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How To Create Amazing Product Photos on a Budget

The UENI Content Team
by The UENI Content Team
Published on 11 August, 2020
A sports bra, shorts, and running shoes expertly arranged for Product Photography

Did you know the quality of your photographs directly impacts how likely you are to convert people browsing your online shop into active customers ready to buy? It’s true. You can read here about how 93% of consumers consider visual appearance to be the deciding factor in a purchase. You can find it in study after study, all saying more or less the same thing – higher quality images are an important part of user engagement (in other words, people are more likely to interact with nicer photos.)

Does this mean you have to spend a fortune on a professional photographer to get everything just so? Well, you certainly can, but you definitely don’t have to. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to get great product photos on the cheap – no need for an expensive tripod or extensive lighting. Just some smart tips and a bit of know-how.

Sound good? Let’s get started with these 5 easy tips to kickstart your business!

1. Learn to Love Your Lighting

A well lit photo of kitchen clothing, ready to be sold.

Great product photos always have a few things in common, but first and foremost, they’ve always got appropriate lighting for the photo. On a budget, the thing to go for is good natural lighting – it will help to bring out the best in your product, whatever it is. So, find a room in your shop or home with the biggest window you can, and set up your photography surface next to it. This can be a coffee table, a proper table, or anything else.

Why natural light? Most products, from jewellery to phones to nearly anything else have some kind of reflective shine to it. That’s why most photos you take with your phone and the flash have harsh shadows and a reflective quality to them. So we want to use the sun as an indirect light source: allowing for plenty of details without creating an ugly or amateurish photo.

2. Find a Level Base for Your Camera

A cat in front of a camera, positioned as if to take a picture

This is the point where nearly every other product photography guide will tell you to hop on Amazon and spend a bundle on a high-quality tripod. And, to their credit, if you can afford one they’re a great investment.

Why? As anyone who’s tried to take a photo – especially an up-close or detail-oriented photo – can tell you, camera shake is the worst. No matter how much you try to avoid it, any wobble in your hands can lead to a blurry, unfocused shot. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid when we’re putting together images for our photos.

Even if you don’t go with a tripod, you’ll need to make sure you have a book, a table, or some kind of stable stand you can use to rest your phone on and prop it up against. That way, you’ll be sure to have a steady base for your camera.

Of course, the big advantage of a tripod is that it’s always going to stay in place. If you’re leaning your phone up against a stack of books or something similar, make sure that it stays in place for the whole shoot. This will add consistency to your product photos and keep your entire line looking sharp.

Say goodbye to camera shake, and hello to sales!

3. Get A White or Dark Surface Ready

This can be as simple as a white piece of paper – but for any product photo, you’ll usually want a background that doesn’t interact with the colours of whatever you’re taking a picture of, and that usually means using a white or dark background behind it.

Let’s be clear, though: this doesn’t need to be any more complicated than a white sheet of paper. If you really want to go all out with lightboxes, you can, but for shooting on the cheap, a white paper background on a surface near a window and some natural light is going to get you 95% to where you want.

It’s important to keep in mind that your phone’s camera is going to pick up textures or inconsistencies in your background, which is why you can’t simply stick your products up against a white or dark wall and call it a day. However, if you take a look at the image above, you’ll notice that this can sometimes work to your advantage, particularly if you want to create a “lifestyle” vibe with your images.

4. Take Photos from Multiple Angles

A product photo of a picture frame placed on a counter top

As a great philosopher once said, “more cannot be less. More is more.” The same is true for product photos: people can’t get enough! Even if you don’t end up using all of your photos in your product listing, you’re always going to appreciate having too many photos to pick through than too few.

The specific angles are going to be determined by what you are photographing – for a piece of clothing like a pair of jeans, you’ll typically want to take photos of the front, the back, the side, and a photo of a person (or a mannequin) wearing the item for sale. The same goes for jewellery: at least one photo straight on, one photo at an angle, and what it looks like on a person. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s just found your shop. What would you like to see if you were going to buy one of your products? This will help you guide you when it comes to taking photos.

5. Group Your Products for Variety

Got a few products that work really well together? Take a photo of the set and show them off! Not only will this break up the stream of individual product photos on a white (or dark) background, but they can also encourage people browsing your page to add more than one product to their cart.

As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want a majority of your images to be product-only, but one or two lifestyle shots – showing off your product in the wild – one of these grouped shots can go a long way towards showing off your products’ versatility and give the customer a great idea of what they’re purchasing.

Wrapping up!

So there you have it! Five easy tips to level up your product photography. As your business progresses, you may want to invest in more equipment or a paid photographer for your products, but for businesses on a budget or those just starting out, these steps can make a big difference between growing your shop and struggling out the gate.

One quick note on dimensions: 

For thumbnails, you will want your images to be at least 150-200 pixels wide, while for proper expanded photos a width of 1600 is preferred. And make sure to use landscape images (wider than they are tall) whenever possible!

The UENI Content Team
The UENI Content Team
The UENI Content Team are a squad of Digital Content Specialists who are committed to helping get small businesses online. We speak over six languages, hail from four different continents, and have helped thousands of businesses all over the world boost their visibility and sales by getting online the right way.

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