As I’ve continue to grow my shop, one of the things I knew explore and get better at was taking doing my own product photography. The first few years I relied heavily on stock photos and mockups for my prints but that’s not really cutting anymore.
One, my photos looks all the same as every other shop since everyone is using styled stock photos and I’ve realized that I want my branding to be reflect on my photos – and styled stock just doesn’t measure up. Additionally, I’m working on growing my Instagram for my shop and for that I need lots and lots of products, something I just can’t accomplish using stock photos.
As I’ve ventured into this product photography territory a little more, I’ve learned a few things and I thought I’d share them with you today!
Envision Ahead of Time
A key step in doing your own product photography will be to storm ahead of time what you want them to look like – from styling, props, to even the orientation in which orientation your final photos will need to be.
First of all you don’t want to waste a bunch of time tinkering around with props or even trying to find props – this is something you want to take care of before hand.
Additionally, know before hand how you’ll be using your images – this will determine the orientation / crop you’ll need to take your photos on. Using them for Instagram? Square is best – so try to capture the best shot towards the middle of your view finder (or if you’re using your phone, actually take the image already in a square crop). Thinking of using some of these photos for Pinterest? Think vertically. I always try to capture each set up at least once in horizontal and vertical orientations, and once in such a way that I can crop it square, and it’ll look good.
Curate A Prop Box
Product Photography Rookie Mistake – saying “oh hey! I’ll take some photos!” only to realize you don’t have any props to use for styling. Yikes. Have been there, more times than I’d like to admit. What would usually happen is that I’d run around my office and find random crap that could pass as props.
I now have a plastic tote half full of props, which is only getting fuller as time goes by. I have everything from fake succulents, vintage stamps, shredded paper, to pretty pencils and paper clips. Having this prop box means that I can decide any day will be photo day and I know I’ll have props to style my photos that match my branding and I won’t be wasting time grabbing random stuff from around the house.
Invest in Backgrounds / Backdrops
Whether your photos will be going on social media, Etsy, or your own shop, you will want some consistency on your backgrounds. The good news is that no, you don’t have to invest in a white marble countertop for your kitchen, a weathered wood table, or even a white desk in order to achieve the look.
I use foam boards for all of my backgrounds. Yup. 69 cents foam boards from The Dollar Tree – so not even joking right now.
I have a total of 4 boards. One white for the classic white background or to use as a light reflector when needed. One that has been covered in a fabric to match my branding. A third one has been covered with two different contact papers for fake wood backgrounds. And one last black board in case I ever need a neutral black background. I also have a cut of purple fabric I can always use and a stack of purple construction paper.
What I love about these solutions is that not only are they inexpensive but they’re easy to store and set up. I can literally just throw one of the boards on the floor in front of a window or on our dinning room table and shoot away.
Natural Light is Your BFF
I know this has been said a thousand times but there’s good reason for that and it bears repeating. Natural light is your best friend when taking pictures! Most lighting in homes will give you that icky yellow tint on your photos whereas natural light won’t. It might take some testing before you find the best light but here are some tips
- The obvious thing is to find your windows. Which room has the most windows? Bonus points for windows in multiple walls.
- Pay attention to the light / time of day. I know that in the house we currently live in, afternoon light is way better than morning light. This was NOT true in our last house were 10am was prime light time. Sometimes it can be as easy as looking around at different times of days, other times you might need to take a couple of pictures throughout the day and then compare.
The point here is, the less editing you have to do, the better. Trust me, there’s only so much Photoshop can do for crappy for lighting situations – get the beautiful light naturally.
Take A Lot of Photos
As good as you might be with your DSLR or phone, truth is you won’t know how good / bad the final product is until you look at your photos on your computer. For that reason, I always take lots and lots of photos.
A lot of times I don’t end up using a good 50% of the photos I take since a lot are repeats. However, it never fails that I’m grateful for repeats after the first one or two I thought I nailed, end up being blurry or have some other imperfection.
Another option is to shoot tethered. This means shooting while your camera is connected to your computer so you can see your photos immediately on your computer, therefore knowing immediately how good (or bad!) your photos are coming out 100%. This does take extra time to set up, however it will cut on the amount amount of pictures you have to take – therefore cutting down on the overall time a photoshoot takes.
Phew. That was a lot. Hopefully you find these product photography tips useful!