want your photos to have a consistent look, achieved through your color palette, saturation or filters, composition, location, and what context or situation you place your product in. As you get underway, take note of the photos that are working best; replication is a great way to establish your photography style.

Setting up: Image size

Image by Daniel Romero via Unsplash

In this context, we’re referring to both the shape of your photo as well as the file size. You can set most cameras to shoot in portrait, landscape, or even square (great for Instagram), useful if you know where the images will appear. For products, it’s always best to shoot at the highest file size possible as you can always reduce it later. Where possible, opt for a RAW file rather than a compressed Jpeg.

Setting up: Lighting

Image by Reinaldo Kevin via Unsplash

There are two main choices: natural light and artificial. If you’re photographing people or your product is intended for outdoor use, natural light makes sense. Although it does have some challenges so we recommend reading this guide to natural light before you begin.

On the other hand, artificial light works well for beginners as it gives you far more control. Continuous light–like a powerful lamp you might have at home—makes it easy to adjust the light to your ideal conditions, rather than relying on the flash. A predetermined lighting condition creates consistency from shot to shot, adjusting for dramatic shadows, defining shapes, or product detail.

TIP: Whichever lighting you choose, spend some time configuring your set up and taking test shots, to make your products look their best.

 

Setting up: Compositions

Arranging your product doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some of our favorite compositions.

  • Front and cropped

This the classic full product shot. You can use an interesting crop to hone in on details.

Image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash

  • Dynamic diagonals

Use angled lines to draw the in eye, breathing life into any static composition.

Image by Hubble via Unsplash

  • Rules of thirds

Divide the frame into three columns or rows with your product placed in just one.

Image by Vincent Branciforti via Unsplash

  • Odd groupings

Odd numbers create tension with three being a winning combination.

Image by Hue12 Photography via Unsplash

  • Flat Lay

Taken from above with the product laid flat, often alongside other products to tell a story.

Image by Malvestida Magazine via Unsplash

Shooting product: Camera Viewpoints

We all have a point of view, in this case, there are three.

  1. Eye-level shot, at the same level as the product
  2. High shot, taken from slightly above  the product, looking down
  3. Low shot, taken from slightly below the product looking up.

Shooting product: Camera Angles

There are endless ways to shoot products, but here are the most common.

  • Front angle 

Think of this as shooting front on, from eye-level.  You’ll see this on eCommerce sites as it’s a neat and organized way to capture products, making them easy to identify.

Image by The Tonik via Unsplash

  • Profile angle

This photo is taken from the side, usually at eye-level. This angle often appears on sneaker sites so the logo is visible.

Image by Alexander Rotker via Unsplash copy

  • Three-quarter angle

This image is taken about 45 degrees either side of the product, usually from a high-level angle. It’s great for showing multiple products, like a range or the contents of a kit.

Image by Toa Heftiba via Unsplash

  • Back angle

This is a supporting shot, usually taken at eye-level. Its goal is purely to provide additional context, whether to show detail on clothing or a list of product ingredients.

Image by Victor Hernandez via Unsplash

  • High angle 

Think of this as a birds-eye view, taken from directly above. Whether it’s necessary is determined by the product.

Image by Aaina Sharma via Unsplash

  • Low angle

This is the worm’s eye view, using a low-shot angle. Shooting upwards can help make products look heroic or impressive in size.

Image by Tamara Bellisvia via Unsplash

TIP: Provide customers with multiple angles so they can get a good idea of the product.

Shooting product: Framing

For beginners, we recommend shooting landscape as this is an easy format to crop into, flexible enough for house multiple sizes (square of portrait). Your product should always be the focus of the picture but that doesn’ t mean it needs to be in the center of the frame. Like finding your own ‘best side’, position your product in an optimal way.

Image by Icons8 Team via Unsplash

TIP: For digital photography, you can never have too many photos. Take as many snaps as you can as it’s easier to delete than set up the shot again.

Editing your photos

Once your shoot is complete, you can start to make your image selects, gravitating to the ones that work best for your product. Then the next step is editing.

Thanks to the rise of selfies, most people have a good understanding of what photo editing can do. You can resize your photos using Canva’s custom dimensions, apply filters, or make adjustments to give all your images a unified look.

Custom dimension for your photos

  1. Go to Canva
  2. Click ‘Create a design’
  3. Directly underneath, click ‘Custom dimensions’ and type in the size you need, based on pixels or traditional units of measurement

TIP: Crop out any interference in the image so the focus is solely on the product.

Apply filters to your photos

  1. Click the image you want to edit
  2. Click ‘Filter’ on the toolbar above
  3. Click on a filter to apply it to the image and adjust the intensity level to your liking

Make adjustments to your photos 

  1. Click the image you want to edit
  2. Click ‘Adjustment’ on the toolbar above the editor
  3. Play with brightness, contrast, and saturation

TIP: Apply the same adjustment across all your photos, by using the filter code at the bottom of the Adjustment page. This shortcut ensures all your photos have the same treatment.

Getting your products out there

Here’s the really fun part. With Canva, you can design your own promotions featuring your product photography. There are templates for nearly every medium so try the examples below.

Ecommerce 

Social stories 

Product labels

Product reviews 

Product brochures

 

Your secret weapon for stunning design