This is part 2 of our posts on taking product photos for your e-commerce website. If you want to read Part 1, you can find it HERE.
Many times e-commerce owners are not only staring out on a budget, but also might have hundreds of products that make it difficult to hire a professional photographer for a given budget. For one website I started, I needed to take photographs of about 150 items and I could not justify the expense of taking them into a professional photographer given the selling price and my budget for the site at the time.
This is where home photography comes into play. Given the quality of smartphone cameras now a days, it is getting easier to photograph products without needing an expensive DSLR camera. Mind you, the DSLR will still give you a better photograph, but since we want to talk about doing it on a budget, if all you have is your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4, this will work just fine for you.
Stabilizing your Product for Clear E-commerce Pictures
Whether you are taking pictures close up or from a distance, stability is key to a picture that is not blurry. This is where a tripod or stand come into play. Next to lighting, stability can make a huge difference in the quality of the photo.
If you are using a smartphone, this great stand is a perfect starter. Besides great for smartphones of all kinds for less than $30.
If you already have a tripod or need to purchase a full length one, then the adapter to hold your phone on the tripod can be seen here:
If you need a better quality one then you have this option which is actually designed to be used with a camcorder so you can do those fluid pans. The above adaptors will work with them as well.
Lighting your Products for E-Commerce Photography
Any photographer will tell you that lighting is key to quality photography. In addition, lighting changes whether we are talking about your indoor house lights, or outdoor sun light, and can effect the way your products look. A general rule of thumb, don’t combine indoor and outdoor light. When we talk about light, we talk about color temperature. Wikipedia does a good job of explaining color temperature here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_temperature
Most light kits try and hit as close as possible to daylight which is 6500 Kelvin. A majority of the light kits are usually at 5500 Kelvin unless you buy more expensive light bulbs.
If you are in a warm climate, or taking photos during the summer, you can sometimes get away without using external lights if you use outside lights. I have done this with the light coming in from the window and you would be surprised at the quality. Or, use a lanai, balcony or patio.
Most of us will need light from external sources. When I first started doing my product photos, I created a light box from cardboard, white muslin, daylight bulbs and work light cans from the hardware store like these:
The thing is, lighting kits have come down in price so much it is just silly to try and build these yourself. I priced these out for a cost conscious client of mine and it ended up being cheaper to buy the light kits.
Table Top and Small Product Lighting
When you are taking pictures of small items that can be positioned on top of a table, a photo studio tent is your answer. These kits include a lightbox, backgrounds, and cooler temperature lights for taking photos. The one I suggest is a little bit more expensive but has better quality lights and the light stands means it can be used for larger photography as well. You can see it here:
This manufacture has a better reputation compared to other cheaper units, more powerful lights, better stands and multiple backdrops to photograph against.
Full scale Photography
Whether you are taking pictures of larger items or clothing items, a photo studio tent just wont work well for you.
First you are going to need some kind of backdrop. While you can photograph against a white wall (mat please so no reflections) a backdrop will help considerably. There are kits available for it or even just pinning up a white muslin fabric can make a ton of difference.
Here is just the fabric without any support stands:
Chromakey White Muslin Screen 9×15 (feet)
If you need a stand here is a kit to go with it.
Larger Lighting Kits
The biggest issue you will have with any lighting kit is its ability to project enough light. You can theoretically purchase the cheaper kits and upgrade the lights but sometimes the lights are ridiculously priced.
The Steve Kaiser kits tend to be recommended more than the Cowboy Lighting kits so I have pulled out a couple in multiple price points to see what you might need:
If you are in a darker room then you will need more watts to light it up. If you are in a room with lots of daylight, you will need less power to enhance what is already there. Either way, the light it puts out will be better then having nothing.
A reflector is useful if you are taking pictures which might have a lot of shadows. It can be as simple as a white piece of cardboard or a professional reflector like this one.
Ok, I am not going to pretend to know the nuances of various DSLR camera’s. Most of us will be using our smartphones to take photographs and if you have quality lighting and a good stand, you should be able to take more than adequate product photos.
[Note: this article is very old] Most people I know either have an iPhone 4S, 5, 5S, iPad or Samsung Galaxy phones. Both take quality photos and are at the minimum, 720P cameras. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some help that can be used to help capture the right image.
I have found external “macro” lenses for both the IOS products and the Samsung products. I am an iPhone 5s user so I can’t not speak for the Samsung product but wanted to share it with you.
The Macro lens in these kits are what allows you to get very close to your products when you take a photograph.
Unless you are using a model, it is not a bad idea to get some props to display your products. If you are selling clothes, this means mannequins.
The simplest are these half form mannequins. I am not a huge fan of these just because the clothes don’t drape properly since the back half is missing.
You can even use jewelry stands
Your best bet sometimes is just using a human to take the pictures. This could be a family member or reach out to a local model who is looking to build their book. The key is to get a full model release (Available HERE) to use those photos before you start photography. You might even be able to pay them in kind for their work.
Many times if you are just taking pictures of feat, hands or other extremities, you don’t need to hire a professional model. While I am hoping I don’t have to tell you think I do mention it because I have seen it before:
Hands and Feet: Please have whoever is going to modeling, groom themselves. This means trimmed and clean nails. If they are female, a simple nail polish that doesn’t draw attention like a muted white or pink. No sparkles or glittery nails. If you are taking pictures around the chest and neck, some powder to take the glare off is always helpful.
Where to find models? Craigslist, ModelMayhem or Flickr are your best bets.
Want all these products in one place. I have created a mini-store that has all these products in one place.