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Product Photography: 7 Hacks for Amazing Images

A wise man said a picture is worth a thousand words. It is a little difficult to locate this wise man in question; and tracing the ancestry of this famous quote leads us to newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane of the Syracuse Men’s Club, who in 1911 enlightened his club mates to the benefits of imagery. But many people before him knew of the side effects of good design – novelist Ivan S. Turgenev, for instance, and all the world-renowned painters we praise so handsomely. I like to think Michelangelo fancied himself a storyteller, too, as he painted the Sistine Chapel or the endearing Mona Lisa.

Yes, pictures speak. And humankind has been listening for aeons. Product photography, too, was born of this belief in the power of images; that subconscious kindling of curiosity and attraction which makes a person buy something they might not even need. In the era of digital businesses, product photography is more important than ever. It’s not just art anymore – it’s the ‘missing link’ that connects a primaeval urge to shop with the best-looking goods online. So, if you are an upcoming venture that has just started to sell online and needs to crack the basics of product photography asap, then you will find our handpicked solutions golden. Try them on!

  1. Choose Your Frame

When new to photography, the best photographers choose a white background and natural lighting. This works like a dream for product photography as you get crisp, clean images without any distractions. Unless you are a pro, do not go for snazzy backgrounds like exposed tiles or a wooden table. What might look like a great frame in your mind may not translate well in the final shot, and this can cost your business.

Once you have found a good place with ample light and a good background, use the same place for your shoots. You can add a few props for variation, but try not to change things too much. Also, do not try to move the camera angles. This can affect the light and white balance. An ideal place is a well-lit window with a white curtain or just some trees in the background.

  1. Make Your Own Background

If the above tip seems impossible, then the only solution you have is to make your own background using white paper or cloth. In product photography terminology, this is called an ‘infinity sheet’. Making it requires you to take a sheet of white paper or cloth, attach it to a wall or a support and let it drape down to the floor. Do not fix it to the floor in a straight line; instead, let it curve gently as it falls.

Infinity Sheet is used as a product table for product photography

Keep your product in the middle of this infinity curve. Set your lights and focus your camera and shoot away! The white background will give you true colours in the picture, and make it easier for the buyer to focus on the product features. Many e-com companies like Amazon use a true white background for their product photography, and it works wonders for them. Again, once the lights and the infinity curve have been set, try not to disturb it.

  1. Check for Shadows

The one thing that can ruin your images in a heartbeat is a misplaced shadow. Ideally, your product should have soft shadows which can only be produced by diffused lighting, and a light source that is bigger than the product. Camera flashes overexpose the front of the subject, leaving the back underexposed. This causes hard shadows that make your product look unappealing. You can use a flash diffuser to avoid this or get in some extra lights that can provide diffused light from all angles. A large window (tip 1) with ample natural lighting is the best way to get soft shadows, barring which extra lights placed in perfect position will do.

  1. Use a Lightbox

If none of the lighting tricks mentioned above work, go for the failsafe. A lightbox. A lightbox is, as the name suggests, a box used for lighting objects. It usually has an infinity curve where the products are placed, and the walls of the box are papered to diffuse light and create a uniform background for product photography. This works best when you have to take close ups of the product and you cannot afford any flaws.

There are many lightboxes available in the market, or if you prefer a simplistic solution try this DIY version yourself. It works just as well. To light the lightbox, use adjustable lamps with 100-watt bulbs. This gives a natural feel to the photo, minimising the need for post-processing. You can even use halogen bulbs, but make sure to keep them far away from the paper. Halogens can hot in seconds! Whatever you do, do not use an in-camera flash. Or you will never kiss those shadows goodbye.

  1. Balance the Whites

Balancing whites is just as bad as balancing on egg shells; which by the way, are also white! Colour correction is an important part of photo editing. A well-balanced image shows off the real colours of the product in a white setting that complements the image. Get the white balance wrong, and your picture can end up looking too cold, or too warm. While it may not always apply for product photos, it is something to keep in mind when shooting with models. You do not want your model to look like a Whitewalker from the Game of Thrones series (TV reference, yay!). Or, have the orange tan patented by a very infamous President.

Remember to colour correct with same settings always so that all your products look the same on your website. And if you’re not sure what setting to use try snapping a picture with your phone camera. Our phones colour correct pictures automatically so you can use that as a reference point for the shots taken by your camera.

  1. Maintain Perspective

A picture is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional object. The relationship of imaged object vis a vis the person looking at the photograph is known as the perspective. Good product photos make you feel like you are looking at the object at eye level. And this is an important rule to shoot by when photographing products. Change the angles, but don’t change the perspective. You cannot have one image at eye level, and then another from the end of the room and then a close-up. Your pictures have to map the product in all its glory. Take close ups only when there is a significant detail (like an emblem or a design) that cannot be captured otherwise. Do not go crazy with the angles and the perspective; it’s the product they are buying, not your photography skills.

Handy tip: to ensure you shoot all products with the same perspective, use a tripod. Fix the height and then shoot away till Sunday!

  1. Use Props, but Wisely

Every photographer wants to use props and make their images look beautiful. Our suggestion – be wary of an overdose. You, ideally, do not want the customer to lose focus and be distracted by a prop. So, use props in your images only when they add to the product in question. Are you selling tea? Then add a cup of the brew by the side for reference. Are you selling home décor items? Show what it might look like when hung up on a wall. Remember not to let your customer’s gaze stray away from the product to anything else in the picture. You want them to think of drinking the tea, not making plans to buy the exquisite china cup featured in the picture.

The props should enhance the product but not become the center point of the Product photography.

If you can, use your own products as props. You can arrange different colour variants of the same product in a single shot, for instance. Never let the visual clutter take away from what is important though. No matter what the temptation.


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