Take better product pics using your own camera or smartphone

Take better product picsA few days ago, I did a Live Video on my personal Facebook page where I shared 4 tips to help you take better product pics using your own camera or smartphone. I thought I’d share these same 4 tips here to help anyone who can’t afford a professional photographer and needs to take their own product pics.
Full disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer, but I did take and pass advanced level Photography in the UK many years ago—I actually took my exam a few days after the first digital camera was announced and was able to incorporate it into my exam essay.
I was inspired to share these tips on how to take better product pics after working with a client who had sent a couple of photos that were not suitable for her company’s website as there was a lot of background clutter and the lighting was not great. Wanting the best for my clients, I requested better photos. I always recommend that, if you can afford one, it is best to invest in hiring a professional photographer to take your product pics or use professional photos supplied by the manufacturer. However, many clients, especially if they are just starting out, often have limited budgets and cannot afford one. So, I wanted to share these tips to help others take better product pics too.
I am a customer and affiliate with a product company that sells jewellery, essential oils and other wonderful spa, beauty and health & iPhone Camerawellness products. Sometimes I need to take product pics to show prospective customers online or in email. However, I don’t have the best camera, and due to the aspect of my windows and room setup, I don’t always have the best lighting conditions.
On dull days, there is never enough light. By the time there is, the sun is usually streaming in the windows, casting dark shadows and creating a lot of glare on the jewellery. Getting the light right is hard but using the tips I’m about to share, I can usually improve the quality of my photos and avoid too much photo editing in Lightroom or Photoshop.
As I already mentioned, I’m not a professional photographer, so I’m always looking for ways to take better product pics. With the help of this article, just to make sure I was giving everyone the right information, these are the 4 tips I shared in my Facebook live, which you can view here. Hopefully, they will help you take better product pics too.

Tip # 1: Make sure you’re using the highest resolution possible or HD setting on your smartphone

It’s obviously best to use a quality camera, but if you don’t have a DSLR camera with manual focus, manual aperture etc., use a reasonably decent camera (the best you can afford) and make sure you have it on the highest mega pixel setting possible. The higher the mega pixels the better quality your photos will be, and the easier it will be for your graphic or website designer to edit, which will save you money in the long run.
If you don’t have a camera and you’re using your smartphone, use the HD setting instead of automatic. HD will give you larger photos, more pixels per inch which will be much better quality than the smaller auto size. Not mentioned in my video, but you could also invests in a macro lens add-on if you want to take close-ups of small items.

Tip # 2: Choose the right room and set-up near a window for soft natural light

You want to choose a room that has as much natural light as possible and preferably with white walls.
Using a table or your desk, you’ll want to set-up your photo shoot as close to a window as possible. The bigger the window the better so you get lots of natural light. The more natural light and the closer you are to the window the better as it will make your photos softer.
You want to set up on a bright day, rather than a dull day, or a dull morning or evening, but you don’t want direct sun streaming through as it will make hard shadows and too much contrast on either side of your subject. You also don’t want to be using electric light as this will put a yellow tinge to all your photos and you want your whites as white as possible.

Tip # 3: Create the right backdrop using white poster board, paper and tape

Use or Create a white backdropNext you’ll want to set-up a mini-photo-studio or backdrop for your product pics. There’s a couple of ways to do this if you don’t have a pop-up photo light box.

  1. Using a couple of white Bristol boards or poster boards, one at the bottom and one at the back, you could create your own mini-photo-studio. Tape the boards together at right angles to each other. Lean the back one against the wall or some other solid object (I usually have to use the side of my monitor or a large planter to get the best position and right amount of light from my window). You’ll also want to tape a curved piece of white paper between the back card and the bottom piece, so you don’t get a sharp edge across the middle of your photos.
  2. If you have a white wall near your window, set your table up against the wall. Tape white poster board directly to the wall to use as your backdrop (if you don’t mind tape on your wall). Curve the board between the table and the wall so you have a nice smooth backdrop.

You’ll also need a some white card to use as a light reflector to even out the light coming through the window so you don’t have too much contrast in your photos. You’ll stand the card opposite the window and it will reflect light onto your subject. A folded piece of white poster board or card will work.

Tip # 4: Use a tripod or steady your arms using your elbows

The last thing you want after going to all this trouble to improve your product pics is to get camera shake. If you’re using your smartphone, you can get a little tripod to keep it steady when you take your photos. You could also use the timer function so it eliminates any chance of camera wobble.
If you’re using a DSLR, then a proper tripod is your best option, and again, if you can get a timer cable, it will help eliminate camera shake when you take your pictures.
Failing either of these options, use your elbows…lean on the table or desk to take your pics. This should reduce camera wobble.

Take better photosBonus tips not include in my video:

  • Make sure your camera is in the best position for maximum effect and best quality – e.g. directly in front, from an angle, or overhead, depending on the subject
  • Avoid getting too close to shiny objects such as jewellery or glass, so you and/or your camera are not reflected on them
  • Avoid blocking the light from the window or reflector by you or the camera so you don’t cast a shadow over the subject or backdrop

If you found any of these tips useful, or if you have any other tips to add that will help others take better product pics, drop a comment in the comment box. I’d be happy to hear from you. If you need stock images, or have other questions about images for website or print material, I wrote this article several years ago. You’ll find links to stock images websites too.