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The Importance of Great Product Photography

You cannot underestimate how important good product photography is in the virtual world of the internet. Remember, your customers cannot pick up, touch or look at the physical product they are interested in, therefore the image you provide them with has to be good. And there is no excuse for poor photography these days. I should know, I’ve been a pro photographer for 13 years!

With just a little bit of effort, perhaps half a day of creativity, a few quid, and I mean less than £20, you can produce brilliant images from your phone. All the pen photographs I publish here on the site are taken with a Samsung Galaxy S4 and edited in the phone itself either with apps built into the phone, or free apps that I have come across. I can then share them on the net as well as transfer them to my PC to upload to our e-commerce site.

Initially, I thought that a simple, side-on view of the pens would show them off nicely, and they do, as this picture shows:

However! Whilst the above photograph is good. For me, with a professional photography background, it is not good enough: It is bland, flat and lacks energy, so I decided to change the way the pens are shot.

And this is the same pen, photographed in the new way:

This shot is so much more than the original. It is more dynamic, has more depth and the colours are more accurate. Furthermore, I can use the one image everywhere I want to put it. ‘But you can do that with the other shots too.’ I here you cry!

Yes, I could, but there is a BUT here…square images are everywhere on the internet, and research shows that square or portrait (upright) images, especially on Pinterest are liked and shared considerably more often than those with a landscape orientation. And simple backgrounds that make the product stand out are shared more widely than those with a busy background.

PLUS, with social media such as Instagram taking a further hold and more and more businesses using the picture platform, it seems crazy not to use square images and use Instagram for our pen photography.

Here is the set-up I use for the pens (this is the original set-up I used. The new one (as above), is exactly the same with some modifications.)

As you can see, it is pretty simple. Some wood glued together and sanded smooth. An LED strip light from a DIY shop and a block of wood hacked up to form a stand for the phone.

The LED light has some tracing paper taped loosely over it to diffuse the light a bit and with the little stand of the end of the pen, I can ensure that every shot is the same. It works well and cost less than £20! No professional lights, no pro camera, just a bit of effort, a couple of hours to make it, and I had a very functional, well lit stand for my pens.

Editing in a phone is easy, and I have now moved from the built-in editing to Instagram for my product photography.

It is very important that when photographing a product that the image you produce is as close in colour to the product as possible. Because of this, I don’t use the fancy filters included with Instagram as they change the colours too much. I do make use of the basic editing tools, such as Brightness, Contrast, Saturation and the vignette, though, in much the same way as I would using Photoshop.

Also, you can tell Instagram to save the original shot to your Camera Roll as well as the one it produces, so you have the rectangular shot to play with later if you need to.

Personally, I am very proud of what I produce, and only with good photography can I be satisfied that I am showing my products off to my customers in the best way I possibly can. If I produce a pen that is for sale for £44.99, then I want, no…need the photograph to look like £44.99’s worth of product…likewise, my £9.99 range of pens are photographed in the same way – high quality images for an inexpensive hand made pen.

Of course, you don’t have to use Instagram, there are loads of apps out there, as well as editing software for your computer. The choice is yours. And if it all seems a bit daunting at first, think about how much easier and quicker it will be for you if you can streamline the making-photography-uploading process.

Here is the process I will be using for all my product photography from now on:

  1. Make it
  2. Photograph it with Instagram
  3. Edit in Instagram
  4. Download to PC (optional)
  5. Create new product on the website and upload the image.
  6. Upload to Instagram with basic product details, price, link etc.
  7. Share product via website to FB
  8. Pin product image to my Pinterest board.

You may not have to go through this entire process, but I am sure most business owners will…and the best bit of all is that (when you get used to it), you can do all this from #2 in minutes per product.

Plus, with the same ‘set’ for most, or all of your products, you don’t have to spend ages setting up each shot as the products go in the same place each time. It doesn’t matter what the product is, similar products can be photographed in the same way. You just put the product and the phone in place, take the shot, change the product etc. Rinse and repeat. A photography set speeds up the process considerably.

I urge all business owners, crafters, and anyone that photographs anything that is for sale to step back, take a long hard look at the pictures of your products from an objective point of view, and ask yourself these questions:

‘Would I buy this product on the basis of this picture?’,

‘Looking at this picture, does it show it as well as it could be shown?’ 

If your answer is No, then perhaps it is time to get creative again and rethink your product photography and make sure that all your shots from now on are the absolute best they can be.

Producing a ‘set’ for your products is not difficult, it just takes a bit of time to think about and to make it. I’m, sure you can do it!

Thanks for reading, please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!


One thought on “The Importance of Great Product Photography

  1. An interesting article Martin, good to see it recycled via Facebook, i’m sure many pen turners will find this a big help.

    I also have a set up in the workshop in an out of the way corner, always nice to have it ready to shoot. I tend to shoot on a white background but I very much like your timber background.

    I really should make an effort to spend some time taking more photos & update my website, just no time.

    Great work once more

    Cheers, Billy

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