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1. How to take good product photos: 12 best practices

How to take good product photos to drive conversions

Learning how to write product descriptions and take good product photos can be a simple but effective way to give your ecommerce store a marketing and sales boost. Quality photos make your product ads and listings more eye-catching, driving more traffic to your online store and making your products stand out. Good photos add visual appeal to your products and help customers visualize what it would be like to own them, making your sales pages more persuasive and increasing conversions. By simply learning how to take quality product photos, you can increase your sales without spending a penny more on advertising.

In this guide, we'll share 12 best practices to help you take good product photos. We'll cover professional product photography tips on everything from physically preparing your products for the camera to editing your photos for a polished look. We'll also answer some frequently asked questions about product photography.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Product photo quality is affected by how you prepare for a shoot, what you do during shooting, and how you edit photos after shooting.

  • Prepare for a shoot by cleaning your products, selecting suitable lighting, choosing appropriate backgrounds and props, and investing in the right equipment.

  • Optimize your shoot by shooting in RAW format, adjusting your settings, choosing good angles, posing scenes for context, and following consistent procedures.

  • Use photo editing software to adjust factors such as composition, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation, and vibrance.

How to take good product photos: 12 best practices

You can break the process of taking good product photos down into what you do before, during, and after a shoot. Some of the most important product photography tips are:

  1. Clean your products

  2. Set up suitable lighting

  3. Choose an appropriate background

  4. Employ props

  5. Use a high-quality camera

  6. Use a tripod

  7. Shoot in RAW format

  8. Adjust your camera settings

  9. Capture multiple angles

  10. Convey context

  11. Follow consistent procedures

  12. Use photo editing software

Here are some guidelines on how to put these principles into practice:

1. Clean your products

To put your products in their best light, clean them up before you shoot product photos. Select a sample of your product that is in good condition, or if only one sample is available, take whatever cleaning and repair steps are necessary. Look for imperfections such as dirt, dust, or fingerprints that could mar your photo. Check for discolorations, cracks, missing pieces, or other signs of damage.

Depending on the nature of your product, you may need specific types of cleaning or repair materials. For instance, plastic should be cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth to avoid scratching.

If you need to clean a variety of products, you may wish to keep a toolkit of common cleaning items such as baking soda, white vinegar, and lemon juice, along with spray bottles and cloths. An air duster can be useful for cleaning dust.

2. Set up suitable lighting

Lighting can bring out the best or worst side of your product. Both the type of lighting you use and the number of light sources are important for your product photography setup.

The main types of lighting you can use are natural light and artificial light. Natural lighting casts an even, soft light that illuminates subjects against their backgrounds. It works well for capturing broad details, products used or worn by people, and products used outdoors. Artificial light casts a harder light that focuses on specific areas. It can be used to highlight product features in more detailed shots.

Professional photographers normally use three light sources to put products in their best light, a technique known as three-point lighting. Three-point lighting uses a key light, a fill light, and a backlight:

  • The key light illuminates the subject against its background. It is positioned to the side of the subject, usually at 45 degrees, to cast one side in light and the other in shadow. If you're shooting outdoors, the sun can serve as your key light.

  • The fill light is placed opposite the key light to illuminate areas left in shadow. It should be dimmer than the key light.

  • The backlight is placed behind the subject to create an aura of light around the subject's perimeter, making the subject stand out from the background and capturing details on the subject's edges.

One or more additional lights sometimes are used as background lights to illuminate elements in the picture other than the main subject.

3. Choose an appropriate background

Choose an appropriate background

Background selection can help bring out a subject's color, texture, shape, and features. To select a background color, you can use the three-color rule. This prescribes picking one primary color and two complementary colors. Your product's main color normally determines your primary color. You can use a color wheel to select complementary colors, or you can think in terms of warm and cool colors. Colors toward the red end of the spectrum, such as orange and yellow, are classified as warm, while those toward the violet end, such as green and blue, are cool.

You also can select backgrounds to bring out textures. Textures can suggest qualities such as smoothness, roughness, slipperiness, or stickiness, for example. As with color, you can think in terms of primary and complementary textures. For instance, if you're taking a picture of a thick, soft, fluffy rug, a hardwood floor can serve as contrast.

4. Consider props

Props can enhance your photos by illustrating product uses or adding a touch of drama or humor. Props can include anything from furniture to flowers to food. Directors often categorize props by dividing them into handheld items, personal items such as clothing, set items such as furniture, and set dressing items that are not directly held, worn, or used by the main person in the photo.

Select a prop that fits the purpose of your product and the mood of your photo. When using props, limit yourself to one main prop to avoid cluttering your photo and distracting from your main subject.

5. Use a high-quality camera

The better your camera, the better your photos will be. What type of camera you should use depends on your needs and budget. Today's smartphone cameras, such as the iPhone Camera, deliver impressive quality that is sufficient for beginners on a budget. If you can afford it, a single-lens reflex camera (also called an SLR camera, digital single-lens reflex camera, or DSLR camera) or mirrorless camera can provide more professional quality.

DSLR cameras use a mirror to flip captured images, while mirrorless cameras do not. At one time, DSLR cameras were preferred by the professional photographer, but recently, they're increasingly being phased out by mirrorless cameras. These types of cameras can range in price from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, so consider your budget and do due diligence before making a significant investment.

6. Invest in a tripod

Invest in a tripod

Tripods improve your photos by stabilizing your camera to prevent shaking or movement. Tripods vary in design and size. For example, some tripods have three-way heads that can be adjusted on one axis at a time for vertical adjustments, horizontal adjustments, or panning, while others use a ball joint that can be loosened to adjust in any direction as needed. Some tripods are small or light enough for portable use, while larger and heavier tripods are meant to remain in studios. Specialized tripods designed to hold smartphones or other small cameras can be mounted to surfaces with suction cups or flexible plastic arms, as with Joby's GorillaPod.

You can buy a basic tripod for about $30, while more expensive professional tripods can cost thousands of dollars. Select the least expensive tripod suitable for your purposes.

7. Shoot in RAW

If you plan to edit your photos using photo editing software such as Photoshop, you should shoot your images in a format known as RAW. As the name indicates, RAW photo files contain images that are unprocessed or virtually unprocessed, preserving all the data captured by the camera. This gives you more control over adjustments done during the editing process.

Most professional cameras and many smartphones give you the option of shooting in RAW. On an iPhone, you can find a ProRAW option under settings for camera formats.

8. Adjust your camera settings

To improve the quality of your photos, learn how to adjust your camera settings. The three most important settings are:

  • Shutter speed: this controls how quickly the shutter of your camera closes, determining the amount of light exposure your shot receives.

  • ISO: this controls your camera's sensitivity to light, determining the brightness of your picture.

  • Aperture: this controls the size of your lens opening, determining how much light reaches your camera and how sharp your images are.

Digital cameras allow you to adjust the aperture directly, while smartphones rely on simulated aperture adjustment. On an iPhone, you can simulate aperture adjustment in Portrait mode by using the Depth Control slider.

9. Capture multiple angles

Capture the right angles

Capturing multiple camera angles allows you to display different qualities of your product. Use full shots to capture your entire product. Add close-up shots to highlight specific product features. Include action shots to show your product in use. If you plan to use 3D models that your customers can zoom on or view from different angles, make sure to capture all the angles you need.

When selecting angles, consider your shot composition. Professional photographers follow the rule of threes. This prescribes visually dividing your short into three rows and three columns formed by two horizontal lines and two vertical lines. Place your subject on one of the four points where the lines cross.

10. Convey context

Context communicates the purpose, uses, and benefits of your product, making your pictures more persuasive as sales tools. You can use several methods to convey context. Showing someone using or wearing your product can illustrate how it looks or how it's meant to be applied. Background and prop selection can establish the intended applications of your product. Multiple angles and shots can demonstrate the different uses and benefits of your product. Videos can place your product in a dynamic context for drama or humor.

11. Strive for consistency

To achieve consistent quality in your photos, develop standard procedures for shooting your pictures. Create a written document specifying standard shot elements, such as camera settings, angles, and lighting. If you have multiple products in the same category, use similar poses and backgrounds for each photo. For example, if you're selling multiple t-shirts, your models should use similar poses for different t-shirt models.

12. Edit your photos

Edit your photos

Photo editing software can help you improve the quality of your original images for better pictures. Some of the most important elements to adjust include:

  • Composition: Crop and straighten your image to improve the placement of your subject.

  • White balance: This controls the color tone of your photo. In Photoshop, you can adjust white balance by using the image adjustment Curves setting.

  • Exposure: This adjusts the brightness of your photo. In Photoshop, you can adjust exposure by adding a new adjustment layer for brightness/contrast and going into the properties panel to access the brightness slider.

  • Contrast: This controls the range of dark and light tones in your photo, making lighting differences appear more stark or more gradual. In Photoshop, you can adjust contrast under the image adjustments settings for brightness/contrast.

  • Saturation: This determines the intensity of your colors. In Photoshop, you can adjust saturation by adding a new adjustment layer for hue/saturation.

  • Vibrance: This determines the intensity of less dominant mid tone colors that lie between light and dark extremes. In Photoshop, you can adjust vibrance under the image adjustments menu.

Adobe Photoshop is the most popular photo editing program. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a popular free alternative to Photoshop.

Access professional product mockups with Gelato+

Improving the quality of your photos can make your images more eye-catching and persuasive, attracting more clicks and generating more sales conversions. Set the stage for quality photos by cleaning your products, choosing the right lighting, selecting appropriate backgrounds and props, and investing in a good camera and tripod. Shoot quality images by using RAW format, adjusting your settings, capturing multiple angles, placing your product in context, and following consistent procedures. Use photo editing software to bring out the best in your photos.

If you sell print on demand products through Gelato, you can put your photos to use with the help of the Gelato Mockup Studio tool, available with a Gelato+ subscription. Mockup Studio allows you or your customers to see previews of customized products before you put orders into production. You also gain access to millions of stock photos as well as graphics images and image filters you can use to perfect the look of your product. You can make premium mockups of apparel, wall art, and other customized products. For instance, you can display wall art against different backgrounds to help customers visualize how it would look in their homes. This lets you use photos to make sure your products look the way you and your customers want them before spending money on inventory or order fulfillment. Sign up with Gelato's print on demand service today to start turning your high-quality photos into sales of in-demand customized products.

Product photography FAQs

How do you take good pictures of products?

You can take good pictures of products by following best practices before, during, and after photo shoots. Before you begin shooting, clean your products, select the right lighting, backgrounds, and props, and obtain the right camera and tripod equipment. During shooting, shoot your images in RAW format, adjust your settings, capture multiple angles, capture your products in context, and follow consistent procedures. After shooting, use photo editing to clean up your images.

What is the best setup for product photography?

For ecommerce purposes, the best setup is a simple setup that highlights your product in a setting that makes it easy to see online. A white background, artificial three-point lighting, a smartphone camera, and a small tripod will satisfy the needs of most small business ecommerce photo shoots.


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