4 things you need to know for stunning product photography

4 things you need to know for stunning product photography. Click through to discover our simple tips designed for beginner's so that you can take beautiful product photos for your handmade and creative business!

It can be said that product photography is the window into your business’s world. So that’s why it’s essential to have images that are not only beautiful but also accurate representations of your products. This is especially true for online shops because people can’t touch or see your product in real life.

With improved camera technology more affordable these days, it’s possible for a beginner to achieve some great quality product photography with a regular point and shoot camera and even with your phone camera too!

With product photography there are two routes you can take:

  • Hire a photographer or
  • Do it yourself.

Photographers can charge over a spectrum of pricing depending on what sort of shots you’re after, the number of shots and the type of shots. But hiring a photographer doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive if your budget doesn’t allow for it. Reach out to your existing network of friends, and over social media – especially Facebook groups! Facebook groups are a gold mine for amateur photographers who are on the look out to gain more experience. For a more detailed post on how I organised a photo shoot with a photographer, model and hair and makeup artist on a small budget: http://bit.ly/organisephotoshoot

Otherwise if you know of a friend or family member who’s starting out in the photography industry, perhaps they could help you out for free, at a discounted rate or maybe even trade for services? Can you trade chores/babysitting services for their time? Another option could be reaching out to the local community college or university and scouting for students who may be interested. You never know who might be able to help you or who else might be on the look out for a collaboration opportunity.

If you’d like to do it yourself, yay! You could take a community college class, or a weekend workshop or even an online class (from www.creativelive.com) to spruce up your skills. These classes can help you feel more confident using your camera and putting some basic photography principles in action to produce some great product photography.

Product photography isn’t as tricky as you think and just requires a few things:

  • A camera (phone camera, point and shoot camera, DSLR),
  • Tripod,
  • Simple props,
  • A big window with lots of natural light,
  • Some white foam core/white cardboard and
  • A bit of practice!

All these prop items are available at your local craft store like Riot, Eckerleys or even Kmart!

Download your FREE product photography props list!

Enter your details below and learn how to take your product photos to the next level with the skilful use of props!


With so many businesses vying to attract your attention, it can be difficult trying to stand out. Studies show that people only look at a photo on average for 8 seconds. (Sometimes even less, because I know, I don’t spend 8 seconds on every single picture on my Instagram feed!) To make the most of the few precious seconds you have to capture someone’s attention is to follow the ‘rule of thirds’. The rule suggests using a grid of 9 squares and placing the object of attention along these lines or at the intersections. This technique makes your photo visually interesting, balanced and places the right emphasis on the object/person you want the viewer’s attention on as compared to when the subject is in the dead centre of the picture.

Nerd Burger tips:

  • Turn on your grids on your camera to make sure your horizontal lines are straight.
  • An odd number of items (e.g. like 3 cupcakes, or 5 rings etc) makes the shot look more interesting and balanced, rather than an even number.
  • Don’t have too many other items in the shot that might take attention away from the main object. Those other items are ‘supportive characters’ and should only be included in the shot, if it helps place the ‘main character’ into context.



Simple product shot

To start off, let’s walk through how to take a photo of the item on a simple solid coloured background. The goal for this photo is to give the customer a clear representation of the product by itself. This is so they know exactly what the product and packaging looks like. Set up a table next to your window with lots of natural light. It’s a good idea not to have direct sunlight come through, but indirect light. This is so there won’t be any harsh shadows in your product photography.

  • Set your camera up on a tripod and place your piece of white cardboard down, stick one end to a wall. Place your item and take a picture remembering the rule of thirds!
  • Depending on which direction the light is coming from you may see that there’ll be a slight shadow on the opposite side of where the light is entering the window. Want to know how you can brighten up that one side? Stand your foam core vertically so that the light bounces off the foam core and fills in the shadows with the bounced light.
  • Ta-da – product photography that looks great with just a few simple tools and tips! If you’ve used the correct settings on your camera and these simple lighting techniques, your final photo should only need minimal digital editing.

Nerd Burger tips:

  • If you’re photographing items with a reflective surface, wear black clothes. That way, if your reflection does show up on the reflective surface, it’ll just look like a black accent, rather than whatever colour you may be wearing during your photo shoot.
  • Depending on your industry, generally a white or black background is the standard colour for a simple product shot.
  • As a beginner photographer, only have 1 light source! That means only use the indirect natural light coming from the window and not the artificial one(s) in the room! Turn these off!
  • More than often, artificial lights have a warmer, yellower tone and natural sunlight has a slight blueish tone to it. It will be harder to edit in final production and your photos won’t look as good, if there’s a hint of warm yellow in it. So just stick to natural light to begin with. 1. It’s free and there’s no need to spend money on expensive artificial lights when you’re just starting out.

Download your FREE product photography props list!

Enter your details below and learn how to take your product photos to the next level with the skilful use of props!

Product lifestyle shot

Let’s talk through a product lifestyle shot. This shot basically shows the product in context. So for example if you sell bath products, you might wish to photograph your products inside a bathroom setting. If your personal bathroom is on the smaller side of things or not much natural light gets in it, you can recreate a ‘bathroom’ setting using some simple props.

  • Use your white piece of foam core board as the ‘wall’ of the bathroom. To make it more bathroom-like, you can buy some contact paper with a tile pattern and stick it to the foam core.
    • To keep the ‘wall’ of the bathroom upright, you can either get someone to help you and hold it up. Otherwise, if you’re doing the photo shoot by yourself, I recommend buying some “ikebana flower holders.” It might sound a bit strange that I’m seemingly introducing something completely unrelated here, but let me explain. Ikebana is the art of Japanese flower arrangement and the flower holders are these small, heavy round disks with upright nails that hold the flowers in place. Just stick the bottom of your foam core board into the spikes to keep your ‘wall’ upright!
  • Use another piece of white foam core as the ‘bathroom bench top’. Again, you may also consider buying some contact paper in a marble print or similar.
    • Often tile shops have samples or cut offs you could score for free to use as a base in your photos. Check out your local tile shop to see what they might have on offer.
    • Arrange your bars of soap onto the base, add additional props like a soap dish, hand towel, loofah etc and snap away!
    • Shoot your products face on. This shows the product’s size most accurately. Then take other shots from many different angles for some variety.
    • Take lots and lots of photos! More often than not, you probably won’t get the right shots in the first few photos. You’ve already spent the time setting up – so make the most of it. Rearrange your props, swap out props and take a lot of photos! This is so in the final editing phase you have many to choose from to pick the best ones. You don’t want to get to the editing phase and realise the shot you want is blurry and you need to re-set up and reshoot.

Nerd Burger tips

  • Take the time to set up and play with the composition. Setting up and the composition of the shot is 80% of the work.
  • Since you’ve already set up the scene, take lots and lots of variation shots! More often than not, when you look at the back of the screen on your camera, it looks more in focus and brighter (because all the pixels are condensed onto such a small screen). When you view it at a larger scale on your computer the shot might look a bit fuzzy and darker. That’s why a tripod and some foam core can make such a difference!
  • What other items would the person be using when using your product?
  • How would you show this item fits in with your customer’s life?



Building a prop collection

To save you from scrambling and rummaging around for props when you want to take a lifestyle shot, it can be helpful to build up a props collection. This is a collection of items that your customer would use in conjunction with the products you sell. So if you sell stationery, you may want to include items such as pens, paper, envelopes, notepads etc. Likewise if you sell ceramics, pick up some napkins, placemats, cutlery and some tasty treats to photograph your ceramics with.

Props don’t necessarily have to be expensive either. Have a look around at home first to see what you could include in your prop collection. Check out your local markets, or Salvation Army, St Vincent De Paul shops to pick up some bargains. Place all these items into a basket so when you need to do a photo shoot you have all your items in one place. Then you don’t need to go hunting around your home to collate them all!

Nerd Burger tips

  • Always try to include the maximum number of photos in your shop listing. The more images you include, the more invested the customer will be. This could leave to higher sales because they have a stronger connection to your product. The customer can visualise how your item could fit and be used in their lifestyle.
  • Scarves can serve as interesting makeshift tablecloths for a dining setting, picnic blanket, a duvet cover and other general backgrounds.

Final Nerd Burger tips

  • To correct for colour variances (like too yellow or too blue and not a true white) in the lighting of your photos, remember to change your white balance setting to match the type of lighting when you’re shooting. If it’s cloudy, choose the cloudy setting. If it’s sunny, choose the day light setting etc.
  • Learn to use the different functions of your camera and not just using it on the automatic setting!
  • Knowing how to use your camera to create beautiful visual photos of your products is a fantastic skill to have! Especially in the early stages where your budget may be limited and restrict your abilities to hire outside help. Look into online courses from creativelive.com or any from your local community college like TAFE to improve your product photography skills.


Download your FREE product photography props list!

Enter your details below and learn how to take your product photos to the next level with the skilful use of props!


What was the 1 thing that’s previously stopped you from producing your own product photos? Share what it was and 1 thing you learned from today’s post that you’re excited to put into practice!

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Monica is a corporate cubical escape artist turned jewellery maker, designer and creative business infopreneur. She helps fellow artists, designers and makers launch and grow a handmade business they love.
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