Written By Alyssa Ficcaglia
Last week I shared my absolute favorite photo editing apps and now that you have the tools to edit the photos, I want to share a few tips on how to stage and light the products you are taking photos of. Photo staging is an art form, and it takes a lot of practice. The idea of these tips is to give you a foundation and to help develop your own style. The key to having good product photos, is putting yourself into the photos you take (not literally, although don’t be afraid to take photos of yourself with your products too). Your style should reflect in your brand because it is unique to you. It’s what sets you apart from everyone else out there making and selling the same things you are.
One thing to keep in mind is that taking product photos doesn’t need to be expensive. You don’t need to go out and buy expensive equipment like a camera or backdrop. Down the road, if you want to do that go for it! But when you are first starting a business, keeping your out of pocket costs to a minimum is so important. With that said, here are my tips and tricks for taking product photos.
Let’s talk about lighting. Lighting is EVERYTHING. If you decide to do nothing at all for product photos, at the very least make sure your lighting is on point. Always remember this, natural lighting is your best friend. Indirect sunlight is the best lighting for your photos in my opinion. It makes editing a breeze, gives you a beautiful end result, and it’s absolutely free. Take a walk around your house or place of business and see where you get the most sunlight. Figure out at what point in the day the sunlight in that spot is the best. For me, that spot is in the middle of our living room and dining room. For some reason in the mid afternoon the sun is coming in perfectly from all the windows in this space and gives me the best lighting on a sunny day.
Now the only down-side to natural light is it’s not always available to you. Cloudy, dark, rainy days can definitely impact your ability to take photos. So you’d basically have to plan according to the weather if you rely on sunlight for your photos. Or maybe your house just doesn't receive a lot of natural light. What do you do then? Well aside from going outside to find a good spot for your photos, artificial lighting would be your next option. Try not to use your everyday house lights though, as many times they give off a yellow-ish tint and that shows in your photos. I know I said you don’t need to go out and buy expensive things to take photos, but if you are going to buy anything it should be studio lights. Especially if you just can’t get the natural light you need. I use my Fovitec StudioPro Lights whenever I need to take photos on cloudy days or at night. These lights are great because they are light enough to move around and easy to store away when you don’t need them. They are bright and really help make your photos pop. They are the perfect alternative if you need to take pictures on a cloudy day or if you don’t get enough natural light in your home.
The next most important thing to consider when taking product photos is your backdrop. You don’t want what’s going on behind your product to be too busy as it will take the spotlight away from the item you are trying to sell. A cluttered, busy background can be a big distraction to shoppers. Typically, whatever photo you see that stands out has their product at center stage in a bright photo and on a nice neutral color backdrop. Some people will go out and buy light boxes or actual studio grade canvas backdrops. As for me, I’d rather take the more economical route by creating my own. Being resourceful when creating a backdrop will not only save you money, but will also give you more options to show your style. For backdrops you can use a wall, a pretty rug in your home, use some scrap wood to build a faux shiplap backdrop, or even use a blanket. 95% of all my product photos are taken on a nice neutral colored blanket. Which brings me to my next point, everything you need to stage a photo is most likely already in your home.
I said this before but I will say it again, being a small business owner means being resourceful and saving money wherever you can. When thinking about props to incorporate into your product photos, just look around your house to see what you have lying around. Everything can be a prop. I’ve gone as far as to use milk right from my fridge to use with a “Farm Fresh Milk” sign I was taking pictures of. However, If you do decide to go shopping for new props, make sure whatever you are buying can serve multiple purposes. When I shop for home decor these days, I’m looking for items that I can use to both decorate my house and stage my photos with.
So what kind of props should you be getting/using? Whatever you love! This is your opportunity to shine and be creative. It is a chance to subtly show your customers who you are and what your style is. When you are styling a photo you want everything to compliment each other. You want the items you are incorporating to be more like an embellishment to your product. Greenery helps give the photo some life and texture. Laying pieces like tobacco baskets or fabrics can give your photo more depth. Play around with height so not everything is at the same level and getting blended together by the eye. Throw in some pops of color if you’re feeling bold! The point is to just go for it. Everyone has a style. Be yourself and you can never go wrong.
Taking pictures of your products can feel like a chore if you aren’t enjoying it. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves when it comes to taking and posting our pictures. Will people like this? Will this get my product noticed? The process becomes less fun when we are trying to please everyone else and not ourselves. Do what makes sense for you and your business.
My challenge for you is to carve out some time in your busy schedule to just sit down for 30 minutes with a product and just start styling it. Have fun and take the pressure off of yourself. That product is your baby, you put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that one item. So be proud of it and dress it up. The more fun you have the more it will reflect in your photos.
You will start to find your unique style. You got this. Now go take some awesome product photos!