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Fresha’s guide to taking beautifully shot photos of your products

Charlotte Thornalley on

Using high-quality photos of your products is proven to be an effective way to easily identify the products you sell and reduce errors in your inventory. By adding photos to your product list, you can keep track of every item your business has invested in at any given time, and simplify every stocktake you carry out at your business.

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Our market leading salon and spa software has everything you need to bring your inventory to life, but there are a few important steps we recommend taking to achieve truly professional photos of your products.

Investing in a professional photographer can be an expensive cost that independently run businesses or those who are just starting out don't have the budget for. DIY product photography can be a great alternative to this, and with the right tools and techniques, you don't need to hire a professional to take compelling photos of your products.

When you’re just starting out, getting your product images shot can seem like a long and arduous task, but there are loads of product photography tools to help you get the job done. We’ve pulled together a list of everything you need to effectively photograph and market your products online and start turning even more browsers into buyers.

Decide how you want to shoot your shot 📸

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For businesses on a budget, investing in an expensive camera might not be an option. If you already own a professional camera system then it makes sense to use it, but for most product photos, a smartphone will work just as well. Newer smartphones have powerful camera lenses that allow you to optimise your photos for the different types of light and locations you want to shoot in. Check out Apple's top tips for shooting with an iPhone for some smartphone photography inspo.

Three legs are better than two

Holding your camera or using a makeshift setup to balance it on is fine if you only have a handful of products to shoot. But once your business starts to grow, and you have more products to photograph, it can be difficult to standardise the look of your products when shooting handheld. 

To ensure your product photos are consistent and on brand, it’s worth investing in a tripod. And luckily, buying one isn't going to cost you an arm and a leg like it used to.

There are two types of tripod to consider before making your investment:

Traditional vs. flexible

Traditional tripods are available for both cameras and smartphones and offer the user a steady, zero movement platform for stabilising the camera.

Flexible tripods can be manipulated in a number of ways. They are designed to securely wrap around just about any surface to give your photos a fresh perspective. Bend the legs and place it on different surfaces to get the angle you need to make your product photos pop.

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Mobile grip

Most tripods will have a screw on the top that attaches to your camera to hold it in place. The underside of most professional cameras has a screw hole for this purpose, but smartphones will require an adapter.

The adapter grips onto the sides of your smartphone and can screw into either type of tripod. When securely attached to your tripod base, you can operate the camera controls with the phone screen facing outward or toward you.

Once you’ve decided which mount you'd like to use, set it up in front of your product ready to shoot. It’s a good idea to put a mark on the ground where you'd like each leg of your tripod to sit for the duration of the shoot.

Artificial vs natural light

When consumers don’t have the luxury of seeing an item in person, picking the right lighting arrangement to highlight the critical features of your product can often determine whether they choose to make a purchase or not. 

Depending on the products you’re shooting, there are certain types of light that can improve (or hinder) your product photography. A single lighting setup might work for one product type but weaken the appearance of others.

There are two types of lighting set up for you to choose from: 

Natural light

Natural light just means sunlight. It's also known as "soft light" because the sun casts a wider and softer range of light than any artificial lighting you might use.

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Product shots should always be taken using natural light if the product is being shot outside, with a person in the frame, or you’re trying to draw attention to the product's surroundings, rather than the specifics of the product.

Artificial light

Artificial light includes any light that isn’t naturally occurring. It's also known as "hard light" because it produces a smaller, more focused light surface for you to photograph your products on. This type of light works great for products with details that need to be highlighted to attract the attention of the consumer.

When taking photos of your products, it’s a good idea to stick to one type of light per photo. Adding natural light to an artificially lit photo can soften a product that's meant to be sharp, and adding artificial light to a naturally lit photo can sharpen a product that's meant to appear soft.

Soften out your shadows

It doesn’t matter if you’re using natural or artificial light, you'll still need to lessen the shadows that any potential hard light casts on the other side of a product. There are three ways you can do this:

Fill light

Use a less intense light source to counteract the effects of your main light. The additional light is called a fill light and is used to soften any shadows your main light produces behind your product. Place your fill light opposite your main light so your product is sat between both light sources.

Flashbulb bounce card

A bounce card (or reflector card), is a small card that’s used to reflect bounces from the main light back onto the surface beneath your product to reduce the appearance of shadows.

Some bounce cards can be attached to the flashbulb of your camera lens to reduce the amount of light from the camera's flash. The card splashes a softer light onto the subject from above so you don't have long shadows behind the product you're shooting.

Bounce card

If you're using a smartphone, you won’t be able to use a flashbulb bounce card as there’s no physical flash you can attach it to. Instead, try making your own bounce card and positioning it opposite your main light to counterbalance the hard light from the camera flash or lamp that's pointing at your product.

Sweep vs portrait

There’s no one right way to position and shoot your products as the background you choose can dramatically impact what’s required for each of your photos. A simple background is always going to be the easiest to create, but giving context to your products can help consumers make a decision when viewing a product online. 

Before you get started, you’ll need to decide whether you'd like to shoot your products with a simple white background or in a more dynamic, real-world setting. It’s really easy to achieve each one.

White background (sweep)

Shooting your products against a white background isn't as simple as taking a picture against white wall. Most cameras can pick up things that you wouldn't notice with the naked eye. To capture a perfect white background with no corners, breaks, or blemishes, we recommend using a sweep.

A photography sweep is a seamless, white background that acts as the surface you display your product on and curves up into a white wall behind the product. The curve of your sweep is invisible and creates a consistent background from top to bottom, allowing the product to be the focal point of the photo.

Real-world background (portrait mode)

Real-world backgrounds work really well for products that have a specific use or are being modelled by a person. But choose your background wisely - you don’t want to steal focus from the product you’re trying to sell. 

Portrait mode allows you to take professional-looking photos of your products by sharpening the look of anything in the foreground and blurring the background to add emphasis to the subject of your photo. And you don’t even need a fancy camera for this as it’s available on most modern smartphones!

Get trigger happy

As a generation of selfie enthusiasts, we know how important it is to take multiple shots of what is essentially the same picture. This same process applies to your product photos. Since consumers are unable to look, hold, or sample the product in person, your website should offer a well rounded view of what they can expect to receive.

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If you're shooting a new shampoo or conditioner, make sure you capture the bottle from different angles so the product size and ingredients are clearly displayed. Additional shots that show the consistency and colour of the product could earn you extra brownie points with consumers who are looking for a more well-rounded view of what they’re investing in.

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