Chris Cowley is an Isle of Wight based wedding photographer hailing from a background of festival and music portraiture in which he has photographed headline bands from Madness to Lily Allen. Chris kindly agreed to tell us a few handy tips to help us get the best from our photos…
You’ve spent hours crafting away making your finest piece to date and you’re really, really proud of it. It looks AMAZING in the flesh so you want to show it off to the world on your website, and maybe even get a sale. So off to the spare room you go to grab your camera to get some shots. You painstakingly prop your product up and start to snap away but for some reason the photo just doesn’t quite jump out the page at you.
If you’re still reading this article and nodding your head then I would guess that this is an all too familiar situation but don’t sweat it, with a few small pointers you’ll be photographing your products like a pro!
I’ll assume that you’ve already got a camera of some kind so next on your shopping list should be a tripod. Tripods can range in price but even just an inexpensive tripod will give you stability and prevent any accidental blurring that might happen when you shoot your products up close. Most cameras usually have a built-in timer and so my tip would be to set up your shot using your sturdy tripod and then use the cameras built-in timer to minimise camera shake and get your image as sharp as possible.
Simple is best. Simple compositions tend to work better with products as at the end of the day your customer wants to see your item for what it is and not be distracted by other elements in the picture. So avoid shooting from strange angles and shoot front-on to the item so that there is no distortion due to perspective.
Most cameras tend to have a macro mode so make sure you set your camera to that. This mode enables you to get very close to the subject which is essential for taking photos of small items like jewellery. If you’re using a DSLR with changeable lenses it might even be worth considering investing in a macro lens specifically for product photography to give you even more control.
Now you’re able to photograph up close, learn to focus! Practice, practice, practice is the key here. Most cameras are designed to focus on an entire area (like a landscape) and it can be difficult to focus on small objects so as boring as it is you’re going to have to have a look at your instruction manual to see what you can adjust. If you have the option to choose spot focus then this will really help as it will give you more control over what you are focussing on. Some particularly tricky items may even need you to manually focus your camera so spend some time experimenting, as focussing your camera will make or break the image.
Clearly you want to focus to be on your fabulous product so we need to choose a background that enhances it. A busy or detailed background draws the viewer’s eye and attention away from the item and its features so use a single colour background. You’ve probably noticed that the majority of products are shot against white backgrounds and this is for the simple reason that there are no other colourful distractions so the only thing to look at is the product! Your backdrop doesn’t have to be anything fancy- it can be as simple as a white sheet or some pieces of white cardboard. Just try and conceal any creases and joins as these may distract the viewer’s eye.
Light is really important when shooting products. The goal is to get the product fairly evenly lit avoiding harsh shadows. The best way to do this is to set up in a room with bright lights, or use a room that has big windows so that a lot of light fills the room. Your cameras built in flash can create unnatural shadows so have another flick through your cameras manual and switch it off. Poor lighting will make the image (and in turn the product itself) look inferior, so spend some time experimenting and get it right.
Processing your photos afterwards in some kind of photo editing software is like adding icing to the top of the cake. Just a small bit of post processing such as cropping the image so it fills more of the frame and boosting the colours so they are more vivid and true to life can really make a photo. You don’t have to do a lot but even just small changes like I’ve mentioned will make your images a lot more professional.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and you picked up a few tips. Now go have some fun experimenting! The biggest different between an amateurs photograph of a product and a professionals is sharpness and lighting. So if you follow the steps above you’ll know how to get your images well lit and as sharp as possible allowing your product to take centre stage and wow your customers!