If you’re a business owner with little photography experience, it can be especially daunting to have to take awesome shots of a new product you are selling or photos for your website. I understand this because I am not a photographer but occasionally I need to photograph products or objects for projects I am working on. It is convenient to take a photo with your smart phone, but how do you make it look good enough to go up on your site and sell products? There are a few simple rules you need to follow.

Find “Good” Light

Professional photographers know how to manipulate light to create stunning images. In a professional product shoot, there are three light sources: the back, key and fill light. If you want to achieve a more professional set-up it can take a little work and dedication. But if you’re in a time crunch and aren’t interested in setting up a photography studio, natural light works really well too. Make sure that you are not shooting too early or late at night. You’ll want to set up your shoot in the afternoon or evening where the light isn’t too bright or too dim.

Use a Tripod

One of the most important aspects of product photography is that it’s clean and crisp. To achieve a steady hand, go buy a tripod designed for a mobile phone. They tend to be pretty budget friendly and they will help you achieve the look you are going for. If you have a smaller product, a table tripod might work well.

Stage an Environment

As a designer, this is one of my favorite parts of the process. You don’t have to shoot a photo on a white background. Feel free to experiment with different fabrics and surfaces. Styling your photo can be as simple or as complicated as you would like it to be. If your product is used by people, try incorporating a model or set it up in a room where it might be used. If you need inspiration, there are plenty of e-commerce sites like etsy.com where small business owners have to work on a tight budget to showcase their work. Just as an example, here’s a great DIY product photo from Etsy:


This photo works because it has an even backdrop and natural light. The mugs are set up on a burlap cloth which works perfectly for what the business owner is intending. It seems cozy, artistic and simple. When you are ready to take your photo, think about what you want the final photo to look like. You might be surprised that changing the angle of your camera may make a product look better or worse. Take a photo from multiple angles. Take an up close shot of your product, far away and, if it’s a clothing-related product, take a picture with a person.

Consider the Final Destination

As a designer, I often think about where the photos I take will go and how they will be cropped. For example, would your product photos look best in a landscape or portrait orientation? Do you want all your products to be cropped in a square thumbnail? Will your product be a focal point on a large banner image on your homepage? These are all questions you should be asking yourself so you don’t waste your time on photos that won’t work well in your marketing materials.