How to shoot professional product photos

When I first started my business, I knew that photography was crucial to looking professional online and creating the trust necessary for people to buy from me. But my infant company didn't yet have the money to pay someone, and doing it myself was so difficult!

Achieving a white background seemed impossible. I tried everything: making light boxes, applying heavy edits, and trying countless tricks I read about online. Eventually, I found a fast and simple way that anyone can take professional-looking product photos.

Here's how to do it using a sheet of paper, natural light, any camera, and a free photo editor:

 

1. Set up

 A sheet of printer paper next to a big window with lots of natural light works fine if you don't have studio lighting.

Here's a straight-out-of-camera photo taken with a Canon 6D. Settings: 1/250, F8.0, ISO 2000. (If your camera can't go to ISO 2000, that's fine; we'll fix it when we edit. Make sure you don't push your ISO up so high that the photo becomes noisy; it's better to have a crisp, darker photo.)

Make sure you shoot in RAW if your camera supports it! For those without DSLRs: Don't worry! I started out with a point-and-shoot and did just fine.

 

2. Initial edits

If you have access to a RAW photo editor, sucha as Adobe Camera RAW, use it to bump up the "whiteness" bar slightly. Make other adjustments if necessary. (If you don't have that kind of editor or can't shoot in RAW, it's okay! We'll fix it later!)

 

3. Adjust your levels

In Gimp, find the "levels' adjustment option. Click the white eye dropper tool and then click on the darkest part of your white background. This will automatically adjust your photo so the point you selected is white. If selecting the darkest point ruins your photo by overexposing it, click other, lighter spots until you find an area that brightens your background without spoiling the image of your product. Your background doesn't need to be purely white yet, so make sure you don't overdo it.

HOW TO FIND YOUR LEVELS ADJUSTMENT

 

4. Crop & clean up

Click "OK" when you're happy with your levels adjustment, and crop your photo to the size desired. Select your paintbrush tool. Set it to white at 100 percent opacity. Brush the edges of your photo to turn it to pure white.

Reduce your brush's opacity to 30% and make it smaller. Zoom in and paint any pargs of your image that are still too dark. The point here is to blend the brush with your natural background to make it pure white without the photo looking over-edited.

5. The limits of this method

This tactic worked for me until I was able to buy the studio lights I needed to take really killer shots. Gimp is great, but because it doesn't have the ability to make layer adjustments, you're not going to get magazine-quality photos. Think of it as enough to boost your sales online and get you some solid revenue coming in, at which point you can invest in some lights or hire a photographer (my rates for product photos start at $30!). When you're ready, studio lights don't have to be super expensive, and growing as a product photographer gets easier in time. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about inexpensive studio lights and advanced product photography editing in Photoshop!

 

Be sure to resize your photo at 300 dpi to make it clear but small enough for the web. Remember, the smaller your file size, the faster your website will load!