Small Business Resources: Product Photography

October 26, 2012

When I launched Happy Cactus Designs, I quickly learned that having high quality product photos is essential. To sell my paper goods online, I need clear and bright photographs of my cards and other products so people can see the details of the design, the colors, and the quality. Photos are also used in my catalog to entice retailers. I'm also frequently submitting photos to press outlets and bloggers. In my opinion, the better the photo, the more likely an editor or blogger is to feature it. 


Product photography is not something that can be easily executed. I wish I had a budget for a professional photographer and stylist, but for right now, I'm the jack-of-all-trades and wear the photographer hat from time to time. I have received many compliments about the photographs featured on this site and in the catalog and have been asked by other designers how I do it. Here's some tips and tricks I've learned along the way:

- Invest in a high quality digital camera. I am fortunate to have a fancy Nikon digital SLR camera and a few different lenses. I took a handful of photography classes in college so I have an idea of how to use the settings and take advantage of the camera's features. Some of the more inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras these days can take very high quality photos as well.

- Get a tripod. Trying to shoot a product from different angles can be tricky. I rely on my tripod to keep things steady no matter the angle. 

- Do some research! I love perusing catalogs, shopping sites, blogs, etc. to get ideas for styling products and how to shoot my products. Notice what you like and don't like about the product photos you look at. How were the products styled? What are the backdrops? How is the lighting?  


- Use natural light. I never use a flash when taking product photos. I usually try to take them outside where the light is best or near a window. It is the most flattering for your photos. 

- Creating backdrops doesn't need to be a pricey endeavor. I look for interesting surfaces around my house to photograph my products against. I also frequently use white or colored poster board and rolls of wrapping paper to use as backdrops. I've also had luck with different placemats with interesting textures. I try to steer towards backdrops that are solid or mildly textured so I don't detract from the product. I find accessories around my studio to accompany products and try not to over-do it with the styling. 


- Photograph products as the customer or retailer would receive them. You don't want to mislead a customer or editor by photographing a product differently from how it is being sold. For example, all of my products come with white envelopes. While it may look more striking to photograph a card with a colored envelope, I don't want the customer to think that is the option they are purchasing.

- Experiment with a lighting kit. I purchased a kit last year similar to this one that came with light boxes in two different sizes, different backdrops, and two lamps. I don't use it as much as I thought I would, but it's good for getting evenly lit photos.


- Edit. Edit. Edit. I use Photoshop to edit all of my photos. This is almost as time consuming as taking the photos themselves! If you don't know the basics about editing in a program like Photoshop or are looking to improve your skills, search on YouTube or check out the tutorials on Lynda.



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