Making your products look perfect is the key to making sales. Photographer Yeshen Venema gives his tips to help you create photos that make your products pop…
Getting the right picture to show off your product is paramount if you want to make sales. You may have the best handmade creations, but if the photography isn’t up to the same standard you’ll lose sales.
Photographer Yeshen Venema is an expert when it comes to making designer/makers wares look the best they possibly can. Working from his north London studio Yeshen has created eye-catching images for makers such as Future and Found and Bleak House London. Here Yeshen shares his top tips and things to avoid when taking product photography so you can kick your 2017 sales off in style…
Time is money, so if you’re doing the shots yourself, or using a professional you want to make your time and money is well spent. Start planning two to three months ahead and think of shots you need, where they’ll be used and the style/props/location. Sketch out your images using a grid, and pre-visualise your shots.
Find the light
Photography is all about light, so find yours. A north facing window is ideal, but any window (the larger the better) will do. If the light is too bright (direct sunlight) use tracing paper, muslin or white shower curtain material to diffuse it. Watch how the light changes at different times during day, the morning will be cooler (blue), the evening warmer (red/orange). Aim for directional light across your product, as this creates form and makes your product appear more 3D. Use white or black foam boards to add highlight or shadow on the opposite side for your product. For glass or other translucent materials use a bit of backlighting (place your product on angle between your camera and the light source.
Background and Surface
While a white background is fine for cut out shots, for a lifestyle image you need to get more imaginative. Find unique, textured surfaces to use in your shots. Check skips and recycling points, people through the best stuff away! You can also consider painting your own – there are tons of tutorials online for creating concrete and whitewashed wood effects.
Pick your props
Keep it simple. Use items that are not too strong, after all you don’t want to distract from your product. Also try and avoid recognisable brand name props, your product needs to be the focus and if you’re using books or magazine position them so the text is facing away from camera.
Use a tripod
Using a tripod is absolutely crucial, without it you will not be able to shoot at the slower shutter speeds to capture the light you need. Also, a tripod means you can lock in an angle for a series of shots and ensure they are consistent. It also frees you up to walk around and compose the shot. If you want to achieve consistent flatlay shots from directly overhead, you’ll need a tripod that can lock into a horizontal position. Don’t forget to use a counter balance for the tripod too unless you want a smashed camera!
Understand your camera
If you are serious about taking better product photos, learn how to control the basic camera settings in Manual Mode. The three key things that control exposure (how much light your camera sees) are shutter speed, aperture and ISO. For an average product shot you would want the aperture between 5-8 and the ISO at 100-400 and adjust your shutter speed accordingly.
Check your visual grammar. Your photos should be consistent in terms of lighting, crops, backgrounds, surface and so on. You can vary the look within product groups, but you need a consistent look on your websites and social media feeds. This builds trust with your customers and if they trust you, they’ll buy from you.
Find your focus point, this may be the whole product (get the full depth of the item sharp) or a specific part like a button. Our eyes are drawn to the areas of an image that are in focus, so consider where you want your customers to look.
What does your product do?
You can have a stunning photo but if you don’t show what your products are for the message will be lost. What are the key features? How do you use it? This is also an opportunity to show scale, so use props that are familiar, but neutral in tone and shape. Simple ceramics and wooden spoons are great for this.
Where are your images being used?
Where are you going to use the images? Square product listings? Wide banner shots? Social Media headers? Print materials? Each of these may require a different crop. Search for ‘Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet’ to get the latest social image sizes. Shooting ‘tethered’ into a software app such as Adobe Lightroom or Capture One will enable you to live preview your crops and make editing adjustments as you shoot.
You are a creative maker, so don’t stop at your products. You can build custom props, create custom surfaces and think of ways to display your products in a unique way. Whatever your products, you’re in a highly competitive marketplace, so going that extra mile will help you stand out, gets press and achieve more sales.
All photography by Yeshen Venema. Styling by Mugdha Sapte (Julia Jacobs Designs), Hilary Lowe (Kate Rowe and Jules Hogan) and Clare Nicolson (HAM)