October 2, 2019

How to take great product photos for your online store

Are you a creative business looking to launch your first online shop? Take great-looking product photos that will have your wares flying out the door.

When it comes to selling online, few things are as important as your product pictures. They tell the story of your products’ colors, texture, size and shape, and how they can be worn or used. Showing your products in use helps customers visualize themselves enjoying your creations, making them more likely to buy.

It’s worth taking a little time over your pics, but you don’t have to be Dorothea Lange to create your own scroll-worthy gallery goodness. You don’t even need a fancy camera – most modern smartphones can do the job. Here are some tips to get you taking successful snaps, fast.

Light, light and more light

Forget fancy cameras – the most important ingredient in a photograph is lighting.

  • Always shoot in daylight if you can – that’s unless you have access to a professional studio where daylight conditions can be replicated.
  • The golden rule is to shoot away from the light source, not into it. So if your light is pouring in from a window, stand between the window and your products (being careful not to cast a shadow onto the scene).
  • No nice big windows? No problem – you can use a doorway to create a temporary light source. If you can, pop the door open and let the light flood in.
  • You might not think so, but a cloudy overcast day is the best time to shoot product pictures. The clouds act as a natural diffuser, filtering the light so it’s more evenly distributed with no harsh bars of sunlight or strong shadows.
  • If you’re shooting outdoors, a large area of shade like the side of your house is a good place to set up.
  • If you have limited natural light available – a common problem for people working around a day-job during the winter months – you could try arranging some household LED lamps around your shooting space and diffusing their light with some sheets of baking paper or copier paper.  
  • Placing smaller items like jewelry on a sheet of white foam board will give you a nice bright background without shiny reflections. You can also position white foam board around your shooting space to maximize the amount of light available.

5 shots you need to take

Photographing products is fun… the first few times. But taking lots of pictures from multiple angles and selecting the best ones quickly gets time-consuming. When your shop is up and running, you’ll want to spend less time picking through photos and more on running your business. If you have a standard set of shots, photographs become an easy-breezy task. Here’s our suggested list…

  1. Thumbnail

A whole-product shot that will look great in thumbnail form and encourage people to click through to your listing. It should also work well on printed items like Flyers and Postcards.

  1. Close-up

Using macro mode, if your camera or smartphone has it, zoom right in on the texture of your product so buyers can see the quality.

  1. Scale picture

A snap showing the item’s size relative to a common object like a coin, smartphone or doorway. Showing the product in use, for example in a hand or on a mannequin, is great for showing scale. If your product is clothing or fabric, it also shows off the drape and texture.

  1. Reverse side

Let customers see the backs or bottoms of your item too – even if it’s rarely going to be seen when the product’s in use. The aim is to replicate what they would see if they were looking at it in real 360-degree life. How your items are stitched, bound or finished on the reverse can be a strong indicator of quality.

  1. Range and packaging

Show your product in a group with varied colours or styles, or alongside similar items in a range which might tempt buyers. Try showing the actual packaging they will receive – especially if you have a gift-like box or wrapping. This helps people imagine receiving their package and could give them that extra nudge they need to hit ‘add to cart.’

Watch out for…

Finally, a few areas where you need to tread carefully when taking product photos.

  • Digital filters and editing can make your product colors less true to life and could end up confusing customers (even if they make the photos look nicer).
  • Flash can create a harsh effect that washes out colors – try the lighting tips in this post before using the flash as a last resort.

Background and reflections. Don’t be the person whose old socks (or worse) are visible in the distance behind a product, or reflected on a shiny surface.

Feeling inspired? See how ceramicist, Lucy Burley uses product photos in her MOO designs

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