Taking great product photo's

You have a great looking new eCommerce website, what could be one of the most important design aspects of your site is how you present the products you wish to sell. Without the ability to physically smell, touch and handle your products, potential customers have only images and information to decide on their purchase. An image can say a thousand words! The better your products look the more they stand out and the more appealing they will seem. There is much to consider in presenting your products. In this article we will give you a few helpful tips on how to take great product photos without spending a movie style budget.

Prepare the product

Just as if you were taking photo's of a beautiful model, your products need to also look their best. An object such as a cup, kettle or watch may need just a little bit of a clean before you start taking your pictures, while some small faults can be fixed up in programs such as Adobe Photoshop it is worth minimising those later efforts. If your product comes in a box you should make sure that the box is in good condition, no dents or rips for example.
Clothing and fabric is a little more tricky, you may need to have an iron handy to get rid of any major creases and check for any tears, stains or visible flaws in the product.
If you have a modal presenting your product they should be well presented, you do not want your watch to be on a hand with dirty finger nails for example.

Lighting

Lighting is important to get just right. You have likely seen on TV shows such as America's Next Top Model where they have huge cameras and studio's with the latest gear and lighting.
Luckily the basic equipment you need is not as expensive as it used to be and there are great cheaper alternatives available that can achieve a similar results without costing the earth.
For small objects small 30-watt lighting can be just what you need, for larger items you need a bright light source, like 60-watt or higher for example either side of the product should be enough to reduce any shadows. Shadows are something you want to avoid and if it is not quite working you may need a reflector.

Reflectors do not necessarily need to be photography reflectors either, photo studio reflectors can be quite expensive but what you use in your car windscreen to avoid your car getting too hot can achieve a similar job on a smaller budget. Simple use of white paper will direct and reflect light and is cheap, easy to manipulate and easy to use.

Your lighting can be something you pick up from your nearest large hardware chain who often have offers on industrial lighting or garage lighting for example.

If you are looking to take photos of large and small products your lighting may require different positioning. One great tip is to have some industrial tape handy and mark out any light positions of camera's, reflectors or you objects themselves. When you wish to come back and work on your product photography over a period of days you will not need to start from scratch each time when you set up.

The Camera

You really need to make sure you avoid any form of reflections. Products with a high sheen can be very difficult to take a photo of directly so experiment with your angles. You can not avoid your photo looking staged but you do not want your photos to appear fake or artificial.

Your camera does not have to be the most expensive camera in the world to take great product photos. There are many great camera's on the market but you do want to make sure that you have one with a manual focus, with decent shutter and aperture controls.
You now have your product and you have your lighting set up, now it is time to take some photos!

It is always a good idea to carry out some test's before you focus on your actual photos. Take some pictures and even upload them onto a laptop or computer to see how they may look to your customers on a screen. Play with your setup of your camera until your happy with the output. Any small tweaks can always be fixed up on the computer but you do want to ensure this is minimised.

We can not stress enough how important it is to make note of your cameras settings and if it can save those settings please do so. You may have a number of products and types of products to take photographs of and you may need to take a number pictures over a period of several days. Some large products may need different settings to smaller products so please write these down or save those settings so you do not have to start from scratch each time.

If you do not understand the basics of photography you may need to do some research, there is plenty of information out there on Google and you can find a number of great pro and beginner tips for taking pictures of objects indoors and outdoors. You may even find guides for your specific camera.

Finally, make sure you choose the right image format to work on your computer and editing software. Once you are happy with your photos you will now be wanting to next edit them on a PC or Mac.

Editing your photos

While most Content Management Systems (CMS) can edit images within the system themselves they rarely offer the best file optimisation options, the best quality to file ratios, and do not consider what you would like to show when it comes to cropping or resizing your images.

Getting your files right is as important as the photos themselves. This is the stage where you can fix any issues and really make your products look their best.

Over or under saturation of colours, a blemish here or there and lighting tweaks can be achieved in a good software program such as Adobe's Photoshop or even a free application such as Pixlr.

Surrounding your product in white is the most common practise when taking photos, this means your product and its surroundings will not clash with other elements of your website but also allow you to cut out your product if you need to. With this format you can also look to create advertising banners, product banners and other material using "clear cut" images of your products.

Cleaning the background of any fabric folds can be straight forward and make a huge difference to the final image. Also, depending on the product and the look you’re hoping to achieve, you could experiment with other effects of the software such as the angles, softness, blur or colours.

Always consider your product, you do not want to overly change the look and feel of your product so that when a customer receives their goods they look completely different from what they saw on your website. Your goal is to enhance your products and make them look their best.

Optimising your images for your web is essential. You may have many product images on your website and need to consider the person loading your website. If it takes too long they can be putt off and go to another website that loads faster. You really want to create the best quality photo and the smallest file size possible. If your working through a web company like Fuel Design they can really offer the best advice and help in optimising your images.

Summary

You can go deeper and deeper into creating your product photography and spend as much time as your willing too, but the results do speak for themselves. As you get more experienced with your setup and learn what settings work well for your products your workflow will become much faster.

There are many great youtube product photography videos  out there with a lot of great tips, setup information and more. Here is just one example.

This video shows a more high end product photography shoot but you can see that simple use of paper makes a lot of difference and some basic concepts can generate great pictures.


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