7 Simple Tips for Taking Perfect Product Photos With Your Phone
Here’s a fun fact for you: Taking your own product photos doesn’t have to be expensive & complicated.
And here’s another one (you’re so welcome): If you are just starting out & you are a small business with a small budget, you don’t need to invest in a new camera or expensive lighting.
You just need to take some time out of whatever you’re doing & dedicate a few hours to reading the tips, implementing the changes and then practising & practising again.
All you need to get started is your phone, some natural light & some excited energy.
I’ll walk you through the process of setting up your shot, getting it just right & prepping it for posting to the socials.
So, in the words of Status Quo, “here we are & here we go”
Tip #1: Find the Light
I have a few places in my house where I know I can always go to set up shots because of the great morning light. And I know that the balcony is awesome in the afternoon because it gives really lovely open shade without being too dark. Unless its evening time, there’s always some area of my house I can find to shoot in at any time of day. All you need to do to find yours is to start noticing & make a mental note of which room is well lit at which time of day.
Then just remember to set aside time to shoot in that place at that time, remembering to shoot during the day when you actually have access to the natural light (don’t laugh; plenty of students send me homework and ask me why it looks awful. When I ask them what time they shot and how, they’ll say something like “11pm with the flash on my phone” Doh!!)
Tip #2: Set the scene
Now that you know where to shoot, it’s important that you do some prep work. Go and look at the area you have chosen and take stock - are the walls clean? are there cables sticking out? maybe clothes on the floor? dusty skirting boards? When you think you have your scene ready & sorted, take a test shot and see if there was anything that you missed the first time around which may be distracting.
Tip #3: Gather your props
Before you go buying anything, look around the house & gather up any props that you could use for your shoot. I like to take an empty box or basket & walk around looking for objects (eg, stuffed llama, vintage camera, plant, hair-clip, sprig of lavender, notebooks, pens, keyboard, books, flowers)
Keep an eye out in craft stores for large pieces of card that you can use as backdrops for smaller objects (e.g, a bottle of nail varnish) that you might want to photograph. Blu tack/ washi tape or light tack masking tape will also come in useful to stop the objects from moving.
Most important of all, gather objects that make sense for the scene you are setting, the story you are telling & for the vibe of your brand.
Tip #4: Set intentions for your shot
Now it’s time for you to start planning the set up for your first shot! Yay!
Remember to start with a vision in mind. I want you to ask yourself what vibe you want to create with this image, what feelings you want to evoke, what energy you want to bring to the composition. And think about the end goal - where will you be posting it? Does it need to be landscape or horizontal? Wide shot or close up?
And then we can start to compose the shot.
Tip #5: Compose & take your shot
Let’s say you are a make up artist & you are arranging a flat lay shot on a piece of coloured cardboard. It will help you a lot if you look at the space you will be shooting through your lens before you start arranging your objects, so that everything will stay more or less within the frame.
Place the largest object in the frame first. Notice the shadows that it creates and whether they enhance the image or hinder. If the shadows are unpleasant, play around with moving the set up slightly.
Check the image to make sure it doesn’t look too bright or too dark. Some highlights and shadows are fine but you don’t want the whites of your image to look ‘blown out’ and the shadows to be so dark that you cant rescue them later when editing.
I like to work with triangle shapes with my compositions, to give a feeling of balance. You can read more about this idea here. Arrange the rest of your objects according to triangle/pyramid shapes. It’s totally fine if some parts of the objects will eventually be clipped out of the frame, you’ll see later how this will actually look good. If you are using flowers/leaves/branches etc, add these in last.
If you find any of your props rolling/shifting, you can keep them still by using a little blu tack or washi tape on the back of the object, so that it doesn't show.
Each time you add an element to your frame, keep on checking back with the grid on your screen to see how it’s looking.
FINALLY - clean off your lens, steady your left/non-writing hand, tap to focus with your right/writing hand, hold your breath and TAKE THE SHOT!
NB: Once you have the shot set up in this way, use the opportunity to frame it in a few different ways, move elements around a little, so you can compare later on & pick the best one!
Tip #6: Change it up
Once you have nailed the set up and got your shots, don’t stop there. Try out some more configurations, take out some props and add in new ones,
Play around with the set up a little & move your objects around to see where the shadows fall and what looks visually appealing. Try approaching it from a different angle, get in closer, stand further back etc. Milk each set up to the max before you dismantle it.
Tip #7: Use an editing app
One of the reasons why it’s so vital that you take a well-exposed image is that when you come to edit it, you will have a really hard time trying to fix it up if it has problems from the get-go. For example: if you take a photo of something very white & you don't pay attention to the fact that all the white area is way too bright a.k.a overexposed, there’s no fixing that afterwards. So, when choosing which photos to edit, that’s something you will want to take into account.
Personally, I edit using PicTapGo because I’ve been using this app for about 10 years. I have tried out dozens of other apps but I remain ever faithful to this one. Obviously feel free to look around & try out others - I’m sure you can apply what I teach to other apps out there.
You know how Shakespeare wrote “all the world's a stage” ? That’s how I want you to approach photography - all the world is your studio.
Everywhere you look, there are opportunities to be a visual story-teller!
Want to get your hands on my editing workflow using PicTapGo?