For an e-commerce site, using attractive, high-quality photography ought to be among the top priorities. This is the first experience customers will have of your products, and it can often make the difference between a conversion and an abandoned visit. Remember people will often do a lot of research before buying, so if your products are being compared against those of competitors then they need to look great.
The good news is that there are lots of tricks and tips out there that can help non-professionals turn out great images on a DIY budget. All it takes is preparation, a bit of ingenuity and an eye for a good shot. Here’s some advice to take on board:
The cost of getting the necessary equipment together puts a lot of people off shooting their own product pictures, but it shouldn’t. It’s possible to get a set-up together that will cover most requirements very inexpensively.
Remember that a decent camera will do a lot of the work for you, but it’s only a part of the whole, and there are many other equally important aspects of getting a good shot. It’s possible to find second-hand or low-priced cameras easily that will be perfectly serviceable to the needs of most product photographers. Some pros even suggest the camera on a smartphone can serve well in times of need. Whatever you use, if you’re not used to photography it’s definitely worth spending a few hours playing with the settings, getting to know how the camera works and taking some practise shots. Study the manual, check Youtube or the manufacturer’s website for explanatory videos, or even take a short course. Learning about techniques that apply to exposure and white balance will help you produce higher-quality photographs. You’ll probably also need a tripod, and these retail for as little as £15-£20 so a worthwhile investment.
Good lighting is fundamental - the more light sources you have the better for the sake of flexibility. This is another area where cost can be a factor, as lights are expensive, but again there are ways to do it cheaply. Shooting outside, although it gives you less control of your environment, gives abundant free light, while it’s easy to construct a light box from white foam available in many photography stores. A large piece of pure white card, folded to form a sweep and costing next to nothing, is the best backdrop for most products.
This covers the absolute basics, but there are numerous useful kits that will help you improve your images. However, on a limited budget, you can probably get by without them. Now on to the main event...
Assuming you’re shooting indoors, you really want a flat wall next to some windows if possible to get good light. Shoot the product from a range of angles, and move your light sources and white sweep around to find what works best, but then once you’ve found a good set-up, aim for the same shot for each product to get consistency. Always take the time to experiment and evaluate every shot, as only by doing this will your photography improve.
If you’re looking to fill the background then avoid any clashing patterns or bold colours, or extraneous details, anything that will draw attention away from the product. You can crop using the viewfinder instead of in the editing suite, but remember to keep the appearance of the product is paramount.
For clothing shots, it’s usually best to use models - before splashing out on that expense, though, consider if you can use staff members, or friends and family instead. Many shoppers respond well to “real models”.
This is probably the most time-consuming part of the whole process. Editing and organising your shots with software such as Adobe Lightbox will save you paying an agency, but you will need to spend several hours learning how to use the various tools before you can produce good work.
Retouching is necessary and tricky for those unfamiliar with the process. It can be done using Photoshop, or through a company, if you have the budget for it.