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Education, photography

The Beginner’s Guide to Product Photography

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Hey, guys!

About a month ago, Allison, Megan, Hannah, Clara and I all got together (across email, unfortunately – not in person) and talked about doing an entrepreneur collab. Allison had noticed that she knew/knew of a lot of people who wanted to start an Etsy shop but just didn’t know how to start. So we put our heads together, talked to the other girls, and decided to all post about it!

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Since I’m a professional photographer, we figured I should probably do product photography. I’ve had some experience in this (I did quite a bit of photography for My Minerals Makeup, actually!) and have enjoyed doing product photography over the years that I’ve been blogging. So today, I’m giving y’all the beginner’s guide to product photography!

The Big Myth

So you want to take good, professional photos for your shop? What’s holding you back? If you’re like many, it’s probably that you don’t have a heavy, expensive camera. Of COURSE you can’t take quality photos if you’re just using a phone. That’s the reason why they don’t look professional!

STOP. Yeah, that’s a myth. You see this picture?

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I took that with my little iPhone 5, and NO post-processing. And the iPhones they’re making now (and other phone brands, of course) have WAY better cameras than the 5! You can totally take good, quality pictures with a phone. So while I DO highly suggest getting a beginner dSLR or even a higher quality point and shoot camera, if you don’t have one, that SHOULDN’T hold you back from creating good photos.

So what’s the answer to good photos?

When it comes to product photography, there are two key elements to making your photos look great: background and lighting. Both of which you can get for very little money. In fact – you might just have the ingredients you need already.

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Clean, white backgrounds

The best background is simply a clean white background. This is the best because it’s very plain, so it won’t draw attention to itself. Yes, it’s boring, but it’s exactly what you need to make your product stand out! So what can you use?

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I found a couple of poster boards at Hobby Lobby, and the bigger the better. Especially if your product is larger, you’ll want plenty of white space to work with. Poster boards don’t cost much and are absolutely perfect! You can also use a roll of white wrapping paper! Simply position it like this and you have a super seamless background for your photos.Although, you’ll probably want to put the roll on something higher, like a chair.

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Another great background is marble. This works great for makeup photography because it looks like you took the picture off your bathroom countertop. A marble background is super easy to do as well, because it just requires some marble contact paper. I got some off of Amazon, tacked it on one side of a poster board, and there you have it!

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This last one is my favorite! You know how in some product photography, the background almost reflects the product? It’s because it’s shiny. And poster boards aren’t. So I racked my brain and figured out what I needed! I bought a white acrylic board and that was the PERFECT effect I needed!

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Finding good lighting

If you can afford it, I 100% recommend getting a softbox lighting kit. These are the best for providing soft, even lighting at all times – so if you have a busy schedule, and can only photograph your products at strange times, like, at night, they’ll be perfect.

But, if you can’t afford these, don’t worry! Most of the product photography I do for my blog uses just plain natural light, and it works just fine. The best time to take photos of products is in the morning, near a window (with all the blinds up). If it’s a cloudy day, you can even take pictures outside – which actually is a better option than inside. If it’s sunny, don’t take pictures IN the sun, but set up near a sunbeam. However, cloudy really is best – not heavy, thick clouds, but just slightly overcast. Or when the sun is out and it’s lighting up the room but the sunrays haven’t come in the window yet.

This is where I set up some photography, though when my bed is actually right next to the window, I like that lighting better.

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It just takes some configuring to find the best light. Another thing to figure is the side of the house – like, you’ll want a window on the sunny side of the house rather than the cloudy side of the house.

Also, when you’re setting up, consider what angle the light is coming from. Never have it come from behind in product photography. You want to see all the details on the front of the product, so it’s best for the light to come from the front or angled from the side. Depending on how soft your light is, you’re going to have a shadow, so light from the front is best because you won’t notice the shadow as much.

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this picture I took with my iphone and just brightened it in post-processing.

Props: yes or no?

I actually don’t really like using props. I feel like the product is best showcased alone, and I think that props can deter from it. If you do feel that your product would be enhanced by a prop, use a simple one and play around with the placement. Also, I wouldn’t use a photo with props for your main photo.

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What if my product is too big?

Unfortunately, you can only get poster boards so large. What if you’re selling something like handmade dresses? Or what if it’s something  that has to be displayed on the wall?

The two key elements to good product photography still stand. Good lighting and a clean, bright background.  If you have those in place, your pictures will seriously be elevated. The photo above looks okay, but that’s really just because the lens I was using blurs things out. I would totally find a different background because it’s way too busy.

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A bit on post-processing

Editing is a whole other ball game, but I’m going to touch on it a little bit. The best things you can do in editing are to bring out the whites, if you have a white background, and to bring up the exposure. Most people tend to under-expose their pictures in camera, and a brighter image looks SO much better. If you find your product looking a bit dull, up the contrast a slight bit – but not too much.

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Conclusion

Remember, even though you’re not supposed to, everyone judges a book by its cover. Good pictures are absolutely fundamental in selling your product, and if you spend some time making your pictures the best they can be with what you have, it will raise the worth of your product. Good photography is good marketing.

So, any questions? I know I’ve just touched on the basics here, so if you have questions, I’ll be happy to answer them!

Also, go check out all the other bloggers’ posts! They also have great coupons running so you can try out their experinces. :)

Allison: How to Bring More Traffic to Your Online Business

Hannah: Starting Out With Etsy + Free Etsy Checklist

Megan: How to Package Your Products

Clara: Designing Your Small Business + Shipping Tips & Tricks

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19 Comments

  • Reply Hannah

    Ooh those are great tips! I’m trying to figure out Lightroom, it’s taking a while *cues determined look*

    February 22, 2019 at 12:17 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Hannah, I’d be up for giving you lessons, if you’d like! You can email me, if you want. :) Glad you enjoyed the post!

      February 22, 2019 at 4:04 pm
  • Reply Jo A

    *sobs* Aria, this was beautiful! *scrolls through the pictures one more time* Man, I gotta find me some posterboard- I’ve wanted to do product photography, but it never really worked out. -_- But this has been seriously helpful! Thanks! 😀

    February 22, 2019 at 12:36 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Awww, I am so glad it was helpful! You should be able to find posterboard at Walmart no problem.

      February 22, 2019 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply Sarah

    Thanks so much for the great post!! I really enjoyed it!

    February 22, 2019 at 1:29 pm
    • Reply Aria

      I’m so glad! Thanks for reading!

      February 22, 2019 at 4:07 pm
  • Reply isabel

    Great tips Aria! Definitely going to put these into use. Do you use Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop, or both? Are they worth the price? Which do you recommend?

    February 22, 2019 at 1:44 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Ooh, yay! Yes, I use them both. Why don’t you send me an email, and I can answer your questions in more detail for ya? 😉

      February 22, 2019 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply Megan

    Yay! Great post Aria, you explained everything really well! 😀

    February 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm
    • Reply Aria

      MEGAN COMMENTED AGAIN! *throws confetti* Anyway. Glad you liked it!

      February 22, 2019 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply Allison

    Wow, this was SUCH a good post, Aria! Excellent tips, and beautiful photos. <3 Thanks so much for joining the collab!

    February 22, 2019 at 2:04 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Aww, I am SO GLAD you like it! Of course! I had great fun.

      February 22, 2019 at 4:09 pm
  • Reply Clara

    Wow, this is great, Aria! Your product photography is so pretty. :) I love using poster boards for backdrops – they’re so inexpensive and useful!

    -Clara <3

    February 22, 2019 at 3:58 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Thanks SO MUCH, Clara! Yes, I KNOOW!

      February 22, 2019 at 4:09 pm
  • Reply Laura Marie

    Ohh! These are all wonderful suggestions! 😀 I will definitely be using the tips! :)

    -Laura <3 😉

    February 22, 2019 at 5:47 pm
    • Reply Aria

      Thanks, Laura! Glad you found it helpful. :)

      February 24, 2019 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Audrey Kate

    Ooh, thanks much for this! I’m always wondering how to make my pictures more “appealing to the eye.” This is quite helpful, and I will be coming back to this post again! Also, how much does lightroom cost? I’m interested in checking it out(:
    Have a great day!
    ~Audrey Kate | theJunebugblog

    February 25, 2019 at 4:02 pm
    • Reply Aria

      To get lightroom and photoshop together (which I highly recommend) costs about $10 a month, the same as just lightroom. They’re really great, although they do take a bit of a learning curve. However, you can find tons of tutorials online. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Audrey Kate!

      February 25, 2019 at 4:14 pm
  • Reply Annie

    As a photographer myself, I absolutely loved learning more about product photography in this post–especially since I’d like to start an Etsy shop sometime! Thanks for also showing how to edit them in Adobe. Adobe Lightroom is my best friend right now, haha. 😉

    March 19, 2019 at 5:48 pm
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