At Splento, we take a lot of photographs – and that includes a lot of product photography photographs. So it stands to reason that our photographers have learned all the mistakes to be made with product photography (maybe sometimes the hard way).
To assist your own product photography endeavours, we’ve listed below the most common mistakes that we find, to help you to avoid them.
1. Poor lighting
Lighting is crucial to every photograph – not just product photography, but every photograph ever taken.
If you get your lighting wrong, there is only so much you can do in post-processing (editing), so it is best to get it right from the start.
The most common error is using a mixture of light sources (ie. daylight plus fluorescent lighting). Different lights require different white balance settings on the camera (see below) and if you mix them, you give yourself unnecessary challenges.
For small items, a lightbox is a great investment and doesn’t cost a lot. Larger items benefit most from a studio set up.
Whilst professional studio lights are not essential, they will always give the best, most consistent results. Natural sunlight is a reasonable second best, but you will miss out vital detail and the quality of a professional photo will suffer if you do not use studio lighting.
You need the right balance of lighting, shade, brightness, and highlights.
2. Incorrect white balance
The white balance setting on your camera is the one that ensures that your colours remain accurate and true to the original.
If your photographs are turning out too ‘warm’ (yellow/red) or too ‘cool’ (blue) then incorrect white balance is the cause.
Your white balance setting on your camera depends on your lighting.
Fluorescent and LED lighting produces cooler images; natural light and ‘normal’ light bulbs will create warm tones in your images. Both require compensating for by utilising the white balance setting on our camera. As a last resort, you can use ‘auto’ mode on your camera setting.
This is why we mention above that mixing light sources is a big mistake – it confuses the camera and makes achieving a good white balance much more difficult.
3. Photographing reflections
Once you have your lighting right, the next problem is reflections.
With multiple light sources, having a reflective surface can cause issues with your photography! Simply using diffusers with your light source can resolve many problems here, but there are a few other issues to look out for.
This is discussed in more depth in our article ‘Photography tips for products – bottles’ so take a read of that to glean more insights into handling reflection issues.
4. Distracting layouts
Backgrounds and props can help contribute to some amazing photographs and yet are often the cause of some serious photo errors.
There is a reason that Amazon insists on your main photograph being the product only against a plain white background – and that is because there is then nothing else to distract the eye.
Other supplementary images are important (see point 8 below) but for your main product images, a plain white or light grey background works best almost all of the time.
A plain background highlights the item, and removes any distraction from the scene, leaving the customer to focus on your product.
A busy background is only a noisy nuisance. Props can be great – if used with constraint or with supplementary photos – but your main images should almost always be against a plain backdrop.
5. Unprepped items
Surprisingly, one of the most common errors we see lies with the preparation (or lack of it) with the products themselves.
When you are prepping an item for photography, make sure it is clean, crease-free (clothes, etc) and that the item is clear of fingerprints and other marks! The camera will always find and highlight these errors.
Also, check that any packaging used is in perfect condition.
Poorly presented items in product photography translate into poor quality items in the mind of the customer. In other words, an unprepared item can – will – cost you sales!
6. Blurred images
Blurred images are another common problem.
Blurring can be caused by one of two errors. The first is simple camera shake when taking the photograph.
Without exception, you need a tripod for product photography. And even when using a tripod, use the shutter delay (timer) on the camera so that you are not touching it when the photo is taken. Any kind of movement, however small, will be revealed as a blur in the resulting image.
The second reason for blur is the camera focus. Take time focussing once you have the shot set up and do not rush it; this cannot be fixed during post-processing.
For some items, especially with close-up shots, you cannot get the whole image in perfect focus (jewellery, for example, is often a challenge). In these cases, focus on the most important element of the shot and use other photos to show other aspects of the product.
Speaking of which…
7. Not enough photos taken
Very often you will find products for sale on eCommerce stores that only have one or two images and therefore do not show all the details and even all the item.
Take more photos! And take them from multiple angles. The rule of thumb is to take more images than you need, and you can always discard the extras later. What you can’t easily do is realise later that you are missing some shots and go back and recreate them.
Take multiple shots from multiple angles. Close-ups where relevant, and more distant ones too.
Extra shots cost nothing – except a few moments of your time, so make sure you take enough.
8. Lack of scale
Most products benefit from context shots – not just a studio white background.
Context shots show the product being used. Bags being carried, clothes being worn, furniture being positioned in a room, etc.
We’ve all heard the funny stories of people buying furniture online only to find out that it was for a dolls house when it was delivered!
Take a few context shots to establish the size of the product so your customers are in no doubt about what they are buying from you. This will save time and trouble later on.
9. Missing the post-processing step
Post-processing, or retouching/editing all your photos is an essential step in product photography.
Your images are going to be scrutinised by customers who want to inspect your item before purchase, in the same way, they would if buying in a brick and mortar store, so your photos need to be perfect.
However good the initial photo is, it won’t be good enough for use without a little retouching using Photoshop or other editing software.
This is where minor blemishes can be removed, as well as little irritations that you missed when taking the photo. Colours can be adjusted, within limits, and white backgrounds perfected.
This stage is often skipped over because it takes time and an understanding of the editing package, which itself takes time to learn to use properly.
Often, the best solution is to outsource this step, even if you have successfully done all the photography yourself.
Pro tip: Even many professional photographers outsource editing – although they won’t admit it. They are busy taking photos, and spending hours after each session editing shot after shot is something they don’t always have time for.
If you are looking for low-cost photo retouching, then take a look at this editing offer here, which caters not just for individual images and bulk-shoots as well.
10. Lack of uniformity
Whether you have a large product range or just a few items, one problem that always stands out is when you have different photographic styles displayed on your website or eCommerce store pages.
We often see online stores which have some products photographed against a white background, others against grey and even some then just displayed outdoors or with another completely contrasting background.
Whatever your style and setting, all your products should be displayed uniformly. This means that if you change our shooting style, then go back and reshoot all your older items.
If you don’t, then on your store pages they will look exactly that – old.
It’s too easy to find multiple examples online of this being done so we’ll leave you to do that for yourself. We will show you a good example though – here’s a link to a website that Splento recently did a photo session for. Every item (old and new product lines) were photographed in the new style the store wanted.
The results speak for themselves.
Getting the best quality product photos
We hope this list helps you on your product photography journey. If you would rather save yourself the time and trouble, then hiring a professional photographer is no longer the huge expense it once was.
High-quality product photography does not mean high-priced!
At Splento, we have professional photographers who specialise in product photography around the world. We can handle any size and scale of catalogue, large or small, and can produce the final, retouched images within 24 hours (guaranteed). And for a fixed rate from just £99 ($149) an hour, we can guarantee our services will fit your budget too.
And if we can’t currently come to you, as your lockdown regulations do not allow it where you are, we can also work remotely.
Simply send your products to us and we will photograph them in the studio. Your quality product, our quality photos.
Finally, what if you already have your photos taken and they just need a retouch to bring them up to the high standard you need? Easy – take a look at the Splento retouch service, which will give you product quality photographs that make the difference, with editing for just 49p per photo.
Just for you – here’s a quick video to show you how to do product photography during lockdown 🙂