How to Take Great Product Photos on a Budget

How to Take Great Product Photos on a Budget

Are you in need of product photos?  On a tight budget?  Don’t have professional grade cameras and editing software?  If you answered yes to any of that, you are in the right place.  It’s no secret that high quality product photos are important in the online business world, and a good photo can be the difference between getting a sale and having customers bounce from your site.  I’m going to share with you a few tips and tricks I use to create my product photos.  Whether you just have a smart phone, or you have access to a digital camera and basic editing software, you can still take beautiful photos for your online store and social media.


Take Your Photos

First, let’s talk tips for taking great pictures.  A few things to consider: 

  • Lighting.  Above all else, this is the best tip I can give you.  Prioritize lighting!  If you can, take pictures outside during the day.  This will give you the best results, and will be the easiest to edit- you might not have to edit them!  However, if you can’t take pictures outside, try to make the space you are in as bright and evenly lit as possible, and utilize lights that are as white as possible- not cool or warm toned.  If you can, invest in a good quality light for photoshoots.  Good lighting helps with the quality of your image, accuracy of the colors, and minimizes shadows.
a collage of four similar images of a Topo Chico bottle candle as an example to show: a photo in a dimly lit room, and with better lighting, and outside with a shadow cast on the front of the bottle versus behind it
  • Background.  Make sure your background isn’t distracting.  Place your product in front of a plain wall or floor.  If you don’t have that, purchase some poster boards from your local craft store- they’re inexpensive, and you can reuse them for multiple photoshoots.  


  • Angle.  Consider what angle you are taking the picture from.  What looks best for your product?  What does the best job of showing the customer the important details and features?  Do any angles look weird or distorted?  Move around and test different angles to find what is best for your product.  In some cases, holding the item might be a good idea (I do this sometimes for photographing earrings, or other items that don’t lay flat or stand up).
a collage of four images, depicting an example of a distracting background, a plain background, a weird angle, and an example of using gridlines on a smartphone to take a straight picture

A Note On Setting a Scene.  For some businesses, it helps to set your product in a scene.  For example, if you are selling camping supplies, it might be more compelling to your customers if you set a scene- show them what they will experience when they purchase your product.  This is of course not necessary, but adds an extra level to your marketing strategy and can be great for posts to social media.  If you would like to do this, I recommend keeping in mind the mood you want to set, the emotions you want to invoke in the viewer, and still consider the above tips.  Make sure your focal point is either the product itself, or what the product provides to the customer (excitement, adventure, creativity, etc).


Edit Your Photos

Editing your photos can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be.  It all depends on what you want your final images to look like.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Brightness.  For product photos that pop, you want a bright image- not dark with lots of shadows.  


  • Color.  If your product is colorful, you want to make sure the colors pop and are slightly saturated.  But beware, you don’t want overly saturated images.  If the color is brighter than the physical product itself, tone it back down.  We want photos that don’t appear obviously edited, and more importantly we want to be sure the photo accurately depicts the product.


  • Contrast.  Adding just a little bit of contrast is another thing that can make your photos pop, but you want to be wary of overuse, which can make your photo appear dark.


  • Texture/Sharpening.  This is one of my favorite editing tools!  You can use this to make textures pop, and make your overall image appear clearer.
A collage of five versions of the same image, displaying: the original photo, an example of the editing tools on iPhone, an over saturated image, an image with too much contrast, and an image cropped poorly


A Note On Editing Softwares

Editing softwares are not necessary, but can offer you more options and capabilities that you can’t always get for free.  If you are an aspiring photographer, or plan on taking photos regularly, it can be smart to invest in a software like Adobe Lightroom to make your editing process easier and more professional.  They offer loads of other features, including AI tools, to take your editing process to the next level.  If you want to be able to remove the background completely, I would recommend investing in an editing software.


Below are my two final example images- both taken with an iPhone, both edited similarly but using different tools.  The left image was edited in Apple’s built in editing tools in the Photos app.  The right was edited using Adobe Lightroom.  Can you see the difference?  It’s subtle- you can just use a smartphone, and take effective photos!

two nearly identical images side by side. One reads "final on iPhone" and is bright but slightly lower quality than the other which is labeled "final using Adobe Lightroom" Both photos have been edited to maximize color, brightness, and detail, but the Adobe edited image is slightly higher quality and the editing is more precise

And that’s it!  I typically batch create- I take as many pictures as I can at once, and then edit them all at the same time.  One last rule of thumb- consistency.  Pick a style and try to stick with it.  If you have a certain color palette you are trying to achieve, set up a preset.  Try to crop your photos the same way (I typically do square photos for my site and socials), and overall just strive for a cohesive look (aka branding 😉).


Would you like to see a video tutorial of this?  Let me know in the comments!




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