Using great photos of products and packaging is a brilliant way for brands to build up their identity, tell a story and reel in target audiences. But whether you’re a brand selling your wares or a dedicated fan who wants their product photography to be noticed, you don’t really need über-fancy equipment to capture the perfect shot. Brillopak‘s Claire Penny drops a few tips for product photography that’ll up the ante.
Not many might know it, but there is such a thing as product photography. Essentially, this is a branch of photography that focuses on taking photos of products and packaging. Aside from being a great hobby, it’s also an essential tool in online commerce. Taking the right pictures of a product will help a lot in selling it, and some online sellers are even willing to pay serious money to have their merchandise properly photographed.
This might surprise you, but you actually don’t need sophisticated equipment or advanced training to get this right. Here are some tips for product photography that will make you snap product shots like a pro right away.
1. Get a Nice Camera
Any serious photographer will tell you that investing in the right camera is a good idea. This is especially so if you intend to make a career out of photography (or at least if you’ll be taking a lot of product photos in the long term).
Some think that you’ll need a DSLR camera to get the best photos, but a point-and-shoot — or even a smartphone — can do the trick if you know how to maximize the use of your equipment. Ideally, the camera should have a manual mode where you can change up the settings according to conditions. Your camera should also have a high-quality sensor for better resolution.
2. Invest in a Tripod
The tripod is one of the bare essentials for great product photography. There’s no need to buy an expensive model right away, but a serviceable tripod will give you a much-needed boost almost immediately.
A tripod will ensure that your camera remains stable as you shoot your subjects, and it’s a must if you’re shooting at a slow shutter speed. When shooting at slower speeds, it’s essential to get as much light and focus on your photograph as possible, and it’s nearly impossible to capture clear shots under these conditions without the help of a tripod.
All in all, it’s an affordable (yet essential) tool for all types and levels of photographers.
3. Create a Clutter-Free Background
It’s important that you keep photos of products and packaging as clutter-free as possible. This is because any stray object can take the focus away from your product. Of course, you probably don’t want that to happen.
We highly recommend that you take photos of your product over a clean background. You should start with either a white or black background with the main idea being that the subject (your product) would be in full focus for the photo. Though you can use props as supplements, make sure that all lines lead back to the element you’re trying to highlight.
You can create your backgrounds using a poster board or a white sweep. Either option is extremely affordable.
4. Choose Your Lighting Carefully
Good product photography can be achieved with either natural or artificial lighting. Whatever your choice, an abundance of light going into the object is necessary for maximum image clarity.
Depending on where the light source is located, there will be some shadows involved. This means that there’s a bright side and the dark side. You have the choice of either eliminating the shadows or using them to your advantage.
To make the shadows a little brighter, you can use a white foam board, available at most craft and office-supply stores, to intensify light. And to make the shadows even deeper, use a black foam board instead.
5. Set up Your Camera
While going auto makes for passable results, we highly recommend that you use manual settings when shooting products. Adjust the white balance to see what setting gives you the most realistic colors on your image.
Turn off the flash, as the flash would interfere with your lighting setup and can create awkward shadows. Use the highest image-quality and size settings available on your camera for maximum detail. We recommend that you use a RAW format if it’s available. Place the ISO setting to its lowest possible value (ISO 100 should be more than good enough for great product shots).
6. Adjust the Exposure
Exposure is one of the trickiest things to master in photography. Product shots are taken from a static position, so you can actually afford to go for the lowest shutter speed possible. As mentioned earlier, the lower the shutter speed, the more light goes into the lens and the clearer the resulting images would be.
Change the f-stop to the highest value, which provides the maximum depth of field. Adjust the exposure level to suit the situation. You can use a histogram as your guide for manipulating the exposure.
7. Experiment (and Take the Photos)
Here’s where the fun starts! Ideally, the product should be placed in the middle of the frame to start off, but don’t be afraid to experiment with placement later.
Take one photo to tell whether you got the settings right. If something is a little off, you can play with your camera settings until you get everything right. It’s recommended that you take photos of the product from multiple angles, so don’t be afraid to experiment with arrangements such as flatlays, which are all the rage right now on Instagram.
Cover all the best details of the product packaging so that prospective buyers and onlookers can have a good look at the product. After your photo session, you can proceed with retouching your pictures and adding small details. You can choose to do this kind of photo editing yourself. Or if budget permits, you can commission professional help or talk to an in-house designer.
Those are just some of the most basic tips for product photography. With practice and experience, you can find out the settings, angles and other factors that create truly great pictures. If nothing else, it’s recommended that you practice shooting your products all the time. This will help you become a better product photographer and eventually display and sell your work.
Claire Penny works in the marketing team at Brillopak, a premium-quality, small-footprint robot-palletising and palletising machine manufacturer in United Kingdom. In a former life, Claire worked as a content specialist and she loves writing, reading and cooking. Wondering how to get great product and packaging photography from your customers? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for a 10-day free trial. Featured photo by @hushedvibes/Instagram.