As an online business, it’s crucial that your product photographs are outstanding, to encourage browsers to buy.
Perceived value of your products and the trustworthiness of your business will often lie in the quality of your web design, which includes high-quality, attractive product photography.
Therefore, if your photos aren’t up-to-scratch, your conversions will suffer.
This goes for both products on your website, and if you’re displaying them on other marketplaces like Amazon, where you’ll be up against competitors.
If you’re a business just starting out, getting those perfect product shots can be a very daunting process, especially with the perception that good photography comes at a (high) price. However, this is no longer the case, with lots of businesses and bloggers shooting their own professional images and videos at little cost.
One of the best ways to shoot beautiful product photography at low cost is by using The Window Light Technique. Here, we at Khaos Control outline the equipment you’ll need to create those high-quality shots.
Equipment you’ll need
To take stunning photos, you’ll need the right equipment. It can be quite overwhelming and easy to throw money away at things that are irrelevant.
Shun the high-cost equipment for cheaper products that can do the same job. These are the products you’ll need to take beautiful pictures for your business:
Spending more doesn’t equate to better quality, and you should only need to spend at most a couple of hundred quid on a camera.
A Canon PowerShot will set you back less than £300, and is compact and offers 30x optical zoom – perfect for capturing even the tiniest product details.
If you’re on a really tight budget, you can even use your smartphone: this useful guide will help you take beautiful product photos on your phone.
The camera will be the most important piece of equipment needed to take product photography. However, it’s the following extra additions that will really make your pictures stand out, as you take into account the lighting, exposure, styling, and post-processing decisions.
A tripod will help to keep your camera perfectly still when taking pictures, so you won’t risk blurry images which may arise if you hold the camera by hand.
If your camera has a slow shutter, then your pictures are at an even higher risk of being blurry if you don’t have a tripod, and that’s a sure-fire way to make your photos look amateur.
Tripods can be picked up very cheaply – a quick search on Amazon found many tripods available for less than £15.
A white background is ideal to make your product pop, as there will be no other distractions in the picture.
If you don’t have a white wall you can use, then just buy some white card that you can place your products onto. Just remember to look for pure-white card, as opposed to off-white or cream. Alternatively, you may decide to use a sweep board.
White bounce cards made from foam board
When you’re lighting with window light, there will be a bright side where the light is striking the product, and a shadow side. The shadow side will be too dark for product photography, so to reflect the light into the shadows, you’ll need to use something white. Foam board is a great option, because it’s white and rigid.
If you’re shooting a white product on a white background, then you may decide to use a black foam board instead, to make the shadows deeper. By adding black foam board to the sides, just outside of the photo, a dark edge will surround the white product.
Again, this is something you can buy off Amazon; a pack of multiple foam boards won’t cost any more than £20.
Ideally, you’ll want a table that’s between 24 – 27 inches, and one that can be folded away when it isn’t in use. However, the size of the table really depends on how big your products are.
To secure your foam board to the table, you may want to use tape to do so. This should only cost you a couple of pounds.
The right room
Try to photograph your products in a room that has a big window, to get more light in. To create a soft light with dark shadows, set your product close to the window. If you want sharper but lighter shadows, set up further away from the window.
How to photograph your product
Set up your table
Once you’ve got your gear, set up your shooting area near the window, taking the above factors into account depending on the types of shadows you want.
Don’t forget to turn off the other lights in the room, so they don’t affect the natural light coming in from the window.
You’ll want to play around with the lighting before you decide which one to use; you could either rotate the set so the window is at 45 degrees, or have the window straight onto the set.
Just make sure you don’t have direct sunlight hitting your set, as it’s harsh and doesn’t look good on people or products.
Set your sweep up
There are several ways to do this, but ultimately, you want to have your sweep board starting from flat and ending up vertical. To create that shape, you may need to roll it beforehand, and rest it on the wall. Alternatively, a wooden block could be just as good a prop.
Place your product in the centre, on the flat part of the sweep, leaving enough room to sneak your white reflector card in later.
Set your camera up
Set your white balance (WB) to auto.
Turn off your flash.
Set your image settings to the largest quality.
If your phone or camera has a raw setting, then use that. If not, just set it to the largest JPG setting you have. There are two settings you’ll want to look out for: size and quality.
When it comes to exposure settings, you have three choices:
Manual: This is the best setting, as nothing will move or change as you take product pictures.
Aperture priority, Av: Change the f/stop to the highest number, and this will automatically adjust the shutter to be what the camera thinks it should be.
Auto-exposure: If you have an exposure compensation dial, just add +1 to get the right exposure. If you have an iPhone, tap the area you want to expose.
When zooming into your product, use the optical zoom rather than the digital zoom, otherwise the quality of your pictures will be lowered.
Set up your product
Sounds simple, but getting it in just the right position could take a while. You’ll want to put it right in the middle of your surface, and you’ll usually find you’ll need to make lots of tiny movements to get your product positioning just right.
Set up your reflector card
Where you position this is down to trial and taste. Getting it right is crucial, as the light will bounce of this card and fill in the shadows.
Start shooting and evaluate
Take some pictures, and evaluate them properly to see if you’re happy. The more pictures you take, the easier you’ll be able to decide if a picture is good enough or not.
Rather than looking on your camera, upload your pictures onto your laptop so you can better see the images. Adobe Lightroom can be a good way to organise your images, and you can also edit them in there too.
Retouch your photos
Once you’re happy with your image, you’ll need to retouch it. A correctly exposed product will have a light grey background, so you’ll need to retouch it to make the background white again. This can be tricky to begin with, but you’ll find it much quicker once you’ve got the hang of Adobe Lightroom.
Upload your pictures to your website
Once your images have been retouched and you’re happy with them, it’s time to upload them onto your website. Make sure they’re resized properly, so that your image isn’t skewed or stretched.