Welcome back Samantha Gluck, Owner and Executive Dream Weaver
, All Media Freelance, LLC
and Editor in Chief
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Photographing your own products for your ecommerce site saves money and gives you the most control over the outcome. But you may need a few pointers to get professional quality results. A camera’s built in flash alone will rarely produce the image quality you need.
The images must display the product details clearly, if you hope to increase site conversion rates. You need clean product photos with no hard shadows or busy backgrounds that distract viewers from the product itself. Professional photographers use a few simple tricks to ensure perfectly detailed product photos every time.
Use Soft Lighting
To determine if lighting is soft or hard, hold one hand out flat and slightly in front of you. Hold the index finger of the other hand two or three inches above it. You’ve got hard lighting if the shadow created by your index finger has sharply demarcated borders. Soft light creates diffused shadows with somewhat blurred (soft) borders.
Overcast days represent a great source of soft light, but most product photography takes place inside to reduce the chances of soiling or interference from the elements like wind or humidity. To produce soft lighting inside, you’ll need a light tent or soft box, such as EZCube. You’ll then place the product inside the box, directing your light up to create a soft, diffused light.
Stay Still, Perfectly Still
Use a tripod to steady the camera. I know, I know — people called you “steady Eddie” in college because of your statue-like stillness when you played the part of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in Thespian club. You still need a tripod. A shaky camera can render even the best lighting ineffective. The camera mustn’t move when light enters the aperture in order to produce the maximum sharpness in your images. Using a tripod is the only way to ensure you keep the camera perfectly still during exposure for perfect product photos.
Adjust the Exposure Setting
Products photographed against a pure white background result in the best image clarity and bring out the best product photo’s detail. Under certain conditions, though, the images end up with a drab or gray looking background instead of the desired bright pure white. No, you don’t need more, or bigger, lights. When your pure white background looks dingy and gray in photos, it simply means you need to adjust the camera settings to allow more light to enter.
Every digital camera should have an exposure compensation setting. Find the location of yours – yes, you may need to consult the owner’s manual — and adjust the setting to slightly overexpose the image. Adjust the setting in tiny increments until you get the bright white background in your photos.
Use Light Combinations Properly
Certain products – like watches and jewelry — may require the addition of strobe or sparkle lights, but most need just two or three standard lights to get professional looking results. When working with a combination of two or more light, remember — never mix light sources of different color temperatures. You can verify that the light sources match in color temperature by consulting the bulb boxes.
Play Around with Placement
If you’ve ever witness a professional photo shoot, you know that photographers frequently move lights to different spots around the stage in an effort to get that coveted shot that captures the true essence and important details of the subject.
In 387 A.D., St. Ambrose famously quipped, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Likewise, when playing pro photographer, do as the pro photographers do. Move lights around, remove one of the light sources, and switch one color light source for another. Experiment. With digital cameras, you can see the results of each experiment immediately, giving you instant feedback. You can learn on the fly, rather than holing up in a dark room to develop your product photos the old fashioned way.
Find a Model Photograph
Check out websites with similar products and find product photos that appeals to you. Check out the camera angle, background color, and lighting of the shot. Try to duplicate the look and detail displayed in this image as you photograph your own products.
Snapping professional looking product photos for your website may still prove quite a challenge at first, but these tips provide a great place to begin your journey into expert amateur photography of products that don’t involve human (or animal) models.
Your turn: Do you photograph your own product photos for your website, or do you use professionally photographed images?