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Having beautiful product photos is key to selling your product.  You’ll need them for your product listing and marketing. Professional photos can be expensive (although worthwhile), but there is an alternative.  Why not take your own product photos?

Whether you’re on a budget, or just fancy doing it yourself (check out my attempt at this!) here are five tips to take your own product photos from photographer Janet Penny.

1. Make sure you brand your images

Before you even begin to shoot, take some time to think about your brand. As I’m sure you know, your branding is a big part of how people think about the product you’re selling. Write some notes about the look and feel you want for your photographs. If you’re using props, make sure that they fit in with what you want to say about what you’re selling.  

(Note from Vicki: Depending on the marketplace you’re looking to sell on, props may or may not be allowed – so do check first!)

Branding isn’t just about the props though, the lighting that you use can also really set the tone for your images. Do you want light, bright and breezy? Dark and moody? Practical and straightforward? The way you light can alter how your potential clients view what you’re selling, so do have a play around with this.

An example from the latest Tiny Chipmunk photoshoot.  I wanted the photos be bright and cheerful.

2. You’ll need several different kinds of photo

Make sure you have photographs of your product in a variety of settings. You’ll want to have some shots against a white background (we call this a cut-out), images of your product in a styled setting, and some close-up details. Let’s have a look at why you need each type

  • Cut-outs.  It’s important to have images of your product, from different angles on a plain background, so customers can look at it without any distractions. If you’re planning to sell via a third party website, you may be asked to provide these kinds of shots. Magazines and blogs also like to have them to include in ‘get the look’ feature lists, etc.
  • Styled shots are great at creating aspiration in your customer. If your client sees your product in a context they either recognise or aspire to, they are more likely to buy it.
  • Detail shots. If you pride yourself on those small details that set your product apart from others, then you really need to showcase them. Sometimes the small things make a big difference to a potential buyer.

An example of the three images you should take from Decorative Antiques

3. Take the best quality photo that you can

You may not have an expensive camera and want to use your smartphone and that’s fine. Do make sure that you set the internal camera of your smartphone to the highest possible setting – the largest file size and best quality. Most smart phones now have an HDR (high dynamic range) setting – make sure you switch it on! 

Remember, you can always make your image smaller but you can’t size it up and maintain quality.

You may think at the moment that you only need images for your Facebook or Instagram account. However, a time may well come when you’re asked to provide an image for a magazine or printed material and it’s important that the quality is good enough to print from.

4 .Don’t overwhelm your product with props

If you’re going to use props, don’t over do it! A well-placed prop or two will enhance what you’re saying about your product. However, it’s definitely a risk that you may overwhelm the real message of your image. Colour and size-wise, make sure your product is the most prominent and draws the eye first. You can also use composition to lead the viewer’s eye directly to your product.

Here you can see a product shot of Gabrielle Izen’s beautiful illustrated journal. The props are used to set the scene but it’s still clear what is being sold.

5. Make the best use of light

To take a great photo of your product, you must make sure it’s well lit. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be really bright (especially if that’s not the mood you’re trying to create) but you do need to let enough light fall onto your product. 

Be careful to not to make any of your image over or under-exposed. If you’re nervous about it, start by finding a spot that has even, natural light (no bright shafts of sunlight or very dark shadows) and practice there. This may change during the day, as the sun moves across the sky, so keep an eye on that and make notes on the best times and places to photograph in your office or home.

I hope this has been useful and made you more confident to take your own product photos. Enjoy creating great images that you’re proud to show off!

You can see Janet’s full portfolio here.