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How to take professional product photos with your smartphone

Great product photos are essential for anyone running an online store. Your customers can’t feel or touch your products like they would in a physical store, so imagery is a helpful way to evaluate them.

The best photos get your customers to imagine using your products themselves. Ideally this would make them stop and say, “that’s what I’ve been missing”. The good news is that you don’t need to be a professional photographer, or hire one, to achieve this. We’ll walk you through the steps to take great product photos. You don’t even need to spend money on a new camera – you can just use your smartphone.

Product photography setup

Before you start worrying about cameras and resolutions and all that, you’ll need to set the stage for your photo. This is mainly about the backdrop you place behind your items and the lighting you use to capture them.

Backdrops for product photos

Since you don’t want to pull focus from the product, your backdrop should be neutral and ideally flat. Use a white backdrop to provide a clean, flat surface that your products stand out against.

Consider buying a photo sweep, which is like a piece of white wallpaper, that you can place behind your products. For larger products like furniture, set it against a wall, and if your product is smaller and will fit, put the sweep over a stable surface like a table.

Using a seamless white background reflects light back onto your product, reducing the need to make brightness and contrast adjustments later on. A sweep also helps to remove wrinkles or sharp edges that might appear next to your items.

Product photography lighting

The plainer your background is, the more you can use light to your advantage. Natural light is better for product photography than artificial light. Since natural light depends on the time of day, aim to shoot when it’s the brightest it will be.

That said, try to avoid direct sunlight, since it’s harsh and can lead to dark shadows obscuring your products. You’ll want softer light that comes during the ‘golden hour’ – just before sunset or after sunrise. To do this, place your product on a table or your photo sweep next to a large window.

Best camera for product photography

Like we said earlier, you can get beautiful photos on a reasonable budget. Your camera can even be the one on your smartphone.

When you’re choosing a smartphone camera, the general rule is that a higher megapixel count equals more alluring photos. A lot of cameras will turn out nice pictures, but ideally, you’d use a phone with a 12 megapixel (or more) camera. These include:

  • iPhone 8 or newer

  • Samsung Galaxy S8 or newer

  • Google Pixel 2 or newer

  • Huawei P20 or newer

Once you’ve decided which camera you’ll use, you should get a tripod. It doesn’t have to be a fancy tripod; mini-tripods are a great investment and you can find affordable options without too much effort.

A tripod will stabilise your phone and help you turn out more consistent photos. It’ll produce clear, even shots no matter what angle you shoot from, since the phone will always be fixed in place.

How to take product photos

Before you start snapping photos, make sure you’ve set up your phone’s camera properly. Make sure that:

  • Your phone is fully charged and you have space to back up your images.

  • Your white balance is set: To set your white balance, touch the ‘WB’ button, then touch the white background. Alternatively, leave white balance on automatic.

  • You have the right exposure: Tap the ‘Exposure’ button and then your product, so the camera will expose it.

  • Your product is in focus: Tap your desired focal point and the camera will adjust focus on that zone.

When you’re taking photos with a smartphone, avoid:

  • The zoom feature: Zooming in to get a shot can lower image quality.

  • Using the selfie camera: It’s usually not as good as the rear camera.

  • Flash: This blast of light can overexpose your photos.

Product photography angles

When you’re taking product photos, it’s important to shoot from a variety of angles. While your main photo should be a frontal view of the product, you should let customers see it from every side.

Each image should highlight a feature or benefit of your product. To illustrate this, show people using your products in a way that highlights their features, like a lightweight piece of camping gear being easily held with two fingers.

When taking photos from different angles, keep your phone and tripod in the same position and instead rotate your product to get the angles you need. That way, all your shots will be framed the same way and you won’t have to do as much editing afterwards.

Five good angles are:

  • Eye level: This view shows products as you’d see them staring straight ahead.

  • High angle: This shows products as if you’re looking down at an angle.

  • Bird’s eye: Shows products as if you’re looking straight down from above.

  • Profile: This angle shows a product from the side.

  • Close up: As the name implies, this is where you focus on the details.

Product photo editing tips

Editing is also simple to do from your phone. Basic image editing can be done in standard photo apps on iOS and Android – such as tweaks to brightness, contrast and cropping – but if you want to learn how to edit product photos with a purpose-made app, here are some suggestions:

  • Lightroom: Lightroom is easy to use thanks to the intuitive sliders and wealth of presets

  • Snapseed: This Google-owned app boasts features usually only found in much more powerful (and expensive) editing software

  • VSCO: This isn’t just useful for touching up product photos, but can also be a great social sharing tool once when you’re done

We hope these product photography tips have shown that it’s not hard to create quality photos to help you sell items in your online store. So grab your camera and take your ecommerce store to the next level.

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Max Elias