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DIY Product Photography Guide for Beginners

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Product Photography for Beginners

Do it yourself (DIY) Guide for Professional Product Photography

Product Images play a vital role in an eCommerce store. According to a survey, around 87 percent of the respondents believed that the presence of product images influences their purchase decision.

Product images provide complete product information to consumers that will eventually support stores’ sales. Product Information is the data that describes a product in a digital world. It mainly consists of product images. 

Videos, technical information, SKUs, pricing, and product description. Product information portrays the complete brand story of the product that influences customer purchase decisions and enhances the consumer experience. 

Enhanced consumer experience supports sales by allowing consumers to learn more about the product. 

As described above, complete product information is significant for explaining an excellent brand story. Product images are a critical component of product information; therefore, the image you take must appeal to consumers. 

This guide will help you understand how professionals conduct product photoshoots by explaining their practices and techniques. With the help of this guide, you can conduct a photo shoot yourself, and you won’t be stuck because of inexperience.

How to do Professional Product Photography at home

Professionals require tools and techniques to carry out better image/product photography. These are the equipment details for your product photography, so find a suitable spot and take a picture.

Product Photography Setup

Following are the studio requirements to capture the best and most appealing product photo; studio requirements are:

1. Tripod

A flexible tripod is recommended to help you take pictures from different angles. Fixing a tripod at a certain angle will help you capture photos at different instances from the same angle. 

Using a tripod will help you quickly adjust the angles and lens settings of the camera without distorting the image. 

You need to know how to hold a camera. Tripod will also allow you to capture photos from higher and lower angles that are difficult to shoot when your hands are holding the camera. Product Photo shot is easy when you have adjusted it at a center column and quickly move from 0 to 180 degrees. 

Tripod will help you capture pictures from angles that are impossible to shoot, such as heights and low angles. 

It also allows different angles of product images to capture so that consumers can have a meaningful understanding of the product. To capture aesthetically pleasing product images tripod stand is recommended.

Tripod stands for product photography
Tripod for Mobile (Right) vs Professional Tripod for Photography (Left)

The use of a tripod will help improve the quality of product images, and it reduces blurriness. The following picture is taken using the camera in hand:

Product Image Captured via hand
A blurred image due to the absence of a Tripod

2. Diffused Light

Diffused lights prevent the cast shadows caused by direct light. Using the light through different filters and reflecting it onto the product will make the details of the product more visible. 

Light can be modified or diffused using scrims and help create natural shadows and slight the light nuances. Scrims can be used when you diffuse light with fabric, different fabrics, and unique properties.

Enhancement of light will result in more appealing product features.

Diffused light setup
Double Photography screen for Diffused light

3. Color Variety

Color variety is an essential factor in selling products online. Product colors matter to consumers; this is one point of selling or not selling the product. 

Including an informative variety of colors is essential so consumers can better understand the product’s features. 

How to set up your camera for Professional Product Photos

Capturing product images is becoming one of the most developing fields of photography. Instead of focusing on the aesthetics of images, consumers now focus more on the details of the product. 

High-quality images and photography will result in detailed product descriptions. In this regard, the product photography style highly faithful to reality is called a packshot. Capturing high-quality images should be the prime focus.

For capturing high-quality images, the main camera settings of the camera revolve around these three components:

  • Shutter Speed
  • Aperture of Product Image
  • ISO settings of the Camera
  • White Balance.

These three parameters independently define the characteristics of product images.

The picture below gives an overview of how the change in the “Triangle of Aperture” and shutter speed will hinder the necessary product details:

balanced image aperture setting for perfect product photorgraphy
The middle image has the most balanced light and has the perfect product image

In this, you can see that by changing the shutter speed and triangle of the image, the details of the products are impacted. This guide will help you to adjust your camera settings so you won’t be stuck because of inexperience. 

1. Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is operated along with the aperture to regulate the light flow to the camera sensor. This indicates a curtain-like mechanism in the camera called a shutter. 

The shutter speed of the camera changes from 1/.8000 seconds to 30 seconds. It is an important component of the camera settings for adjusting the brightness.

A higher shutter speed will result in shorter exposure, increasing the risk of making a darker image. The following figure will give you an idea of how changing the shutter speed in the same ISO and triangle setting will affect the product image:

changing shutter speed for better product photography
The more the shutter speed, the darker the image gets, less light

Increasing the shutter speed will reduce the exposure time to light resulting in a darker image.  In the end, the basic principle is increasing the shutter speed will decrease the brightness. According to experts, the ideal shutter speed for a camera on a tripod should be 1/13 and adjusted according to the light meter.

Another key role of the shutter speed is capturing everything in a frame. A slow shutter speed will capture everything happening in the frame. For example, if the object moves in the frame, the captured image will appear blurred. The following example illustrates this:

moving object photography and shutter speed effect
Slow shutter speed can result in blur images, especially for moving objects

This image illustrates that an increase in shutter speed will result in a frozen image of a moving object. Meanwhile, a low shutter speed will produce a blurry image because it will capture everything in the camera. 

2. Aperture for the product image

The aperture controls the amount of light that falls on the image sensor. It is measured using an f-stop parameter ranging between f/1.8 (big gap in the lens) to f/29 (small gap in the lens).

Aperture sizes for product photography
Bigger the Aperture, the brighter the images are

Along with the shutter speed, the brightness of the product image mainly depends upon the camera’s aperture. A lower f-stop will increase the brightness, while a greater f-stop will increase the darkness. 

The aperture f-stop must range between f/8 to f/16 for the best quality product image photography. An example of a change of Aperture on product images is given below:

Aperture is also helpful in achieving the depth of the product image. It tells how deep a product photo can remain in focus. 

Different Aperture sizes and product photography results
Smaller Aperture gives you more focused images but these images are darker overall

3. ISO settings of the Camera

After determining the amount or intensity of light allowed onto the camera’s sensor, you’ll need to adjust its sensitivity or how strongly it reacts to light. This is what the ISO setting is in charge of. It ranges from 64 to tens of thousands of units.

The basic rule of thumb is to keep the ISO as low as possible according to the light condition, as an increase or higher ISO will result in noise in the photography. 

Outdoor photography usually takes higher ISO, but in the case of a product, it must be adjusted according to light conditions. The rule of thumb says that ISO for product photography must be around 100. In cases when ISO is hard to achieve, set the ISO to a minimum of 400 and ISO to 800 for extreme cases. 

The picture at left is shot with ISO 100 and, on the other hand, ISO 2400.

best ISO settings for ecommerce Product photography
For Best results choose the ISO 100 for best results

Adjusting ISO is critical as adjusting it according to the light requirement; the best quality images can be captured. 

So these are the basic camera settings that anyone building an eCommerce store needs to know. These requirements and guidelines will give you a direction so that you won’t be stuck because of your in-experience and product photography background.

4. White Balance

White Balance controls the color temperature of an image. It controls whether a photo will be yellowish in warm or blue in cold temperatures. Most photographers in product photography use “auto white-balance,” but an improvement in the color rendering are achieved using “custom white balance.”

Adjustment of white balance is essential when saving files directly into JPEG format, while for saving in any other format, white balance can be enhanced in post-production. Adjusting the white balance using auto mode does not necessarily guarantee a perfect balance of the colors, but using custom white balance allows color quality to be repeatable. 

White Balance Adjustment for product photography
White Balance settings for Ecommerce Product Images

The image above illustrates the difference between “custom white balance” and “auto-white balance.” In the above image, it can be visualized how white balance enhanced the quality and features of the image to be more appealing. 

What is the best way to Format your file?

There are two formats in which images can be stored Raw or JPEG. Many believe that in the case of other production-processing raw format is suitable. But in the case of shooting and uploading next, the most feasible option available is JPEG. 

Following is the comparison of the pros-cons of JPEG with Raw file format:

PropertyRawJPEG
SizeLarge (up to 20 MB)Small (Upto 3 MB)
TimeLong-time in post-processing before uploadShort-time in preprocessing
DifficultyKnowledge of raw processing requiredAlready Compressed
Range of OptionsHighLimited
Loading SpeedLowHigh
OptimizationDifficultEasy

Components of a Product Image

According to the GS1 package, there are six components of an image, such as

  • Front Face
  • Back-side
  • Right-side
  • Left-side
  • Top
  • Bottom.

How to set up the Product

After adjusting the setup and camera, it is time to bring your product into the frame for an appealing photoshoot. Placing a product on the right is critical as it may take a lot of time finding out the right angle.

Always start the shoot by placing the product in front of the backdrop, ensuring it is centered on a flat surface. For items like jewelry and accessories, support is required to show the product details better. Images for great quality images are given below:

Product position for photography

After adjusting the product on the table, adjust the frameset to get the best quality image highlighting the product details. 

Tips for perfect product placement for photography

Setting up product photography composition means glorifying the subject so that it appeals to the consumer. Product composition comprises specific rules of thumb supported by research given below:

Use of Front and Central Placement

Product photography ignores the most common rules regarding front and center placement. According to the reports, product placement should be in the foreground or the middle so that product should be the center of attention for consumers. 

Creating depth and using the images’ negative spaces (emphasizing the space around the product) will result in an enhanced product. Product Depth can be created using color contrast and reflections; it can also help avoid a two-dimensional image of the product.

Front focus of the product

Use of Camera Angles that highlights product features

Camera angles improve the image quality and give a realistic product picture. The 45-degree downgrade of the camera makes your product appear as it can be seen using the human eye.

45 degree downgrade of the camera

As you can see, the 45-downgrade image makes the product realistic to a viewer’s eye. However, the right camera angle, adds depth to the image. Because of the straight or front angles, some product details may be hindered. 

Experimentation with the angles will give you a better idea; you can explore several possibilities in which your product looks appealing.  

Using Negative Spaces

Negative spaces can efficiently draw the consumer’s attention to product details. Photographers usually leave negative spaces to be treated in the post-production process. 

In post-production processes, these spaces can play a significant role in advertisements because designers often require them. 

Use of Negative spaces

In the image above, negative spaces can be used to add text for advertisement purposes, such as adding the brand logo and tagline can make it an optimized image for product sale. 

According to reports and research, certain practices are better to follow, such as

  • Avoiding forced composition is critical.
  • Seeking professional help via research conducted by experts.

Applying Differential Focus

Differential focus means making one part of the product sharp and another out of focus. Photographers apply differential focus:

  • Making the foreground sharp
  • Making the background out of focus.
Out of focused background

By applying the differential focus, you can tell a real story instead of just a product image. Differential techniques can also be applied by adding particular objects that draw attention to the product. The following images are examples of other differential techniques:

Features of the Front Face of the Product

The front face of the product is determined according to the GS1 package and product measurement standards. The default product face is determined before identifying the product’s width, height, and depth. 

The default front face is the surface with the most significant area the owner used to promote the product to consumers. According to this report, the criteria for determining the front face of the product change from product to product. 

Features of product front face

The front face of the product must include some of the following details:

  • Brand
  • Product name and description
  • Consumer declaration.

According to GS1 standards, the following compares good and bad product images:

Front Face of the Product

In the image at the right mentioned above, we can see that the default front face of the product includes details of the front face mentioned earlier, indicating that it is an excellent Front face image for display. While others are a terrible product image because criteria mentioned above. 

Technical Aspects of Professional Ecommerce Photos:

Product Image Data Storage for photographers.

In the earlier section, we discussed taking aesthetic and appealing images for online stores to boost sales. As an online retail owner, you will be dealing with thousands of product images, so you must store image data in a format that can be easily accessed. 

We are defining the naming system of digital product data according to the standards and guidelines of GS1 Product image Specification Standards. The table below discusses the important features of the file system of GS1:

Position1-141516171819
DataGTIN_Image TypeFacingOrientationStage
Values(n14)A – Primary Image0 –  Not ApplicableC – Center1 – In Packaging
1- FrontL – Left0 – Out of Packaging
2 – LeftR – RightA – Case
3 – TopN – No plunge angleB – Inner Pack
7 – BackC – Raw/uncooked edible
8 -RightD – Prepared
9 – BottomM – Open Case
P – Pallet / Display

According to this, the product image file name must consist of 19 letters that are mandatory to include, while the following attributes are optional that can also be included: 

Position2021+
DataUnderscoreLanguageImage End dateSerializationRendered ImageCPV
Values_(a2) or (a2-A2)(MMYY)s(n2)RCPV(an..20)

After 20+ positions, all attributes are optional, and an underscore must precede them. 

An example of a Product naming system can be:

Front Face of the product

<GTIN>_A1_C0.jpg.

GTIN stands for Global Trade Item Number and is an internationally unique product identifier. 

Another example can be 

<GTIN>_A1R0.jpg

This way, all product images can be differentiated depending on their attributes and angles. 

Product Technical Details

Products that are produced in a pack form should provide up to six views, and the views are:

  • Straight on the front view
  • Straight on the left view
  • Straight on-top view
  • Straight on right view
  • Straight on the bottom view

The front shot of the product can be determined using the same guidelines of the product default front face described earlier in this guide that it must have.

  • Brand
  • Product Description
  • Consumer Declaration

Barcode Image

The Barcode image is used for any commercial symbol applied to a product. If the product is traded in industries with different machine-readable applications (e.g., retail and regulated healthcare), multiple instances may exist; in such cases, more than one image may be required and should be differentiated with the serialization tag in GTIN-based naming.

File naming system and image specification by GS1 product image specifications and standards for storing barcode images are as follows:

  • Storage must be LZW Compressed TIFF; JPG; PDF; and SVG
  • The file size should be 600 x 600 pixels.
  • The clipping path is optional.

File Naming

The file name of the barcode image should consist of 17 mandatory positions according to the standards of GS1 as

Position1-141516-17
DataGTINUnderscoreImage Type Packing
Valuesn(14)_L3 – barcode

All of the attributes in this table are mandatory to include. These naming systems will give a standard way of organizing the necessary product image data. 

An example of Barcode image storage is below:

Barcode Image naming of product

<GTIN>_L3.tif.

Product Image Storage for Ecommerce Stores

In the above section, we have explained how a photographer should save the product image. 

Photographers have to deal with thousands of images of hundreds of products. A file naming system is essential to provide them with easy accessibility to images. For photographers, the above system is made.

But as eCommerce managers, you will be dealing with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). There are many common mistakes that SEO experts make, and one of them is not optimizing the correct data. 

Search engines can’t read images, but they rank images based on their descriptions. Image quality plays a significant role in conversion rate, but image optimization increases the reach of your product to the target audience.

The following tips to optimize your product images:

  1. Use direct image names such as for Tesla Model X of black color captured from the front angle should be incorporated and renamed “Telsa_Modelx_Black_Front.jpeg.”
  1. Optimizing the alt attribute of the image tag is also essential. Using the right keywords in the alt attribute will help improve the ranking of your product image.
  1. Using the correct dimensions and product angles is also essential. Ecommerce managers usually upload multiple images of a product to give a better understanding of the product.
  1. Resizing the product image is also necessary because the large images will slow down your website’s loading rate. 
  1. Optimizing thumbnails are also vital because they are presented at a crucial time during the shopping experience. Slow loading of thumbnails will increase the abandonment rate.

 Which images to choose, Photographic or Rendered?

The product purchase decision of consumers is influenced by the visual representation of the product and how they depict the product from the website. The quality of the product image directly impacts the conversion rate. 

Studies show the enhanced quality of images can increase the conversion rate by 250 percent. Online retailers must focus on providing stunning product visualization to Prospective customers. There are two ways of taking product images: traditional product photography and the other is rendered products. 

Traditional Photography

By traditional means, products are easy to shoot using different angles and views in a traditional photographic way in a studio. Using photo editors and other tools gives an option of editing the picture before uploading it to the online store.   

Rendered Photography

Instead of capturing product photos via cameras, images can be created using computerized tools and software.

The use of rendered images is expected to increase the conversion rate by 20 to 30%. It is possible to convert 2d images into 3d product images by adding the right texture and light to make them more realistic using three-dimensional graphic software. 

The process of converting 2d images into 3d is called 3d rendering. 

Feasibility

Prototyping Cost

Online retailers first need to understand the requirements and nature of the product or business before using either option. Rendered images can save the prototyping costs for the products coming into the market. 

Product editing and lighting setting

Product photography can comprise different things, such as lightning, background setting, and camera quality. The use of perfect lighting and background will enhance the quality of the product.

But on the other hand, rendered photography prevents all of the dazzlement of using these tools and setting for the shoot. The product can be manufactured using computerized software.

Moreover, customization of products can be carried out using rendered images in case of different variants of a single product. Product Photography does not provide this facility. In the case of photography, images of different variants have to be manufactured and then photographed for display. But in the case of rendered images, only a few changes in the design will do the work.

Cost-effective

The most crucial factor to consider before selecting either option is to estimate the cost of each option. Professional product photography is not cost-effective as rendered image creation. 

Cost Analysis for product photography setup

It is not so cheap to set up professional photography, and along with lights and cameras, this whole process can be expensive and time-consuming. While on the other hand, rendered image editing will take less of your time, reduce the setup cost, and save the photoshoot time. 

Therefore, for medium size of an enterprise, rendered images will be an effective option for product photography. But again, this all depends on your online business’s nature and value.

Moreover, suppose you are interested in Traditional photography. In that case, the requirements for the setup are given below:

  • DSLR camera equipped with CCD sensor
  • Packaging of the product should be framed by 80%
  • Appropriate use of lens is recommended to avoid wise-angle distortion
  • The aperture of the lens must be set up to a considerable depth so that the whole product must be sharp
  • Product lighting must be uniform when a product image is taken
  • Exposure and contrast must be balanced overall

Written by Muhammad Hassan

I write data-driven research & technical content to provide business owners solutions regarding e-commerce.

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