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5 Product Photography Tips for Making Designers Happy

Reva Graves


Making sure your consumer is receiving an accurate representation of your product is a crucial part of advertising—both online and off. Some of the most successful e-commerce retailers post high-quality images that show their products in the best light, including how they can be used. In a non-brick-and-mortar setting, getting an overall feel for the product has a bigger hurdle.

This is where product photography will help do the extra legwork to land the sale. Try out these five tips.

Use the right Camera

First things first—do you have the right camera to do the job? Product photography will typically require at the very least a good, high-quality DSLR digital camera. (Avoid using your smartphone camera as much as humanly possible, budget-allowing.) Select lenses that won't distort your product, such as wide angles or fish-eye lenses. You should also be careful to choose a camera that allows the right aperture for your end product. (For instance, lifestyle photography requires a wide aperture to narrow the depth of field and leave some products out of focus, while catalog or close-up photography requires a small aperture to widen the depth of field and keep all angles crisp and in focus.)

And don't ignore your white balance—misstepping with your white balance can alter the overall color of the photo and misrepresent your product to the end consumer. A good rule of thumb is to set your white balance to the same kelvin temperature as your lights.

Master Your Lighting

Setting your product up in the best light is important. For an in-studio photo shoot, try to assemble at least two or more light sources that feature identical bulbs in cooler colors. And depending on your preferences and how your brand features its products, make sure it is evenly lit from all angles. The most important thing with in-studio lighting is to avoid blow-outs, or lighting that is too harsh on the subject and washes out or overly whitens your product.

When it comes to outdoor or lifestyle photography, use as much natural light as possible and supplement artifical lighting or reflective surfaces as needed to cast enough light on your product so it can be easily discernible to the viewer. 

Plan your Shots and Staging

Spend some additional time, before you start photographing, to think through the end uses of the image. Will the photo need to be taken in use and in its element? What is the best way for my product to be showcased for online sales? What are other ways I can stage my product or put it into context in order to help market it? Will I need the composition or framing of the photograph be a certain way for different uses (i.e., website sliders, Facebook timeline cover photos, etc.)?

Step one is to draft a shot list—what are the shots you know you are going to need for the full range of your marketing purposes? Will you need close-ups of certain features or angles of the product? Make a list of your end deliverables, and determine what shots will be necessary to fulfill them. Consider this in advance to save time and money in billable hours from your photographer.

As for staging, make sure you build out multiple angles of each of your products—including close-ups. Showing your customers every angle and detail of your product will accurately depict it and show multi-faceted features. Try out a couple setups with a full cycle of your products—this will help with consistency across photography throughout your whole line. Offer your graphic designer various angles from which to choose to avoid reshoots, and try highlighting your product in context, with a human subject interacting with it.

Finally, try out shooting on a white, black or solid-color background—this optimizes your photography for magazine, catalog or online usages. In addition, white backgrounds can reflect light back onto your product and improve the quality of your image. 

Focus, Focus, Focus

A strong, appealing product photograph with great composition, focus and lighting will keep your customers coming back. A blurry, low-quality, busy image will scare customers away. Ensure that your focal point is always in focus, and invest in a tripod to avoid camera shake. Sharpness and clarity are the most appealing to the eye, so this is critically important. And avoid busy backgrounds—the image should be simple and clean so that your subject stands out and speaks for itself. Lastly, maintaining focus can come down to avoiding over-cropping—especially in lifestyle photography. Allow enough space around the product for the end designer to work with—the exception being, of course, intentional close-ups or detail shots.

Edit the Oopsies

To set up your designer with the most flexibility in the final deliverables, it's important that you shoot in the raw during your photo shoot. This ensures that your designer can better make adjustments to the final photos. A designer can adjust white balance, contrast and exposure as needed when shot in the raw, as formatting won't have compressed elements of the shot. Final touches courtesy of your design team may also include removing dust, scratches and blemishes from your shot, especially in close-ups where these flaws are typically even easier to spot. (This is also an opportunity to remove any suspension techniques, such as fishing line to elevate the product during your shoot.)

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