What is Product Photography? Everything You Need to Know

November 21, 2023 -

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Product photography is simply the art of capturing photos of products in a way that the intended customer can’t help but click on the image and order the product.

In today’s world, the bulk of consumer goods business is conducted virtually and the online shopping market size in 2024 is estimated to cross USD 6 billion.

Simply by looking at the product photograph, customers make purchase decisions in a split second. To grab the attention of your customers and push them through the sales funnel in the shortest time possible, nothing can beat high-quality product photography.

In this article, we will cover what is product photography, how to get into product photography, the equipment you need, how to set up the space, product photography tips, and more.

What is product photography?

What is product photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

Product photography is a type of photography that focuses on a product to showcase its form, features, and label clearly so that the consumer has a holistic view of it and makes a purchase decision.

As the quality of product photography will have a direct impact on the sales of your product, it’s foolish to take product photography lightly. That’s why it’s important to understand the basics of product photography and the tools you need to get it right.

Why is product photography important?

Product photography is important for several reasons. Let’s find out!

1. A picture is worth a thousand words

A text description of a product isn’t enough when customers are at the point of making a purchase decision. As mentioned earlier, the trend of online shopping is increasing and a shopper needs to be 100% sure before they add the product to the cart and proceed to checkout.

2. Virtual touch and feel

Shoppers cannot touch and feel the product from an online store. Product photography that’s clear and shows the shape, components, material, and texture of the product is critical for the success of online stores.

3. Reflects brand identity

High-quality images of a product speak volumes about the brand and the professionalism of the business owner. A shoddy and grainy product image will not entice customers to click through the image and check it out even if the product is good. As a result, the brand suffers.

4. Sets the brand apart

eBay, Shopify, Etsy, Amazon – these are the hubs of e-commerce where hundreds of similar products are vying for the attention of the potential customer and their share of wallet. Great product photography can set a brand apart from others in the same category.

5. Impacts customer’s perception

Product photography that’s been done with the right setup and equipment can change the customer’s perception of a brand. Furthermore, when done right, product photography is a great way of storytelling, creating an emotional bond between the brand and the customer.

Types of product photography

There are various types of product photography and the type you choose depends on the product size, material, its uses, the situations in which it’s used, complementary products, and other factors.

I. White background

This is the most common type of product photography and is best suited to showcase your product without any background noise or distractions. It makes the product the focal point of the image and draws the attention of the viewer to it. Shadows are removed in this type of photography to put full focus on the product.

Leather wallet white background - Tech Cloud Ltd

This is the most common type of product photography and is best suited to showcase your product without any background noise or distractions. It makes the product the focal point of the image and draws the attention of the viewer to it. Shadows are removed in this type of photography to put full focus on the product.

II. Studio photography

Perfume spray studio photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

In a studio setup, the lighting and angle remain fixed to give consistent results. The background can be white or otherwise, depending on the product color and the desired look.

The objective is to present the product in a plain, straightforward way that highlights its features. Studio product shots may also feature product packaging.

For example, a perfume bottle image along with its floral packaging hints about how the perfume smells.

You may also read: Setting Up Your Fashion Photography Studio Like a Pro

III. Group photography

Group product photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

In group photography, products with similar designs and colors are grouped together to show their variations. This type of product photography is also used when complementary products are sold together or when a bundle of products is on promotion.

For example, a pack of bed sheets, duvet, and pillow covers at a discount.

IV. Contextual photography

Contextual Photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

In contextual photography, the product is shown in a situation where it is used. This type of photography is often used to show the product in actual settings so that the shopper can get the feel of how the product would look in real life.

For example, a coffee maker in a kitchen or a writing desk in a study.

V. Lifestyle photography

Lifestyle Photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

Product lifestyle photography is where a product is used in a real-life situation using a model or multiple models and a setting where the product is used.

For example, a packet of crisps can be the highlight of lifestyle photography where it’s shown to be shared among a group of friends watching TV.

VI. Comparative or scale photography

Scale Photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

Comparative or scale photography is when a product is shown next to a related object to give an idea of its size.

For example, a mobile phone next to a credit card to show its size. Scale shots help the customer decide if the product is the right size for them.

VII. Detailed product photography

Detailed Product Photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

In detailed product photography, products that are small in size but have detailed work in them are shown in a format so that the shopper can see the intricate details of the product—for example, cuff links or ear studs.

VIII. Flat lay product photography

Flat Lay Product Photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

In flat lay product photography, products are placed on a surface and photographed from above. There’s a lot of room for creativity in this type of product photography as you can position the product in various ways and shoot from above to get a different angle.

For example, apparel, shoes, jewelry, and accessories can be seen in fun ways in flat lay product photography. You can add props to the background to create interesting compositions in flat lay product photography.

For example, adding ferns and petals to a plant pot that you want to photograph can give the impression of a garden.

How to get into product photography

If you’re wondering how to get into product photography, you should know that the field is extremely diverse and offers a lot of opportunities.

Even without full professional gear, you can still take high-quality images of products and then use a photo retouching service to get the most out of your images.

Product photography equipment

Let’s take a look at the must-have equipment that turns ordinary products into eye-catching outlooks.

1. Camera

Professional camera for product photography - Tech Cloud Ltd

If you have a DSLR camera, you can apply the settings to capture the products you want. You don’t need to worry about shutter speed, aperture, and ISO if you’re an amateur photographer.

Use the Auto setting to get the settings right automatically. Or, use the Portrait, Macro, and other pre-settings until you get it right.

You can also use a smartphone for product photography. These days, smartphones have good cameras and can take high-quality images.

Besides, there are plenty of smartphone camera apps that come with Pro settings that allow you to adjust the ISO, white balance, and focus.

Choose the Portrait mode if you want to take close-up shots of products with a blurred background. It keeps the focus on the product while providing context with the background.

2. Lenses

Professional camera lens - Tech Cloud Ltd

A short lens of 50mm is ideal for product photography to take close-up shots of the product. A macro lens allows you to take pictures of small products with greater clarity and sharpness.

For a wide-angle shot, a 20mm lens is perfect. A zoom lens helps to take detailed shots. Have a few lenses on hand so that you can switch up, experiment, and take different shots.

3. Lighting

Photography studio lighting setup - Tech Cloud Ltd

To understand what product photography is, it pays to experiment with both natural and artificial lighting. Natural light is soft and casts a wider and diffused light.

Shooting in the sunlight gives the best results if it’s a lifestyle or contextual product photography where models are used and the product is something that’s used outdoors. Take hiking boots for example.

However, natural lighting is something the photographer cannot control, and when the lighting changes, the shadows shift, resulting in inconsistent images and a lot of time editing them.

Artificial lighting casts direct light on the object and is used to highlight details on a product. For example, if you want to photograph a watch, you can have the light coming from behind to cast a shadow and highlight the dial.

Pro Tip: Don’t mix artificial and natural lighting as it will soften the image when you want the product to look sharp and vice versa.

4. Foam bounce cards

Foam bounce card - Tech Cloud Ltd

Closely related to lighting are foam bounce cards. As light falls on one side of the product, there are shadows on the other side. A white foam bounce card can be used to reflect light and soften the shadows.

Alternatively, a black foam bounce card can be used to deepen the shadows.

Cones, tents, or a softbox for diffused light are used to soften the shadows and make the product look clean and sharp.

5. Tripod

Photography Camera Tripod - Tech Cloud Ltd

A tripod is essential to keep the camera steady and get a consistent frame in every product shot. Choose a traditional or a flexible tripod. Traditional tripods have the space to put your smartphone so that your camera will be steady.

The advantage of using a flexible tripod is that the flexible legs can be bent and placed on various surfaces, resulting in shots from different angles.

However, you may need to use an adapter that will attach to your smartphone to keep the camera steady.

6. Sweep or poster board

Sweep or poster board - Tech Cloud Ltd

For a white background, you will need a sweep or poster board for a consistent white background in all your product shots. When paper sweeps get dirty, you can roll out another sheet.

Depending on the product, you can choose a sweep with a pattern on it to give more depth to the shot.

For example, a sweep with a light ash marble pattern will be perfect for a leather wallet.

7. Table and tape

You need a steady and sturdy surface to place your products so that they remain still. A table is the perfect surface for this. A folding table is easy to carry and store.

To have the sweep in place, tape it to the table or wall.

8. Cleaning kit

Have a cleaning kit handy to remove any dust, dirt, or fingerprints from the product. A soft cloth can wipe away the product’s surface.

9. Props

The right props can make the difference between a boring and a captivating product shot. Keep artificial leaves and ferns when shooting, for example, organic beauty products.

A few props can give the opportunity to play around with the composition and add interest to the final image.

Preparing for a product photoshoot

Now that you have the right equipment, you are ready to start shooting. Here are the steps to prepare for a product shoot:

Step 1: Set up the table

Set up your table 90°or 45° left or right to a window where there is natural light. The light will be softer if your table is closer to the window.

Try different angles of the table setup to see what works best for your product.

Step 2: Position the sweep

Tape up one end of the sweep against a wall so that it creates a vertical backdrop to the product. Then extend the sweep roll so that it covers the table and lays flat on it.

Put the product in the middle part of the sweep, keeping space around where you can place a bounce card.

Step 3: Set up the camera

Put the camera on the tripod and check if you have the framing and angle right. On the camera settings, make sure to turn off the flash, set the white balance to auto, and shoot the largest image size by selecting the largest JPEG file or RAW file.

Shoot at the highest resolution so that you can edit the image later on as per the image specs for social media or other platforms.

If you’re using artificial lights, turn on the lights and check through the camera preview how the framing looks.

Step 4: Position the product

Clean the product to remove traces of dust and dirt and place it on the center of the sweep. Check if the label is clearly visible and centrally aligned through the camera preview.

If you’re using props, arrange them in different ways around the product and check through the camera preview.

Step 5: Place the bounce card

Place the bounce card on the opposite side of the light source to reflect the light back and make the shadows lighter.

Step 6: Shoot and check

Shoot the product from various angles and take multiple product images. For example, if you’re doing a product-only photo shoot, you can switch up the angles of the table to the window to get photos in different lighting.

Secondly, turn the product to the left or right and shoot from different angles. Try the flat-lay mode and shoot the product from above.

The bottom line is to experiment with different angles, lighting, and composition with and without props and models to get a few different images for each product.

This will not only give variety but will also exercise your creativity and help you put together a portfolio you’d be proud of.

Product photography post-production process

Your job of product photography doesn’t end with the shooting. The next step is to edit the images to create the look you want.

There are various software packages available to help you achieve the look you want from the RAW files of product photos. Photoshop is the most popular and widely used one but there are other options such as Lightroom.

If this sounds too much work for you, take advantage of a professional e-commerce image editing service.

When shooting from your smartphone, you can directly open the images on editing software on your phone like Snapseed.

Different platforms require different image sizes. Make sure you check the requirements before you do the final editing.

Product photography best practices and tips

Here are a bunch of product photography tips to hone your skills:

  • Invest in a DSLR for a wide range of settings.
  • Always shoot a product from multiple angles.
  • Always shoot a variety of photographs that can be used in different ways.
  • Have a variety of lenses at hand.
  • Use a tripod for consistency.
  • Clean the product surface before the shoot.
  • Always keep the background clean and simple.
  • Don’t have sunlight directly on the object as it would appear harsh.
  • Play with the camera settings to get the right lighting and focus.
  • Edit and retouch the images to make them look professional.

Bonus Tips: Effective product photography tips

Conclusion

How to get into product photography is a question that many people ask. The answer is simple. You just need a good camera, a tripod, a white background, a bounce card, and some editing software.

As you progress into your journey of product photography, it’s important to invest in a DSLR camera, lights, props, different colors of sweep and backgrounds, a cleaning kit, and various lenses.

With the right tools, daily practice, a dash of creativity, and the right product photo retouching partner, you can easily become a professional product photographer.

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Nazmul Nikhil is the SEO Team Lead at Tech Cloud Ltd., with over half a decade of experience in the SEO industry. Passionate about continuous improvement, he strives to excel each day. Besides his expertise in SEO, Nazmul is also well-versed in content marketing, software testing, and enjoys exploring WordPress in his leisure time. When he’s not optimizing websites, he loves learning new things, traveling, and indulging in a good night’s sleep.

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