If you’re like me, you read every article about taking product shots that you can possibly get your hands on! Over the course of the last two months, I’ve taken thousands upon thousands of shots in preparation for my online store launch and I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned...and how I’ve graduated from using curse words while shooting to hollering to my husband "you've gotta' see this, I got a good one."
Amazingly enough, I’ve transitioned from COMPLETELY dreading taking photos of my jewelry to enjoying every second of it. If you're in that frustrated state, maybe my experience & tips will give you some hope...here’s what I’d like to pass along:
1. Take several shots of your product, but don’t get so caught up in capturing the ABSOLUTE perfect shot that your products never make it online. To give you a gauge, I’ve been taking roughly 15-20 shots per product and narrow the final selection down to 3-5 of the best shots.
2. Identify the gear you want to use – I started out with a Canon Powershot Digital Elph, which is a simple point and shoot camera that I loved, but it broke so I had to move on. Now I’ve graduated to shooting with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel and I’ve really benefited from the perks of using an SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) camera. I alternate back and forth from using the lens that came with the camera and a separate macro lens that I purchased.
3. Create consistency with your product shots – At first I was just focused on capturing great shots, using all kinds of props, backgrounds, etc. trying to make them look fun and artsy. What I realized is that although the images looked great individually, they lacked cohesion as a group. Now I aim to take a few pictures against a flat background so people can really see the workmanship without distractions, then I take 1-2 more creative shots using a fun background or a prop. If you want to read more on this topic, Julie from A Fine Tooth Comb has a full section of her blog dedicated to taking great product shots with tips that are easy to implement and understand.
4. Find a system that works for you – I read so many articles on taking product shots, but found it very difficult to implement all of everyone else’s strategies. Take the tips that really resonate with you and put those to use, if other tips don’t strike you, move on! My example of this was using a tripod. I read article after article saying you absolutely need to use a tripod to get good product shots. I tried and tried using a tripod to avoid the shaky hand syndrome, but I felt that using a tripod was too cumbersome, limiting my mobility. I completely understand why tripods are great, but they just aren’t right for me. Many times, I felt like throwing my tripod off our balcony.
5. Decide if you prefer shooting in the Night or Day – From all the articles I poured through, I found that many people prefer to shoot during the day. If you are shooting during the day, the two greatest lessons I’ve learned are to (1) diffuse the light to prevent glare (a great way to do so if you’re shooting inside is by covering your windows with a white sheet) and (2) avoid direct sunlight.
My personal preference is to shoot at night because I feel like it is easier for me to control and create consistent looking images this way, without fighting with angles of the sun or praying for bright days. When shooting, I use a photo tent (approximately 20 inches x 20 inches). I’ve also tried using smaller photo tents, which works, but I prefer having a little extra space to allow for props to be used. At night, I use 2-3 photo lights (using daylight bulbs) to surround the photo tent.
6. Don’t use a flash – No matter what time of day you’ve selected to shoot, turn off your flash! It will create nasty glare.
7. Look around – try to find inspiration in the things you are drawn to, such as the magazines you like, the blogs you read, or the handmade shops you are interested in. What about their presentation draws you in? Can you incorporate some of those ideas into your photography? Craftgawker is a great resource if you need some photo inspiration.
8. Find the right props & background supplies – I’ve tried all sorts of props and I’ve finally settled on a few for items that need to be photographed while hanging (a metal jewelry display tree) and a simple branch that I like, as well as some simple river rock and kitchen accessories for other pieces. In terms of backgrounds, I visited the Paper Zone and found fabulous sheets of scrapbook paper for under $1.00 each that can easily be used under or behind products to create a clean and consistent look.
9. Find a great photo editing system – there are a ton of great, free editing tools available, like Picasa, Picnik, FotoFlexer, or Gimp (here’s a more extensive list of free photo editing services by Vandelay Design if you're still looking for the service that fits you). For editing and tagging images in bulk, I use Picasa.
10. Finally & most importantly, don’t get discouraged – my husband and I have both spent hours upon hours and days upon days trying to figure out how to get my product photography just right. Honestly, at times I wanted to throw my camera over the balcony along with the tripod, but I stuck with it and I’m glad I did. If you feel like pulling your hair out, it always helps to walk away for a bit and come back once you’ve had a chance to recharge.
What tips and tricks have you learned for taking product shots? PLEASE share your knowledge & the tools you use to transfer your photos from good to great!
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