1. Shooting against a complex backdrop
Product images more often than not require a white background. This is especially true when selling on marketplaces like Amazon. It’s a lot easier to separate the background in an editing program if you shoot your product images on a plain background which contrasts with your products. Neutral grey is used by most professional product photographers.
2. Not making the most of camera’s settings
Paying attention to a few important settings on your camera will dramatically improve your images – so get your camera’s user manual out and start experimenting.
Aperture value (AV):
If you have a DSLR camera or a good compact camera, you should be able to set the aperture value. Remember that a small value gives a more shallow depth of field and a higher value gives a deeper depth of field – the higher the number, the more focus there is. Often when shooting products you want a high depth of field. You’ll need to play around with this yourself. It’s impossible to make generalizations, but I normally have my Av setting around 10 – try that to start with.
Most professional photographers save photos in their uncompressed form (RAW images). They will then import these images into special software to be tweaked and tuned at a professional level before converting them to JPG as the final step. If you’re not operating at this level, it’s best to let your camera do the processing itself. Just go for the best possible JPG output on your camera.
Setting the white balance on your camera allows you to correct the colour distortions created by the lighting type you’re using. Images with accurate and consistent colours increase customer trust and reduce returns so it’s an area worth paying attention to. You can use your camera’s WB presets (typically indoor or outdoor) or use a custom setting. With the custom setting, you typically point the camera at a piece of white card and take a reading.
Sometimes cameras will darken (under-expose) the image, especially when shooting against a light background. This can be avoided by using the exposure compensation feature available on most digital cameras (labeled as ‘EV’ for Exposure Value). If you don’t have this feature, you’ll have to lighten the image in your editing.
3. Not using zoom
Another common mistake is not using the camera’s zoom. Most zoom cameras have a very good wide angle (when zoomed out), however this is designed for landscape images where you want to capture as much as possible. Using this to shoot a smaller object will result in a distorted image. To avoid this, it’s a good idea to use the zoom. If you have a DSLR camera, go for 50+mm, and if you have a zoom lens, go even higher. I normally use a 70-80mm lens for product photography. Be aware that using zoom requires more space.
4. Not considering reflections
Reflections have a tendency to work against amateur photographers. When shooting objects with reflection such as jewellery, try to control what is being reflected in the objects. The easiest way is to use pieces of black and white cardboard. Position these pieces of cardboard right next to and around the object and use the viewer in your camera to see what happens. Keep moving them around until you get the effect you’re looking for. In some cases you can use a light tent, but this might result in a photo that looks less ‘alive’.
5. Not spending time on editing
The last and perhaps biggest mistake that amateurs make is not editing their images. Most professional photographers use just as much time on editing as they do on the photo shoot itself. Good image editing can elevate a product image which is merely OK, to something really fantastic. Editing can also save you a lot of time on your photo-shoot and give a more consistent result. For example, it can be easier to create pure white backgrounds and shadows in an editing program than in a studio. Likewise, for truly consistent product images, it’s best to crop, resize and straighten images in an editing program rather than spending time trying to get the perfect shot on a photo-shoot.
If you lack the skills or the time required to edit your images, it’s a great idea to outsource this step. At Remove The Background we specialize in editing product images for online retailers and can help you get a perfect result at a very low cost. Our WebSeller package for example, includes all the editing tasks you need to optimize your product images for web-use and starts at just £0.89 or 1.29 euros per image. Here’s the website of Remove The Background.
About the author
Rune Ersgard, Managing Director Remove The Background Germany, Austria, Switzerland
Rune Ersgard was born in Denmark. He worked as a manager in different branches with main focus on sales, leadership and implementing best practices. In 2011, he married Natalia Ersgard. Together with his wife and CEO Thomas Kragelund he established Remove The Background in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 2012. This expansion was a logical step as the company had already been present in Scandinavia and the USA and was looking for growth opportunities.