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How to shoot Product Photos-Course content

Photo & Video - The Ultimate Communication

What your customers think of your products is directly related to the quality of your Product Photographs.

When the audience looks at your website or social media pages, their eye goes to the visual images first, not the text, so Product Photos will tell your story before you do.

This module will show you how to take your Product Photography to the next level.

You’ll learn how to set the stage for your products to be shown at their best. By the end of this module, you’ll be able to shoot stunning product photos, whether you are using an iPhone or a DSLR.

I will concentrate on using a cell phone camera, as this tutorial is about Do-it-yourself photography and the equipment that you already own. 


However, I will also cover the use of a DSLR using the manual controls like the focal length, exposure, and focus controls.


I would like to remind you of the principal Manta of Marketing: “Know your Audience”. 


It is imperative that you have researched your potential audience before you progress any further.


When you are armed with that knowledge - we can continue with taking Product Photos that will be suitable for your “Potential Audience”


You will need some equipment:


Tripod - full height.

White background - paper or wall

Table or dining chair


There are optional items that will help:

Lightbox stage to display and light your products.

White foam or reflective board.

Lighting equipment



The list of the topics:


1/ First impressions count

2/ Look at your competitors for inspiration

3/ Props - that suit your product and how your potential customers use the products. 

4/ Lighting

5/ Background 

6/  Tripod

7/ Rule of thirds

8/ Camera aspect - Portrait, landscape, square, or 360º

9/ Camera Controls

10/ Use manual controls on a DSLR

11/ Plan ahead for the actual shoot

12/ Edit the image on your computer

13/ Upload to Social Media




1/ First impressions count:


In today’s world, people want to get information as quickly as possible. The quickest way they gather information is by looking at images. One of the world’s most quoted phrases is: A photo is worth a thousand words”


Product images testify to the quality of your product - so first impressions count.



2/ Look at your competitors for inspiration


Look at what your competitors are doing and how they are composing their Product Photos.


You should not copy what they are doing but use what you see as an inspiration for your own original ideas.


For example, If they are using pink as a background - why? Should you be thinking about colors rather than just white?


3/ Props


The main focus needs to be on your products but you can add other elements to tell your audience about the type of situations that your product is best suited to.


The obvious example here is that outdoor clothing will be the best shot in an outdoor setting.


Think of how extra items will enhance your products.



4/ Lighting


It is essential to have good lighting otherwise it is best you are not taking the photos, as the images will turn off your potential buyers.


As you will see in the next section a white background gives clarity to the photo, but without the correct lighting, it will appear grey in the Photo.


If you are using natural lighting inside, the cheapest option, you need to set up by a window.


Shooting outside will give an overall lighting effect - best on bright overcast days or in the bright shadows on a sunny day.


Mainly, the choice of indoor or outdoor will depend a lot on your actual products. Outdoor clothing will suit an outdoor shoot. Computer Gear will look better with a plain white background with no shadows. 



A Lightbox will help keep down the shadows for an indoor shoot. Think of it as a stage where the actors are your products. It will not be practical for larger-sized products, but ideal for small technology products.


The best results will be where the sides of the lightbox are opaque and you can shine your lights from either side so that there are no shadows.


You can make your own lightbox from cardboard with white material sides.


If you will be taking photos of a lot of products over time, look to buy what are quite low-cost pieces of equipment. From $20.00 on Amazon.  

5/ Background


White is the order of the day for Product Photo backgrounds, but review what your potential audience would expect. and “think outside the box”


If you are using a Lightbox, that is your background, otherwise, you may be using an outdoor location. Consider the morning light or an hour before sunset. - “the golden hour”


If you are shooting indoors in front of a window, use a dining table chair and put white paper over the seat and up the back. Use clamps to hold the paper in place.


Put the chair side-on to the window, place your product on the seat and use a reflector to reflect the light back to the shadowed side of the product.


If you are shooting larger products indoors, you could use paper or material screens. 


You could also consider a table with white paper as the background for the photos.


6/ Tripod


It stands to reason that you will want your camera as stay as steady as possible, so a tripod is a must.


You need one that is sturdy, without going overboard on price at the early stage. 


You can buy a better one as you progress with your skills. 


Look out for a tripod that comes with a blue tooth remote that will trigger your cell phone, avoiding the need to press the button on the cell phone. 


You will need to make sure you have a bracket to attach your cell phone to the tripod, some tripods are supplied with cell phone adaptor brackets.


If you want to shoot the product from above, there are some tricks including shooting at a 45-degree angle with your products at the same 45-degree angle. The result will look like it is shot from above.


This will not work for food or liquids as they can not be tilted. There are specific camera poles for that purpose.



7/ Rule of thirds


This is a basic Photographic principle where the image is best positioned at the intersecting of the lines in the grid of thirds to give the most pleasant image.



8/ Camera aspect - Portrait or landscape:


The places that you publish the Product Photos may dictate the aspect that the image is in.


Portrait Aspect: Cell Phone up and down or DSLR on its side.


Landscape Aspect: iPhone on its side or the DSLR flat.


The Portrait aspect should always be used for images being published on Instagram, Tick Tok, and Facebook. 


A web page may look best as a landscape image. 


You may need to take shots in both aspects.


9/ Camera controls


As this course is all about using equipment that you already own, so I will concentrate on the use of a cell phone camera.


I will discuss what an iPhone can do but mostly the same features will exist on Android phones.


Focus and Exposure:


iPhones can set focus and also have a feature called AE/AF Lock. This will lock the auto functions of exposure (brightness of the image) and Focus. This is most useful in setting the exposure and focus on the product once you have your tripod set up.


You can set the focus independently by just tapping the screen on the product that you want to set the focus on. A yellow square box will appear around the area you tapped. 


You can swipe up on down on the screen to brighten or darken the image (Exposure) 


Once you have taken the photo the camera re-sets to autofocus and exposure.


You can set the AE/AF Lock by pressing your finger and holding a second or two - AE/AF Lock with a yellow rectangle will be displayed at the top of your screen. 


The AE/AF Lock settings are retained after you take the photo.


The advantages of AE/AF Lock are:

You can have the cell camera expose and focus in auto mode and fix that AE/AF so you can be sure those settings are retained. 

10/ Use manual controls on a DSLR

a/  Shutter speed, aperture, ISO

b/  Lens selection, macro, wide, telephoto

c/  Depth of field

11/ Plan ahead


Create a job list for the products that you are shooting. List the required backgrounds, props and angles and the order that they will be photographed, so that when you get to the actual shoot you will be prepared.


Think about your target audience and what they would want to see in the photo, do they need to see what is at the back of the product, or how the power plug attaches. Put yourself in their shoes.


If your product is part of a range of items, you should have photos of them all, but you may only need to take one actual shot of the product itself - get that spot on, and in post-production add the different elements. 


For instance, one photo of the product and then shoot just the different labels to add in post-production.


12/ Edit the image on your computer

a/  Shoot in and download Raw vs jpeg

b/  White balance from grey-board

c/  Save as ( jpeg TIFF PNG PDF )


The Final Thought:


Continually consider your target audience and how the product photo will affect how they will perceive your company.


The off-line Exercise:


The exercise for this session is to shoot some of your products with what you have learned today and note why you have made the choices. Note any problems that you encountered.


The results will be reviewed in the next session.