Taking photos of products is something you have to master if you want to increase your sales, and profit, of products you sell online, and I have witnessed this first hand. Whilst I don’t sell physical products online (although I do have several print on demand stores where I do have things for sale) my wife does. My wife is, what I would describe a “crafty” individual who makes a variety of different things and tries to earn a bit of pin money selling them on.
When my wife first started her online shop she was adamant the products would sell themselves and that the quality of the photos wouldn’t matter. Taking photos of products in the store was not high up on her agenda and she took (amateur) snaps of each item with her mobile phone and used these to advertise her store. Okay, the cameras on modern day mobile phones are good, but they are still can’t come close to a standalone camera. It wasn’t until I started taking photos of products for her that she realized how important a decent photo was to get sales. This was proof that taking photos of products for sale is something everyone selling stuff online needs to look in to.
You can pay someone to take the photos of your products for you, and whilst this will increase your sales (providing they are decent of course) you will not make as much money as you do taking photos of products yourself, and whilst product photography may seem daunting it really isn’t as bad as it first seems.
When taking photos of products you need zoom in nice and tight and make sure the product fills the entire frame. Potential buyers need to see what they are going to buy in all its glory, and making it as big and clear as possible will do this. There should be no reason for any potential customers to have to enlarge the photo of the product on their screen so the product has to be as big and clear as possible. You don’t necessarily need an interchangeable camera for product photography (although I would always use, and recommend one) as some point and shoot cameras can zoom in real close. In order to get the product as large as possible in the frame I use the camera in live view mode as opposed to relying on the camera’s viewfinder (which doesn’t give 100% coverage).
When taking photos of products you want the product to be as sharp, i.e. in focus as possible. Potential customers aren’t bothered about creative shots and depth of field, in fact potential customers want the entire frame to be in sharp focus, so use a narrow aperture. Most lenses are at their sharpest at f8 – f11 (although there are exceptions of course) so I always stay within this aperture range. There are no reasons why potential buyers should squint at their computer monitors to get a “sharper” view of the product so make sure you use an aperture that gets everything as sharp as possible in the first instance.
Using apertures of f8 – f11 indoors generally means slower shutter speeds so camera shake may rear its ugly head. To eliminate camera shake and make sure my product photos are as sharp as possible I always use a tripod. Even if the shutter speeds are fast enough to capture sharp hand held shots I still use a tripod because I use the live view to manually focus on the product and ensure that the image is going to be the sharpest I can make it. To make sure all the photos are sharp I use my macro lens, which is the sharpest lens I own.
When taking photos of products I always use plain backgrounds. Even though the idea is to get the product for sale as big as possible in the frame there will inevitably be some background in the photo. The focus should be on the product so it is vital to ensure the background is not distracting, and the easiest way to achieve this is to use a plain background. Specific photography backgrounds are obviously the best choice however you can get away with plain material (a sheet or something – make sure you iron it first), some plain paper or a plain bit of wood etc. The plainer the background the better, especially using f8 – f11 apertures since parts of the background in the photo will also be in focus and you won’t be able to blur them out.
When taking photos of products you need to make sure they are lit properly. Ambient light indoors is insufficient and placing the products near a window for “natural” light is a waste of time because it creates high contrast, and whilst it is possible to deal with this there really is no point in adding unnecessary complications. When taking photos of products you need to use artificial light, and it doesn’t matter what artificial light. The important thing to remember is that when using artificial lights it is crucial you don’t mix light sources otherwise you will get some terrible colour casts that you can’t get rid of (even using photo editing software). By this I mean don’t use light from a tungsten bulb and a fluorescent tube at the same time, or don’t use a daylight balanced light and a standard room light at the same time etc. Use just tungsten lights or just daylight balanced lights or just fluorescent lights and you’ll be fine. Just remember to set the correct white balance on your camera for the type of light you are using.
When taking photos of products I use flat and even lighting to ensure the entire product is nicely lit. Creative lighting (i.e. lighting part of the product leaving some of it in shadow or even total darkness) may look good but it doesn’t allow the potential buyer to see what they are going to get. Potential buyers don’t care about creative lighting techniques and all they want to see is the entire product fully lit.
Whilst I don’t use creative lighting techniques when taking photos of products I do try and make them a little more interesting by taking the photos from different angles. Rather than setting up the tripod with the camera at the same height as the product and pointing at it face on, I vary the position and will shoot from below (pointing the camera upwards) or shoot from above (pointing the camera downwards). Shooting from different angles and positions adds a bit of interest (and makes the photo stand out) but still allows potential buyers to see exactly what they are getting without spending too much time looking at their computer screen.
Taking photos of products, and good ones at that, isn’t difficult you just need to get in the right mind set and focus on sharpness, lighting and the background. As long as the product fills the entire frame (or as much of it as possible), is evenly lit and is sharp you should be fine and once you’ve nailed it you will see your sales increase.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.
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