Visual content is more important than ever for brands. Not only do you want high-quality photos of your products to win over customers, but you should also be using visual storytelling to elevate your brand’s message and marketing.
Photo by SW Creator: Deidre Schlabs
While product photography is crucial for your business, it doesn’t have to require advanced knowledge of photography, expensive equipment, or a decked-out photo studio. With a few tricks and easy to acquire skills, you can take excellent shots of your products that will propel your marketing strategy and e-commerce business to the next level.
Pro Tip: When you’re ready to build your product photography portfolio, a great way to start is using products you already own and photographing them! You can get a lot of good experience this way and get together a collection of images that you can showcase your product photography skills. Deidre Schlabs
Read on for the complete beginner’s guide to product photography, and keep an eye out for our expert product photographers’ tips.
Product Photography 101
There are two types of product photography, and it’s best to utilize both if you want your product shots to have variety and a more effective reach.
The first type is product-only shots. These are usually taken on a clean background with only the products in the shot. Photos like these are what you can use for your online store.
The main goal is for your customer to get a clear idea of what the product looks like, so it’s important to showcase high-quality images without anything else, distracting the viewer from the product.
Pro Tip – Declutter the scene. Remove unnecessary items, colors, etc. Simplicity is key! Emily Taylor
Photo by SW Creator: Emily Taylor
The other type of product photography is lifestyle shots. Customers want to see what your products look like “in the wild” and how real people use them. Think about the shots of a family gathered around the dinner table enjoying Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup together. It’s food photography, but it evokes emotions and memories.
You want to give your customers an idea of how your products look and work in real life so that they can establish an emotional connection to them. Lifestyle photography allows you to be more editorial and creative. These shots can be used on your website and blog, in catalogs and other printed materials, and on your social media pages.
Let’s break down the two types of photography so that you can use both to promote your products.
DIY Product Photography for Product-Only Photos
Product-only shots typically give off the illusion that the product is floating. They usually have an all-white background, so it might look like they were taken in a fancy photography studio, but just a few tricks can accomplish this look.
Pro Tip: Know your angles. Choosing the right angles and features will help articulate the product you’re selling. Jonathan Lapada
You can do some great DIY product photography with a simple setup that requires just a few supplies.
You’ll often see photographers carrying their Canon or Nikon set up with multiple lenses. A high-end camera is a great investment for your business. However, if your budget is tight, you can find cameras in perfect working condition in the secondhand market.
An iPhone camera also works well when you’re starting. Using your phone is a great way to experiment with your photoshoots before investing in a DSLR camera, and the newer smartphone cameras are of higher quality than ever before. Some even outperform point and shoot cameras.
You can also use some tips and tricks to make your shots look professional with an iPhone.
Whatever camera you’re using, spend some time familiarizing yourself with it and taking some test shots.
Tripods are an inexpensive and worthwhile investment, but a stack of books or something else your camera can sit on works as well. The goal is to keep the camera stable and still so that the photos aren’t blurry.
If you have a professional backdrop, that’s great. If you don’t, you can create an easy, clean backdrop with a white poster board set on a table or propped against the wall.
Craft paper is another option that looks professional and might be more in-line with your brand. The goal is to have an uncluttered shot, but you can get creative, so your backdrop is in line with your products.
If you need to take regular product photos, it may be worthwhile to invest in a lightbox or light tent, providing a neutral background and diffused lighting environment.
Photo by SW Creator: Jonathan Lapada
White Bounce Cards
You want the light to appear even and without shadows, which doesn’t always happen when using natural light from a window. To fix this, you can make your own bounce cards using a white poster or foam board.
Cut the card to the size you need, and then place it on your product’s side that has shadows cast over it. The light from the other side (the brighter side) will bounce off the card and disperse more evenly in your shot, ridding it of most of the shadows.
Unless you’re going for a flat-lay, where your products are flat on the backdrop, and you’re taking the photo from above, you will need a tabletop to stand your products on.
We recommend covering the tabletop with the same material you’re using for your backdrop, so you have a cohesive shot.
If you want to elevate your products, use a shoebox or a block and cover it with paper or a cloth that is the same color as your backdrop. Keeping all of the elements cohesive will give the illusion of floating when you finally take the photo.
Tape or Clamps
You may need to secure your backdrop to the wall or table. Just make sure to place the tape or clamps outside of the shot’s frame or edit them out later.
Again, if you have a professional lighting setup, use that. If you don’t, position your photoshoot near a window with plenty of natural light, or take the photos outside. Natural lighting can be very flattering.
Lighting can take a photo from looking amateur to professional, so pay special attention and pick a location where your products will be brightly and evenly lit.
If you do find yourself needing to use a camera flash, a diffuser can reduce the harsh nature of the artificial light.
Product Photography Tips & Step-by-Step Setup
Now that you have all of your supplies, you can set up your photography space and start taking your shots.
First, place your table near a bright window. Do your photoshoot at a time of day when the room gets a good amount of sun exposure. If you have harsh lights in the room, turn those off.
Secure your backdrop on the table and wall. If your table isn’t against a wall, use some books or bricks to stand the poster board up; make sure you can’t see them through the poster.
Set up your camera and tripod, making sure it’s positioned so the products will be in the center of the shot and meet your customer’s eye line. Most cameras will take great photos on the auto setting; be sure to turn the flash off.
Now, place your products in the frame. We recommend experimenting with the placement and getting a couple of options to use at different angles.
Pro Tip: Know your angles. Choosing the right angles and features will help articulate the product you’re selling. Jonathan Lapada
Pay attention to the light, and use the bounce cards when needed. You may need to move your setup around to achieve the right lighting.
If you’re more experienced with your camera, play around with the exposure to get a crisper shot. If you’re using an iPhone, tap the screen to make sure it focuses on the products before you take the photo.
When you look at your shots, make sure they portray an accurate representation of what the product looks like in real life.
Pro Tip: Collaborate with folks! Reach out to people on Instagram, test with prop/food stylists, dream up a project, and try to get an art director or design involved.
Photo by SW Creator: Nick Murway
Even with great lighting, your photos will probably need to be retouched to make the background brighter and eliminate any lingering shadows. This is known as post-processing, and it helps to turn good pictures into great product photos.
In addition to professional-level photo editing software like Adobe photoshop. You can use some great free photo editing programs to do this yourself: check them out here.
You can also turn your photos into graphics for marketing materials using online tools like Canva.
If you don’t want to do the retouching yourself, it’s easy and inexpensive to outsource that part of the process to a professional. These finishing touches will help make the product pages on your e-commerce store attractive to potential customers.
Lifestyle Product Photography
The other part of product photography, lifestyle shots, is where you get to show off your brand’s personality. These photoshoots take more planning and creativity, but it’s worth it to have beautiful photos of your products that will connect with your customers.
For lifestyle shots, you want the photos to tell a story — specifically, the story of your product. Customers should understand the experience that’s being portrayed with your products and want that for themselves.
It’s also become more popular for online shopping sites to include one or two lifestyle shots along with their product-only shots on a product description. Customers like to see products in context instead of just on their own.
A great example of this is Labrada Nutrition. They show off their products in active settings, like friends mountain biking or a family hiking and fishing trip.
They have Labrada’s Lean Body nutritional drinks in their hands, backpacks, or sitting near them on the dock in every photo. But what you’ll notice is what they’re doing and the experience they’re having. You’ll see the father connecting with his son, the love he shares with his daughter, and the joy they’re experiencing making memories.
Photos like this establish an emotional connection between a brand and its customers, which is more important than ever in digital marketing today.
Spend some time considering your brand and how customers interact with your products. Who uses your products? Where do they use them? What experience are they having?
From there, craft a couple of story ideas that will translate into a lifestyle photoshoot. Keep your brand personality in mind. Is it fun? Professional? Family-oriented?
Now that you have the concepts behind your product images, you can make your vision come to life and have an effective marketing strategy that tells a story.
Working With Professionals
We recommend working with a professional photographer for lifestyle photoshoots if you don’t have any experience with this type of photography yourself.
A product photographer will direct the photoshoot while you can focus on how the products are featured. Remember that these are photos you’ll be able to use on your social media, and in print marketing, so you want them to be high quality.
With these photos, you aren’t just winning customers; you’re also winning hearts, which leads to customer loyalty and greater brand awareness.
Doing a lifestyle photoshoot may be an added expense and time commitment than just using stock photos, but a photoshoot will be worth it. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of having professional studio lighting and post-production service.
Quality custom images will perform much better on search engines like Google – a big benefit for your SEO. Having one-of-a-kind images will also help you stand out among your competitors in the online landscape.
Work With Snapwire
If you feel like you have all the ideas but don’t know where to start to bring your vision to life, let Snapwire’s in-house production team help.
We take brands’ visions and make them a reality through our highly skilled visual content creators network. Our team works quickly to deliver exceptional visual content for brands at a price point that’s much more affordable than hiring a marketing agency.
Here’s a look at one of our recent projects with In-N-Out Burger.
We’ve got all the tools and are ready to connect them with your brand’s specific message, so you have flawless lifestyle product photos that you can use over and over again in your marketing strategy.
Ready to work with Snapwire? Request a demo so that we can connect with you and get started on a customized plan.
Photo by SW Creator: Logan Robertson
Create With Snapwire
Are you a photographer looking to get paid more? Want to work with other creators on exciting projects? Want to see your photos used by major brands?
Become a creator with Snapwire today.
Our creators are the best in the business. You’ll have the opportunity to work for world-renowned brands, expand your portfolio, and get paid competitively for doing your passion.
Along with working on customized projects for clients, you can sell your stock photos that brands will showcase around the internet.
We also run creator challenges and feature the best work. See our latest challenge of Black portraiture work here.
Visual Content That Sells
Whether you’re a business owner, brand manager, or photographer, Snapwire has solutions to take your work to the next level. We’re passionate about producing visual content that sells, and we want to do the creative work for you.
Product photography has never been more vital for marketing your business. If you want visuals that tell a story and establish an emotional connection with your customers, contact us today to request a demo so we can start working on your next campaign.
If you want to get paid for your photographs and join a skilled creatives team, apply to work with us today. You’ll have the opportunity to work with major brands and expand your portfolio while getting paid competitively for your work.
Was this article helpful? Share our guide to product photography with your friends so they can become marketing mavens, too.
Feature Image shot by SW Creator: Jonathan Lapada