Own an e-commerce store? Then you already might know the essence of stunning photographs; it can work wonders for your business. Many e-store owners think that customers will forgive them for unprofessional photographs because product quality is good. But to the uninitiated shopper, photographs are the first cue into your offering. And first impressions are the most important.
Therefore, for people who can’t afford a professional photographer and are on a tight budget, we offer some tips below to snap impactful product photos and leave a lasting first impression on your visitors.
STEP1: Build a Light Box & Arrange Lighting
Have you ever wondered why a photo studio looks the way it does. White backdrop, closed room, and flash lights placed in front of the subject at angles? Well, it all has to do with the concept of lighting. Without getting too technical about these details, let’s just say, the better you manage light in the photography environment, the better the clicks will be. Of course, this only applies to products that are small and can actually fit into the cardboard box. But several e-store owners have creatively used outdoors to get a different scene for their products-large or small. Since a light-box is a very basic tool in photography, it will definitely come in handy, so read on!
Let’s break it down, before I share this awesome video on building your own light-box.
White background– This is essential so that the background doesn’t interfere with the product. It is also so that there is no absorption of light in the environment. Notice the backdrop smoothly flows to the base of the product and does not abruptly end like a screen. This gives the 3-D effect once the photograph comes out and the background is white top, bottom and behind.
Two Light sources– We use 2 instead of 1 in order to cancel out shadows from either of the light source. They are placed diagonally opposite from the product they are illuminating for overall lighting over the product. Also make sure you use fluroscent lighting, except if you have a special need for halogen or yellow lighting for some themed photography.
A good camera– A general off-the-shelf DSLR is good enough for this. High MP cameras are good but not essential. What is important is their ability to capture small variations in colour and be useful when you want shallow depth of field. A lens with min F-number 2.8 gives you this effect. You may want to consider the zoom ability of the lens if you really want to take close ups of your products. A 14mm-24mm lens will serve this purpose.
A cardboard box – It just serves the same purpose as a studio room. The box ensures all the light stays within the confined area, and the product placed at its centre receives all the attention!
So now you are ready to watch this quick tutorial on how to make your own Lightbox. Good Luck!
STEP2: Decide other props to use in the frame
A product photo can be greatly enhanced by use of props. You don’t want to just show your product on a plain white background, but you want to weave in a story and mood into each photo. This is best done with props like flowers, books, keys, lanterns, ribbons, balloons, or just a complete-the-look kind of arrangement. When you are in the fashion business, your photography plays a very important role in enhancing the value of your products. You are selling a lifestyle and an experience, not only a product.
Here’s some amazing props-based photography.
Look at Pinterest for more inspiration related to your niche area! (remember, props should definitely go with your brand image!)
STEP3: Click Away
So now you have the lights in place and props arranged. It’s time to click away. Even pro photographers need several clicks before they can get a satisfactory shot. A good quality photo is one which would look sharp even on pinch-zooming on the screen, taken with steady hands (non-blurred), illuminated well, and taken at the right angle. They should all tie in well to say something about the mood or ethos. Most of these photos will come handy for your website visual communication. On Homepage banners, coupons, email newsletters; the more photos the merrier.
Some innovative ideas on making pictures look different-
– Colour : Ensure all the elements in your final frame are colour co-ordinated. If your product is orange, you would benefit from placing props which a blue, mint, black or white colour. Know your colour combinations well, and you can be assured of a pleasing output.
–Angle – Don’t always go for that front view click. Try to climb atop a stool and take the top view photo of your product. Lay prostrate on the ground and take it to the level of the product if it is placed on grass outdoors. Instead of standing perpendicular in front of product, go a little left or right and show how it will look in those positions. (This is also necessary to show the 360 view of your product!) Experiment till you can a unique look for that product. But of course, keep the standard angles as mandatory photos in your roll.
–Distance: Try varying the close-up shots for a little far-off shots to get a different perception of the product.
–Environment: If your product is big, or long like a saree, then you might want to use the outdoors for a more engaging scene. The garden, the doors, the stairs, the cobbled footpath, shrubs, patio table – literally anywhere where your product would be shown in the best light (pun intended!). Ideally, you want to be experimenting with places and backdrops for each of your new collection of products that goes well with the theme and mood as well as stays true to your brand image.
And there’s a lot more to this. We’d be playing unfair to ourselves if we gave away all the secrets, wouldn’t we?! Just consult with us for your next photoshoot and be assured of some outstanding views of your products!
STEP 4: Post Production [crop background, adjust contrast, add graphics]
So you thought it ended there? Wish it would! The real fun starts when you now take all those 100s of clicks to your computer and have to decide the best ones and how to enhance them even more. You can use online tools like Pixlr.com or Picmonkey to add that much needed spin to normal product photos. But once you’re in DIY mode, you have to swallow this- There will be necessary post-production steps like:
Cropping – There may be a standard size that your shopping cart software wants you to use. Portrait photos are best suited for all kinds of products. The next best option are square photos. Avoid landscape photos if you can. Then crop out the excessive background and bring it to the required size.
Background Removal– Maybe you’ve taken the photo with a white backdrop, but somehow it’s dull and not uniformly lit. In that case, you may want to remove that background and replace it with a lively white colour as the background. This ensures your product stands out and the photo looks clean. 9 out of 10 times, this is an essential step.
Adjustments– In this step you would be adjusting factors like Brightness, Contrast, Exposure, Highlights and Shadows to even out the composition of the overall photograph. Depending on the tool you’re using to do this, the access to this may differ, but the process is the same- you just bump it up or slide it in the negative direction to reduce it. You want to ensure best lighting when viewed on all monitor screens with different brightness levels set.
Filters- This is where photography gets interesting! Filters are not only for your Instagram photos! You can very well add Filters to product photos to make them stick to your brand image. If you are a Retro Vintage brand, you can have a couple of photos in Sepia, Summer or Retro Fade tones. A classic brand may use B&W filters. A modern minimalist brand will have photos flush in white and maybe other neutral colour with high contrast. The kind of filters you can use is a different study and analysis altogether. So, it’s better left to the experts!
That’s it. In 4 steps, you just created a portfolio of your own product photos! Congratulations 🙂 It’s time to upload them and hit the Publish button. Remember, great photos not only bring visitors to the door, they also help convert. They make you stand out among thousands of other brands competing for attention, and communicate all that you could do in a physical store. So get started with your product photography today!
Note: All credits to photos can be found here.