If you’re a creative business owner, you’re likely wearing a lot of hats. You find yourself juggling administrative and marketing tasks all while trying to grow your business and make the art you love. It’s a lot to maintain, and if there’s a way to shorten your ever growing lists of to-dos, you’re all ears. I get it.
One thing I hate to see is beautiful art that you spent who knows how long creating, being showcased with less than stellar product photography. Whether you have your own online website or etsy shop you’ll need good product photos to show off what you’ve made!
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I don’t need to tell you the power of visuals, it goes without saying that if people can’t see what you’ve made then it will be harder to make sales. But I understand you have a lot on your plate. You don’t have time to become a photographer, but you also need good photos. It’s a catch-22. Well i’m here to help!
If you’re looking to improve your product photography, you may have quickly discovered that there are a lot of tools at your disposal. From the camera gear, to editing software and even how to upload them to your website, there’s a lot of information to take in. My goal is to help you with the first part of the equation, the camera gear.
There are many articles out there explaining all the finer details about specific items and why you should use one over the other. I want to give you an all around guide so that you can get started right away! So let’s begin with cameras.
When you’re looking to get started right away, nothing is going to be better than the camera that’s in your pocket! You’d be surprised at the quality you can get, the build in cameras on cell phones are being consistently upgraded. They have impressive megapixels and even give you access to specific controls. My phone, allows me to adjust the shutter, aperture and ISO! That’s pretty amazing!
If you are looking for something that’s a little better than your cell phone, I recommend a compact camera. These compact cameras are often referred to as “point and shoot” because they usually come with a lens already attached. This way, you don’t have to sift through a bunch of lenses trying to decide which one is best. I would recommend going with a camera that has a decent megapixel sensor (anything over 20) and a lens with a normal zoom range (anywhere from 10-100mm):
Canon Powershot G7X Mark II
Sensor: 20.1 megapixel | Lens: 24-100mm f/1.8 t-2.8 | Monitor: 3” tilting touch screen | Video: 1080p
Fujifilm FinePix X100F
Sensor: 24.3 megapixel | Lens: 23mm f/2.0 | Monitor: 3” LCD screen| Video: 1080p
If you want to step your photos up even more, then you’ll want to look into DSLR cameras. These are what the professionals use, as they give you more control and generally produce better quality thanks to their sensors. Same as with compact cameras, you want to aim for a DSLR that has a decent megapixel sensor, anything over 20 is a good place to start:
Sensor: 24.2 megapixel | Compatible Lens Mounts: EF and EF-S mounts | Monitor: 3” articulating touch screen | Highest Video Resolution: 1920 x 1080p
Sensor: 20.9 megapixel | Compatible Lens Mounts: DX and FX mounts | Monitor: 3.2” Tilting touch LCD screen | Highest Video Resolution: 4K 3840 x 2160
Fujifilm X-Pro2 Body
Sensor: 24.3 megapixel | Monitor: 3” LCD Screen | Video: 4K
Sensor: 24.2 megapixel | Monitor: 3” tilting touchscreen LCD | Video: 4K
When you are looking for a lens to pair with your DSLR camera, I recommend either a general “all purpose” zoom lens or a prime lens. Zoom lenses give you more versatility with your shot composition, but prime lenses are generally going to give you a sharper image. Some lenses I recommend are
Sigma 18-35mm F/1.8 DC HSM Art (Canon or Nikon Mount)
Mount: EF-S or DX | Aperture range: f/1.8-16 | Best Used For: All purpose
Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM
Mount: EF Mount| Aperture range: f/1.8-22 | Best Used For: Products and Portraits
Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G ED
Mount: FX Mount | Aperture range: f/1.8-16 | Best Used For: Products and Portraits
Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS
Mount: X Mount | Aperture range: f/2.8-22 | Best Used For: All Purpose
Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 R WR
Mount: X Mount | Aperture range: f/2-16 | Best Used For: Products and Portraits
Sony 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS
Mount: E Mount | Aperture range: f/4-22 | Best Used For: All Purpose
Lighting is extremely important when it comes to product photography! Natural light is a great place to start, I recommend shooting in front of a large window that doesn’t get too much direct sunlight. Direct sunlight will produce harsh shadows in most situations so it’s best to avoid it. A window with lots of indirect sunlight is perfect, and if it’s cloudy, even better! Clouds are a natural diffuser for the sun, so if you plan is to use natural light it’s a great idea to shoot on an overcast day.
If using natural light isn’t an option, then you’ll definitely need to add artificial light. Powerful lights with diffusion is the name of the game here! If your products are smaller, like jewelry or shoes then I recommend you get a light box. A light box is excellent for product photography.
You can buy a light box already made, or if you are looking to put your crafting skills to use you can DIY one, here’s a great video on how to do that:
Either way if you are going to be using artificial light you absolutely need a way to diffuse it. Where that’s softboxes on the lights or a light box, you need it!
Flashes are a great portable and affordable external light source. I recommend going with that before advancing any further:
Canon Speedlight 600EX II RT
Nikon SB-700 AF Speedlight
Sony HVL-F60RM Flash
One flash with diffusion will do, but ideally you should aim for two so you can position them on each side of your product. Doing this will give you a 2 Light set up with a Key and fill, the end result will a nice, even light with little to no shadows. Here’s an example of what I mean:
I definitely recommend using a tripod as opposed to handheld shooting. Especially if you need to lower your shutter, having a steady tripod is key to making sure your shots are level and in focus! I personally like the Benro brand and own a few of their tripods.
Benro Slim Tripod
A note on editing…
So after you’ve taken all these great shots you may be wondering how to edit them? I like to use photoshop, but there are a ton of user friendly options out there as well! VSCO is a great phone app for quick photo editing, your phone likely has a pretty good built in photo editor built in on as well. If you are looking for something to use on your computer the “photos” built in app on Macs and PCs are available and ready to use!
Product Photography Made Easy
I hope this post helps you as you try to navigate through product photography. You spend a lot of time on your products and whether you hand make them or design the packaging, it’s important that you have nice photos to showcase all of your hard work! What do you use to take your product photos? Let me know in the comments below! And as always, If you have any questions feel free to drop me a line, I’m here to help!
Thanks for reading!