Written by Jo Bradford of Green Island Art Studios. A fortnightly series to improve your product photography and help you make a success of selling online. Great product shots are vital for an online shop!
It’s a New Year again folks, and there is no better time to spring clean your shop and get everything spic and span for a big spring / summer selling bonanza. Regardless of what we sell individually here on Folksy, the one thing that we all have in common, is that we need to produce appealing product photos for our listings. It is of utmost importance that our photos show off our work to its best advantage. Buyers want us to provide them with a clear view of the item, and they will expect an accurate rendering of the detail and colour of it. Sometimes this can be a tricky thing to achieve consistently.
This is where I come in, over the course of the next few months, I will be walking you through some of the fundamentals of product photography, giving you an insight into what it takes to make a good photograph and sharing some tips and tricks to turn your product photos into works of art in their own right.
What sort of camera do I need to take great product shots?
So let’s kick off today by looking at cameras and their features. I am often asked for advice about what cameras to buy, and there is no easy answer to this, every case is different and when it comes down to it, your budget is going to be the most important factor in your choice.
I firmly believe that the key to taking a good photograph has far more to do with understanding how to use your camera, and has far less to do with having all the most expensive kit. Everybody has access to a digital camera, even if it is just on a mobile phone. If your phone will take pictures of larger than 5 megapixels (5mp) it will do an adequate job. If your camera is a small compact digital camera that you bought to take on holiday we can work wonders with that, and if you are someone who owns a bigger more expensive DSLR, then you’re ready to start. So, have you got all the gear and no idea? Well, that’s about to change!
If you are thinking about investing in a new camera for your product photos, these are the features you need….
What does megapixel actually mean? A digital picture is made up of thousands of tiny blocks, or tiles, of colour, these tiles are the picture elements that make up the image when viewed as a whole. The detail available in a photo is dependent on the number of pixels present; the more pixels in the photo the more detail there will be. One megapixel (1mp) is equal to one million pixels. A camera that shoots at least at 5mp will be fine for web output.
Every camera has a range of different features, many of which you will never use for product photography. There are a few basic features that will really improve your photos by enabling you to control elements like detail and colour.
Getting your whites all white using white balance control
Take a quick look at your listing photos, now be honest, are they all uniform jn colour? Do some of your photos look a bit blue or yellow? When you take pictures indoors (with the lights on) they sometimes look a funny colour and the white bits aren’t very white. This is known in the trade as a colour cast. The cast is usually caused by the your household light bulbs, which give off a surprisingly yellow light. So how do you get around it? If you turn the lights off it will be too dark! I will discuss lighting your photos in more detail in a later episode, but for now, you can use your camera to control this colour cast by setting your own white balance. With this handy feature you can point the camera at a white wall or a sheet of paper and take a reading to perfectly colour balance your pictures, it takes seconds to do and will make a huge difference. Check your manual or download the user guide for your camera and try it out! It is true that you can fix problems such as colour casts using computer software, but it is far better to get it right in camera to begin with and save yourself the time of fixing it later.
Aperture priority mode allows you to make creative decisions about the range of focus in you picture. Using your camera in aperture priority mode allows you to control the range within your photo that will be sharp. You will be able to focus just on your product and have everything else fade into beautiful blur. This is one of the most creative effects available to you. We will be taking an in-depth look at using apertures, shutter speeds and shooting modes next time.
Manual ISO Adjustments
Having control over your ISO value will allow you to get a lot more out of your camera. The ISO value sets your camera’s sensitivity to the light conditions.
If you are shooting in bright light you will set it to a slower speed like ISO100 or ISO 200. If you set your digital camera to a low ISO, for example 100, the resulting photograph will be better quality than one set at 1600. The higher the ISO, the grainier the photo will be. Check your manual or download the user guide for your camera and try it out! For product photography indoors, using ambient light, I would recommend starting off with a setting of ISO400.
A macro mode on your camera allows you to get very close to your subjects, this is an essential tool for taking photos of small items like jewellery. There will be more about using a macro lens for product photography later in this series.
So that wraps up my first blog post in the series. I hope that today’s post helps you to make an informed decision about the features to look for in your next camera. For those of you who already have cameras with these features, let’s hope that I have expanded your understanding of your kit.
Next time I will be discussing the different shooting modes on your camera, and looking at how decisions about shutter speed, aperture and depth of field affect the image.
White balance – www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/white-balance.htm
ISO settings – www.slrphotographyguide.com/camera/settings/iso.shtml