How to Take Great E-commerce Product Photos With Your Phone

Jan 20, 2017 by Kristen Pinkman, Ecwid Team
How to Take Great E-commerce Product Photos With Your Phone
Posted Jan 20, 2017 by Kristen Pinkman, Ecwid Team

There’s no denying that product photography is incredibly important to e-commerce. Bad photos — or a complete lack of photos — can take a potentially thriving business and stall its sales. But, as a fledgling e-commerce entrepreneur, you might not have the money to pay for professional photos right off the bat. What’s a business owner to do?

Lucky for you, you don’t necessarily need an expensive toolkit or a photographer friend to take those pictures. Smartphone cameras have progressed at an astounding pace.

They won’t deliver the same end result as hiring a product photographer with a DSLR, but you can take perfectly good photos of your products in the meantime. You just need to know a few tips and tricks.

Related: Simple Product Photography Tips to Beautifully Showcase on Your Store

Get the Right Camera

In the best lighting conditions, any modern smartphone can take decent pictures. If you are going to take photos in natural light, you don’t need to worry about your camera.

However, if you go for indoor photography, make sure your camera has the following features:

  • Autofocus for quick shooting
  • Optical image stabilization (OIS) for reducing blur
  • Aperture (lower numbers are better) for improving low-light performance
  • LED flash for powerful light

More megapixels do not necessarily create a better image. The number of megapixels mostly stands for the image size — the more megapixels, the larger the image. Something between 8 and 16 megapixels is fine — in case you want to crop your pictures, they won’t lose a lot of clarity.

If you are going to buy a new phone anyways, you can compare the quality of real pictures taken under different light conditions by various cameras here. The most popular brands are available for comparison.

Prepare the Background

Find a contrasting background that is the #1 rule. Ideally, you want the background/surface to skew on the lighter side — black backgrounds can make a photo look very dark. If your product is light colored, go for a medium tone rather than a black background.

Choose a concept for your background, so that your photos look like a gallery. Background ideas vary from plain white to every kind of surface you find attractive. Having a concept doesn’t mean using one and the same background all the time — you can play with textures and colors.

Related: How to Make a Good Background in Pictures of Your Products Without Using Photoshop

White Background

Sometimes it’s hard to find a plain background for your photos. In this case, set up a poster board against a wall, so that it’s curved from the floor to the wall.

You might need to anchor the corners that are on the floor to keep it from moving or blowing away (if you’re outdoors) — you can use books or anything else that’s heavy enough. If you’re having a hard time picturing it, think of it like creating your own mini-drop cloth:

poster board for product photography

Source: Jet

Textured Background

Your pictures don’t have to be all white. Using a natural background is not just an in-case option, as this approach has several benefits over shooting your products on a plain background.

Experiments with background make your pictures unique and influence brand establishment. People tend to remember brighter colors and interesting compositions better.

Also, getting creative with backgrounds increases the chances that someone will want to like and share your product picture on social media, especially on Pinterest and on Instagram.

Related: 8 Photography Tips for a Stunning Instagram Business Profile

Try and DIY a wooden background:

wooden backdrop for product photography

Source: loveandoliveoil.com

Here’s a possible result:

A photo posted by Lesya Soltys (@_minthint) on 

Or use a knitted one:

knitted backdrop for product photography

Source: www.etsy.com

You don’t even have to buy special cloth for that. Go through your sweaters, plaids, and rugs — they are all treasures.

Natural Background

Take what you sell and go for a walk to find backgrounds that would make great company to your product’s colors, shape, and dimension. Grass, sand, road, leaves, walls — the list goes on as long you can go.

A photo posted by Markus Lehto (@trnql) on 

Set the Light

Light is by far the most important factor for a beautiful picture. As mentioned above, natural lighting is best, but sometimes, direct natural light can be harsh and cause dark shadows and color distortions (making things look more orange than they are).

Shoot in Natural Light

If you can take photos directly next to a large window that receives natural light, that can prevent harsh shadows because it diffuses the light.

The other option is aiming for earlier morning hours or later afternoon hours when the sun is a little less harsh. You also don’t want the product to be backlit, so you want the source of light to be behind or to the side of you and above the camera/phone.

product photography day light

Source: pixc.com

Get a Lightbox

If you are going to consistently take and add new photos to your store as you expand your product catalog, and have no intentions of outsourcing product photography any time soon, buy a lightbox or go DIY.

DIY lightbox

You’ll need: your phone; a white poster board; a large, clear, plastic storage container; and 2-3 lamps (alternately: a kit like this one or this one, if you would have to go out and buy all those components).

How to shoot with a lightbox:

  • Put the white poster board in the storage container so that it curves from the bottom of the container up the back.
  • Position a lamp on each side of the storage container.
  • Make sure you have the right bulbs for the lamps. The bulbs in each lamp need to be identical (otherwise the lighting will be uneven or give different colors); ideally, you’ll use cool-colored 5000K bulbs.

Think Through Composition

Remember the benefit you have over physical stores: you can tell a lot more about your product by means of photography. Customers don’t buy things — they buy emotions. So ask yourself:

Does my picture tell a story?

In order to picture an involving story and drag your customers into it, experiment with perspectives and use accessories. You will need more than just the front and the side views of your product. Try the following approaches to start with.

A Static Picture

Show your product’s natural look.

A photo posted by CakeSafe® (@cakesafe) on 

Product in Action

Tell your customers about the best product features.

A photo posted by CakeSafe® (@cakesafe) on 

Lifestyle Picture

Give your customers an idea of how your product can fit their lives.

A photo posted by CakeSafe® (@cakesafe) on 

Your Next Steps

Are you inspired enough to grab your phone and go shoot beautiful product pictures?

Here’s a summary of things to remember:

  • You’ll need (in total): a smartphone, a tripod, a plastic container, three lamps, a poster board and a backdrop or two.
  • Natural light is best, but try to shoot during morning hours or before the sunset.
  • Choose contrasting backgrounds.
  • Try to include a story in your images.

Further reading: How to Optimize Product Images: Step-By-Step Instructions and An Overview of Services

About The Author
Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music, and home-cooked food.

Stay up to date!

Get free e-commerce tips, news and inspiring ideas delivered directly to your inbox