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How to take good product photos for your small business

How to take good product photos for your small business

Key takeaways

  • Product photography is one of the most important factors when people are shopping for e-commerce products 
  • Pick the right equipment, location, and lighting setup for maximum success 
  • You can’t always fix every photo shoot mistake with editing, so avoid common pitfalls during the shoot

When you want to sell products online, a picture is worth a thousand words. Knowing how to take good product photos means you have a better chance at making a sale. In fact, one survey shows that three in four customers evaluate visual content before making a buying decision. 

Before you break out your smartphone camera and start clicking away, learn some easy tips for product photography—and how to avoid common mistakes

Why is product photography important

Close-up shot in a digital camera

High-quality images play a pivotal role for conversions—also known as sales—in any small business, particularly when you’re selling a product. If the image looks low-quality or people can’t tell what the item is, they probably won’t buy it. The overwhelming majority of online buyers say that photo quality is a key factor in their purchasing decisions.

When you take and edit great photos of your product, it also impacts a buyer’s perception of the quality of your product. Studies from eBay Research Labs, for example, found that conversion rates for items doubled when good pictures were included. Whether you have a physical brick-and-mortar location, an online store, or a blend of both, you need eye-catching, close-up product photos to make a great impression.

What are the biggest product photo mistakes? 

Knowing how to take good product photos might seem as simple as grabbing your iPhone or Android and snapping a few pictures of your items on the kitchen counter. But getting great product photos requires several elements: quality lighting, a complementary background, and post-shoot editing. 

Here are some product photography “do’s”:

  • Take the image in a clean, uncluttered space
  • Snap different angles to showcase the product from multiple perspectives 
  • Avoid capturing reflections in the photo, which distract the eye from the product 
  • Prepare the products by cleaning them first
  • Buy proper lighting and avoid overhead fluorescent lights and/or a window as the only light source
  • Check the white imbalance on your camera to avoid coloring issues

Following these tips will help you take great photos that support your e-commerce business

How to take good product photos in 5 steps 

How to take good product photos: Woman taking photos of denim shirt

Showing off your items with high-quality product shots comes down to a few key steps. Even if you’re a complete beginner, the right equipment and setting go a long way toward creating eye-catching images. Follow these five product photography tips to take excellent product photos

1. Get the right equipment 

No amount of editing can account for blurry pictures, so start off on the right foot with the right equipment. If you want to take product photos yourself, you’ll need: 

  • A good camera, such as a DSLR; however, a high-quality smartphone camera can work if you’re not ready to make that large of an investment (DSLRs cost around $720 on average)
  • A large, flat surface where you can place products
  • Clear tape to hold items down if necessary
  • A tripod to prevent camera shake 
  • A lightbox to illuminate the smaller items 
  • Clamps to hold lighting, fabric, or other materials during the shoot 
  • White foam boards (also known as bounce cards) to reflect more light and prevent unwanted shadows
  • White background

For the most dynamic product photos, a white background is recommended so that the shape and colors of your products pop. You can use a blank wall or simply buy a white poster board at your local office store or drugstore. Don’t worry about investing in a photographer’s white backdrop as you won’t likely need it unless you sell products that are very large in size. 

As you become more comfortable with shooting your items, you can play around with different background colors.

2. Pick an uncluttered location 

If you’re going to be shooting a product that involves people—like clothing, for example—you’re more likely to use a bigger space than a corner of the room or a tabletop. As such, select a clean and clutter-free location. 

When it comes to picking the right location for your product photos, you have two options: build an at-home studio or rent or borrow a studio location. Some e-commerce store owners don’t want the hassle of buying or storing equipment in their home, so they might consider renting an Airbnb or working with a local photographer who already has a studio. A studio is more appropriate if you have a lot of items to photograph or if your materials are unlikely to change. This way, you can get a lot of mileage out of the investment. 

Whichever option you choose, you’ll need to set up the area for an extended period of time, like an eight-hour day. If you build a DIY studio at home and don’t have the permanent space for it, make sure you can keep it free and clear of other items or people during your photo shoot. Be sure to take test shots at different angles first to make sure you like the results. 

3. Check your lighting 

When taking product images, a room with a window is a must. Even if you plan to supplement with other lighting options, start by leveraging any natural light flow from a window. If it’s still too dark, add ring lights and other artificial light tools. However, avoid placing the items in direct sunlight, which is usually too bright for taking product photos and may result in harsh shadows. 

No matter where you choose to shoot, always plan extra time for a lighting test and adjustments. Pay particular attention to white imbalance. If your test shots look too blue or too yellow, that’s a white balance problem. 

Natural light creates warm yellow and red tones, while LED lighting creates cooler blue hues; the right mix of light sources can help you address this problem. Lastly, adjust the white balance setting on your camera of choice—or if you’re worried about the camera settings, use the auto function. If your test shots look too blue or too yellow, that’s a white balance problem. 

To illuminate smaller items such as jewelry, consider using a lightbox, which uses translucent sides to help balance multiple light sources. If you need to take photos of larger products, you might need to rent a professional studio for the day. If you have the perfect lineup of lighting solutions, turn off everything else in the room to prevent interference. 

4. Check camera settings for your photo shoot 

Depending on your photography experience, choose one of the following for your main camera settings

  • Auto exposure: This is the easiest option for those new to product photography because it selects the right exposure for you based on your conditions 
  • Aperture priority (AP): Adjust your “f stop” to the highest number your camera will allow since AP allows you to select how much light comes in through the lens 
  • Manual: You’ll need to make tweaks to your shutter speed if you get dark photos, so this mode is for more advanced photographers

During your photo shoot, check your images regularly to see if you should adjust anything on the table or with the lighting. Fixing these mistakes early will make your life easier in post-production. 

Pro tip: Create a checklist of all the product images you want and then mark them off as you go to keep track. 

5. Retouch and resize to share online

Most people don’t get the perfect picture in the moment. Cropping, sharpening, and making sure the image has good saturation are a few basics of the editing process. 

Adobe Photoshop is the industry standard for photo editing, but it’s not your only option. Beginners who might be confused or intimidated by all the bells and whistles of Photoshop‘s editing software can consider more user-friendly editing software options like Affinity Photo or Apple Photos. 

Also, keep in mind that while you want high-quality images, high-resolution photos will load very slowly on a website. This creates a poor customer experience and can create a high bounce rate—meaning visitors leave your site. After you’ve edited an image, compress it into a JPEG for easy online sharing. To do this, try free sites like TinyJPG. There are plenty of online tutorials to help you resize your images and get a better understanding of the basics.

Once you’ve optimized your photos, upload them to your e-commerce website product pages, social media profiles, and Yelp Business Page to generate interest and improve your chances of a sale. 


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Plan your product photo shoot today 

Even if you’re still prototyping your e-commerce product, it pays to think ahead about how to take good product photos on photo shoot day. You don’t need to spend a fortune or hire a professional photographer with a high-end photo studio to take great product photos. But investing in the basic elements of product photographyequipment, location, lighting, and editingwill set you up for success. 

Once you’ve put your products on display, discover more ways to market your business and attract your ideal customers.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.