Product photography on a budget!

How do you do product photography on a budget?

Today I’m talking about how to do product photography on a budget!

That’s right, product photography can make or break a business, even if you’re selling an amazing product – especially if you’re a purely online business. Product photography tells the story of business and showcases the product, it’s super important because we all react to it when we see it. It can instantly hook you or instantly be turned off by it.

A lot of people think that in order to create good product photography you need to spend a big sum to get it done right, which if you’re starting up or on a tight budget might not be an option. Well, today I’m going to show you not only how to create great product photography but also how to do it on a budget. For this to keep things simple, I will be using the Cookie as the test dummy!

Choosing your photo style

Before you start taking any photos I would always have a plan of action. If you’re just taking photos and hoping you’ll somehow create a masterpiece you might be trying for a long time. Making a plan doesn’t mean you have to spend weeks sketching everything out, it just means you should have a rough idea of how and what you’re going to be photographing.

This leads me nicely to choosing the right photo style. For me, with product photography, there are two main types of photo – a white cutout and a lifestyle shot. With Cookie I always tend to go for a lifestyle shot to capture the imagination and create a story for the range. I think that any product should have a mixture of both, the white cutout as an essential shot and a set of lifestyle shots that can be used in marketing.

Background

The background of your photos is key, you’ve always got to remember that the person looking at your products will take in all the parts of the photo, including the background.

With Cookies product photography I have kept it simple and I always use a solid block colour in the background. I only use colours that compliment the brand, so no neon greens! To create the background I simply went to Hobbycraft and cherry-picked a selection of A1 sheets of card. To save some pennies I even haggled down the cost if they were sun damaged or dented on the corners – it all adds up!

If you are taking a white cutout style photo all you will need is a big piece of white card and you’re good to go. If you’re creating a lifestyle shot for your products, you can use items from around your house/office or even shop around at charity shops or even a car boot sale to find unique trinkets that compliment your products to make them pop! The point I’m trying to make is you shouldn’t take photos where you can see your half-drunk bottles of water in the background or have the product on a dirty surface.

Lighting

The lighting of your photography is a point that can make or break your photos. You can instantly tell if a photo is overexposed or underexposed and that all comes down to the amount of light you have. When you think of lighting your mind wanders to a photography studio however If you doing this yourself and you don’t have any money to buy or rent professional lighting there are a few options that can really help brighten up your photos.

The first way to light your photos is to use natural light, if you have a big window, find the best time of day for consistent natural light and take your photos in front of it. As a tip, don’t take your photos when the sun is shining directly through your window because it’ll instantly overexpose your photos. Wait until the sun has moved past the window and then take your photos.

The second option is to use lights from round your home, by this I don’t mean use your main light in your room, use a desk lamp or even the light on your phone. A tip from me would be to not directly shine the light onto your products as it will create a heavy shadow (dependant on how far the light is your products), instead get yourself a piece of white ply board or even a big white piece of card and shine it off that to diffuse the light. This will create a much softer light and will create an overall much better light for your photos

The third option is to get some cheap and cheerful light panels. For my product photography, I use x2 20cm square LED panels from B&Q they were just under £40 for the pair and they just work brilliantly! The added benefit is that you can also adjust the brightness if they make your images too bright! I would however always check to see if to see how your camera records video with LED lighting (only if you need to of course) as when you record with certain frame rates it can cause a flickering which just ruins the footage!

The Camera

This is the big one! You can’t take a picture without one of these. As I mentioned in a previous video I used a Canon 70D DSLR for these videos with a 24mm lens. I managed to get this all for just shy of £400 off eBay, which if you know your cameras is cheap compared to what the professionals use! All of the product photos on the Cookie website were taken on this.

However, I do understand that this might be too much for you to buy if you’re watching the pennies. Some photographers would hate me for saying this but honestly, it’s amazing what the camera on your phone can do. As long as you have a phone that’s under 3ish years old you will be able to take some amazing product photos with it. In all honesty, the majority of the Cookie Instagram photos are in fact taken on an iPhone! As long as your lighting and layout is strong I personally think you can take a photo as good as the DSLR.

Camera Angle

This is another key point. If you’re new to photography you will naturally want to stand at your normal posture and take the photo from that angle. Think outside of the box and try taking the photo from different angles. Try a top view and front on view, really close and far away, just experiment. You might be surprised how they come out. Once you have an amazing angle that really makes your product pop, stick to it and if you have more than one product try to consistently use the same angle so they all look like they’re from the same set, you’ll easily be able to get the same angle & shot by using a tripod!

Use a tripod

Tripods are amazing for product photography and don’t have to cost the world. You can pick them up second hand for a couple of pounds on eBay. I use a 40+ years old tripod that weighs the same as a small car but I know it’ll last forever.

Using a tripod will remove any risk of a shaky photo. There is nothing worse than taking a picture that you that you look at on your phone/camera and it looks great but when it’s on the computer it just looks slightly blurred. A tripod will stop that happening.

Post-processing

You really should edit your photos before you put them on your website, it’s the little details that people notice when they look at your photos. Where this be you removing minor defects in the image or simply tweaking the vibrancy/contrast.

Personally, I use a mixture of Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop for this which I understand can be expensive, but free alternatives such as Gimp do just as good of a job. If you are a complete technophobe, as long as the photo itself is good you can use your phones editing features to tweak them but personally, I’d recommend giving this some time and edit them on desktop software such as Photoshop or Gimp.

So there we have it, this is how I take product photography on a budget. As you can see there’s nothing too special about it all. It’s just about doing the best with what you have at hand and with a bit of practice, you will have some amazing product photography. 

As always, thank you for taking the time to read/watch this, it means the world! If you have any comments please let me know. Thank you for your time and see you next time! Bye!

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