Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Top Tips Tuesday - Creating professional looking product photographs.

I am so thrilled that Tina from Tina Bolton Photography has written this fantastic guest post for my blog. I had a photo shoot and lesson with Tina last month and it was brilliant so I am sure you will find her blog really helpful. I also have found The Crafters Guide To Taking Great Photos by Heidi Adnum has some great tips and information.

Creating professional looking product photographs.

Do you really need a professional looking product photo?  Won't the skill and beauty of the product speak for itself you wonder? No, not if you want to sell your product to the general public anyway.


9/10 consumers have decided NOT TO BUY something on-line because the photography wasn't good enough. 

Source: Eposure.com  Attitude towards photography survey.

Think about it.  We live in a virtual world, we spend more money on-line now than at any other time.  When we buy something lovely, we want to see what it looks like clearly, before we decide to buy.

These tips are intended to start you thinking a lot more about your product photography.  It doesn't matter what type of camera you have, you can still take great product shots with a little know how, time (!) and creativity.

Tip No. 1
  • Before you even pick up a camera, think about how your product benefits and enhances the life and style of your potential buyer.  
  • How could you show this in a photograph?  Is it pretty handmade bars of soap or the beautiful sun catchers and glass bunting Wendy makes? 
  • I LOVE browsing home catalogues to see how they style a shoot and a favourite is the Cox & Cox one.  Take a look at Etsy & NOTHS as well as other relevant marketing to see how competitors style their shots.

Tip No. 2 
  • What's the one word or phrase you would use to describe your style? 
  • Wendy immediately told me that her style was 'Fresh'.  So in the shoot we worked towards creating that feel in her images by using lots of white and green and lots of window shots.
  • Your style could be 'Cute', 'Chic',  'Fun' or 'Country Cottage'  Take time to write down some words now and see what you come up with.
  • Now you have an idea of what style you want to achieve and thoughts on how it would fit into the life of your buyer, what's next?

Tip No.3
LIGHT.  Let there be light! 
  • It's free and we all have access to it every day (usually!) 
  • Switch off the flash on your camera.  'On camera flash' makes for awful lighting of your products and should be avoided. 
  • Windows let in a gorgeous amount of light but be very careful what kind of daylight you use.  Avoid harsh, strong sunlight.  Cloudy days are perfect for product shots. 
  • On the days when it is very sunny, try and filter the light by using a large piece of plain muslin fabric or a big sheet of plain paper at your window (use sticky tape to hold it in place or ask someone to hold it!).
  • This is usually strong enough to shade your products but thin enough to still let good light in through your window.  Net curtains work up to a point, but be aware of any patterns that could cast shadows.
  • Use ANY PART OF YOUR house with good light - even if it's the loo!  We are not looking for major room sets here, just access to GOOD light.  Of course, if you need a kitchen look or bedroom look then it may be better to use that room, if the light enables you to. 
  • Conservatories and tall french windows are good places to start.  If the weather is good enough you could set up a little spot outside (try and use a shady spot).

Tip No 4.
  • Take your product to the light not the light to the product. 
  • Try and photograph your product as close to the light source as possible. 
  • Distracting backgounds?  If you can't hide or disguise it, then make sure your product is a long way IN FRONT of your background so that it softens and blurs nicely and is less distracting.
  • Use white paper or fabric to bounce light so that your product appears evenly lit.
  • Objects placed off centre can make a more pleasing composition but this isn't a hard and fast rule.

Tip No. 5
  • Tell your product story. 
  • Is it a handmade toy for boys? Hint at this with subtle colours, or 'boyish' props in the background. 
  • We used a gorgeous handmade teddy which was pretty and a touch girly for Wendy's sun catchers with girls names to show they look lovely in a girl's bedroom window. 
  • With a seaside framed print we used driftwood and shells as props. 
  • Remember to demonstrate the lifestyle benefit of buying your product in your image 'story'.

Tip No. 6
  • Here's one I made earlier...
  • Use anything that helps, even if it is old washing up liquid bottles and the inside of a loo roll. 
  • Need a table at just the right height to reach the window?  Pile books up and then cover with a pretty cloth - who's to know?  
  • Love the tea- towel pattern and think it would make a fabulous prop - use it. 
  • Paint a bit of old wooden panelling (like Wendy did!)or use old books and even baskets. 
  • You don't need to spend a fortune on the right equipment.  Adapt what you already own, borrow something, it doesn't matter as long as it works for you and your products. 
  • DIY product photography doesn't have to be expensive - you are already creative you can simply use that imagination to create the right look for you.

Tip no.7
Camera Settings
  • The macro setting (this helps you get really close to your product) the symbol is a tulip/flower. 
  • Portrait setting (not the face detection!) it usually has a head as the symbol.  This will make sure that your main focus is the product and everything else will be nice and blurry.
  • If you own a DSLR then I recommend a 50mm prime lens.  It creates beautiful 'cinematic' style images because of its shallow depth of field.
  • Exposure Compensation.  Over expose your shots by a couple of stops (dots on the line)  You'll need to dig out your camera manual but you are looking for something like this on screen:

- I...I...I...I...I +

You are looking to OVER expose your shots to make them brighter so slide the indicator towards the plus sign.  Play around with this setting and see what works best for you.

Pssst, you are 'allowed' to use your camera on auto!!  So, you make brilliant products  but can only just about switch the camera on.  That's OK, really - no-one will know! 
Just make sure your image is in focus and set up as in the tips I have already mentioned. 
Digital means we can experiment until we get it right.  Put aside some photography time and just do it! 

Have fun and I wish you lots of success with your shots!  Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions please feel free to email me.

Product shoot - Step - by - step

Choose your light source, props and background if relevant.
Gather your products.
Here, I have used a large wooden chopping board, a piece of IRONED spotty fabric and a kitchen window.

Arrange your product in the light, how you want it to look.

Here is the candle close to the chopping board.

Now the candle is placed further in front of the chopping board, so the board and fabric are less distracting.

Take the shot

I decided there was too much shadow,  so,  I placed a notepad in to reflect the light.

The end result

I have done no editing to these images
These are the things I used.
For those who are interested the settings were:
Canon 5D mk11 DSLR - 50mm lens
f1.8,  ISO 100, Shutter speed  1/125 - 1/160
Over exposed by 2/3 of a stop.

Tina Bolton Photography runs regularly workshops on how to make the best use of your camera (no matter what type) called Cameras and Cakes.  These are relaxed, fun and informative mornings where you will meet like-minded people, learn to take better photographs and eat cake! £45 per person, small groups of 6. Includes tea, coffee, cake and a workshop booklet.
For those of you who want actual room sets and styling as well as camera instructions, Tina runs Makers one day workshops with a maximum of 4 (different) makers.  This includes instruction and guidance on the styling, lighting and setting up of shots packed into one whole day, all props, location and afternoon tea are also provided. £175 per person.
Or, if you really can't face taking the photos yourself, Tina offers a special introductory new business* photography package which includes upto 3 hours of professional photography including head shots and product shots fully edited on a CD, plus photography and social media tips. £150
*For businesses less than 12 months old.
All workshops are Hampshire based, however, if you gather a group of people together, Tina can bring the workshop to you!

Tel: 07976 302937
E: tina@tinabolton.co.uk


  1. What a very nice and useful blog!
    As a real beginner in photography I'm very happy with all the tips and also so clearly explained. Too bad I live too far away otherwise I defenitely want to attend a workshop!

  2. Thanks For sharing useful Information..

    You can also Visit Ajay Walia Product Photographer in Delhi

  3. What a interesting blog, I like your writing & Photography skill.

    Ghost Mannequin Photography - Visionair is a Sydney based product photography studio provides high quality Aerial, Food, Commercial Portraiture, Event and Property Photography services.

  4. What a interesting blog, I like your writing & Photography skill.

    Ghost Mannequin Photography - Visionair is a Sydney based product photography studio provides high quality Aerial, Food, Commercial Portraiture, Event and Property Photography services.