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The One-Step Sneaky and Cheap Way to Take a Great Product Shot–With a Cell Phone

by Chantal March 18, 2019

This article originally appeared when I wrote it on LinkedIn on February 13th, 2019. Let’s connect!

If you’re a business owner that finds yourself in need of product photography often, it can be hard to keep things updated and consistent.

The most important thing is that your product is visually clear, but cell phone pictures that lack depth of field and have distracting backgrounds don’t do much to close your sale.

As a professional photographer, I always use a nice SLR and lighting techniques to photograph my client’s products, but you can steal some of my techniques for yourself. Putting them to use is as easy as grabbing your pocket camera–AKA phone–and an 8.5 x 11 sheet of computer paper. For this tutorial I’m using a fun little vintage peacock business card holder I keep on my desk. (Fun fact–someone’s selling the same item on Ebay at the moment. Looks like they could have used this tutorial.)

Clearly, this sheet of computer paper is only big enough for a small item. However, you can use this same concept with a larger piece of paper. I don’t recommend using fabric unless you plan on busting out the iron and steamer–even then, you’ll never achieve the seamless and clean look of paper.

Wrinkles are bad, mmmkay?

STEP ONE: Set up in front of a nice, well-lit window. Mid-afternoon is going to be the best timing for you while indoor. You’ll need to play around to see which positioning creates the least amount of shadow on the paper. Depending on the time of day and the quality/brightness of your light, you may need to slightly angle your set up. In a perfect world, you’d have “key light” or supplemental light to remove shadows. This could be achieved by shining, say, another cell phone light on the side with the shadows. However, for a quick product shot, this probably won’t be necessary if you’re mindful about the way you position the item.

STEP TWO: Take the shot and adjust it using your phone’s editing software or another favorite. I was aiming for VERY speedy with this tutorial, so I quickly opened it up in my Android’s “Photos” program and adjusted a few settings. Namely, some extra exposure to brighten things up and help out with some shadows that were cast on the side/background.

The final product isn’t a work of art, but it’s certainly passable and much better than a distracting photo on the carpet or kitchen table! (Or worse yet, in front of a wrinkly sheet.)

COMMON PROBLEMS:

Flash? Don’t do it! Unless you have diffusers and strategic placement, flash will create hotspots on your item and lots of shadow, seen in this picture.

Excessive shadow? Keep rotating your paper until you see the subject lit in pleasing light with the most minimal amount of shadow cast on the paper. Remember, you may need to move the item further or closer from the light source. More shadows are found the further away from the light source you move.

By this time, you’ve got a clean and crisp little photo that’s ready to go!

Still, let’s not underestimate the power of a great photo to sell your product.

Sure, we need to clearly see an item before we’ll consider buying it, but it’s almost more important for us to be able to visualize how it would feel for us to own it.

What would that look like? Where would this proud little peacock sit?

High quality, well-branded photos are paramount to your business and sales.

Can you see/feel the difference?

Good luck, and let me know if this tip worked for you!

Looking for some awesome product photography? Let’s chat!

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