How to Shoot Professional Product Photos with Your Smartphone

If you don’t yet have the funds to invest in camera equipment, buy yourself time by learning how to take great product photos with your smartphone.

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There's no denying it; product photos are a huge part of your online success. They're visual ambassadors to your customers, showing off your wares and persuading them to "Add to Cart." At their best, product photos increase sales and improve customer satisfaction, as well as help tell your brand’s story. And although we strongly recommend investing in professional camera equipment, we understand that this isn’t an option for everyone.

The good news? Your smartphone can serve as a great interim camera while you save up for the real thing.

It may seem an unlikely choice for product photos, but your smartphone can be an incredible asset if you know how to use it. Smartphones have drastically evolved over the last few years to include cameras advanced enough to snap professional quality images, especially for viewing on the web. But just because your smartphone can take high quality pictures doesn't mean it's going to turn out perfectly the first time around.

Here are some simple guidelines on how to improve the product photos you take on your phone:

 

Know your device

The first step in shooting professional photos is knowing your device inside and out, your smartphone included. Learn everything you can about the internal camera and how much you can control out of the box. Many smartphones come equipped with several manual settings, including exposure controls, white balance and post processing. Take the time to understand how to use each of these tools to enhance your images. If you use a smartphone that doesn’t include these features, consider adding an application like Camera+, Camera ZOOM FX or VSCOCam.  These tools provide helpful manual controls, include editing and sharing capabilities, and are used by many professional photographers.

 

Know the basics of manual mode

Although shooting on automatic can save time and yield great pictures, it’s much better to control your shot as much as possible. Although a smartphone won’t offer as much control as a professional-grade camera, understanding the basics will help improve your pictures. Here are the essential parts of manual mode:

 

Exposure

Exposure is the amount of light that you capture with your camera. It’s controlled by three tools: shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

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View of focus and exposure controls on VSOC Cam application

 

White Balance

whitebalancecambridge              Examples of white balance corrections from Cambridge in Colour

 

Look for soft light or consider building a lightbox

When it comes to shooting product photos, nothing beats soft or diffused light. It's less intense, spreads evenly over the product (causing fewer shadows) and better brings out details, making it ideal for putting your products' best foot forward.

Luckily, soft light is easy to find if you know what to look for. If you’re shooting products in your home or office, set up a shoot near a window on a bright but overcast day to avoid harsh rays. Then, use a piece of white paper or poster board to reflect the light coming in and eliminate any shadows on your product.

Courtesy of Veggie Belly

Example setup courtesy of Veggie Belly

 

Another great option is to build your own lightbox. This way, you can shoot with any kind of light and at any time of the day without spending a pretty penny on a pre-made one. I built my lightbox about six months ago, and it works like a charm.

 DIYlightbox

DIY lightbox on Strobist

 

Create an effective background

An effective background is essential to drawing attention to your products and reinforcing your brand. Many business owners choose a white background for a clean image that showcases their products. Others prefer a black background or even a staged scene. If you’re thinking about introducing colors to your product photo backgrounds, take some time to research color theory so you'll choose options that'll make your products pop.

 

Don’t forget to edit

Your shoot may be over, but your product photos aren't done yet. It's time for editing to take the main stage, bring out your photos' best qualities and help you convey the perfect brand message. Most of the camera programs listed above offer intuitive editing tools. If you’re looking for more, Photoshop Touch and AfterLight are great choices as well.

To get a head start on getting that perfect product photo, try playing around with these basic settings:

 

Product photography isn’t a skill that develops overnight, so don’t feel discouraged if your first few shoots seem like a struggle. Just like everything else, practice makes perfect. If you keep these tips in mind and shoot regularly, you’ll be on your way to professional photography in no time.

Anjuli Desai

Anjuli Desai is a Marketing Specialist at Volusion, where she manages the webinar program and writes content. In her free time, Anjuli enjoys exploring her creativity through design and photography.