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How to Take Photos That Make Your Products Look Amazing Online

by Jim Newberry
February 6, 2017 | Work

It doesn't matter if you're selling hand-crafted soaps on Etsy or a vintage sweater on eBay—having a high-quality photo on your product page can make or break your sale. That's why Rewire asked Los Angeles photographer Jim Newberry to share some of his professional expertise to help our readers take photos of their wares that look incredible and motivate shoppers to add them to their carts.

Whether you're using a phone camera or expensive DSLR, here are a few simple techniques to make your product photos look their best. 

1. Create a sweep

Using poster board or thick paper, you can easily create a seamless “sweep” for a clean background (or seamless photo background paper for larger objects). My local dollar store has white poster board that’s a little glossy; it works perfectly for this.

Amazing Online pbs rewire
Photo courtesy of Jim Newberry.

Tape the poster board from floor or table to nearby wall. To avoid leaving residue on the wall, use painter’s tape or artist’s paper tape

2. Use colored paper

For relatively flat objects, try shooting them from directly above, using colored paper that creates a complementary contrast. 

Amazing Online pbs rewire
Photo courtesy of Jim Newberry.

3. Create nice light

Indirect daylight from windows works well; direct sun can be diffused with curtains or a window shade, or by taping tracing paper to the glass. Fluorescent and LED lights can be problematic; they can cause flicker issues, and can create undesirable color that’s not always easy to correct for (usually greenish or yellowish). 

Pop-up or on-camera flash tends to look harsh; if you know how to use a flash off-camera, try that with an umbrella, soft box or bouncing it off a wall or white card. 

4. Use fill cards

Placing white cards close to your product will bounce light into shadow areas. You can use foam core, index cards, paper—anything white. 

Amazing Online pbs rewire
Photo courtesy of Jim Newberry.

5. For small items, use the macro setting

If you’re shooting small objects like jewelry, you’ll need to get your camera close, which usually means using a macro lens. Phone cameras may not work for this. Check your camera for a macro setting, often designated with a flower icon, or use a macro lens if you have one.

Amazing Online pbs rewire
Photos courtesy of Jim Newberry.

6. Get the exposure right

A white background can cause the camera to make the exposure too dark; a dark background might cause an exposure that’s too bright. Here’s how to fix that:

Phone camera: Hold camera up to object, compose your shot. Tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus. Use the +/- slider to adjust brightness to your liking. 

Non-phone cameras: Use “exposure compensation” control to make the next shots you take darker or lighter, or better yet use manual exposure controls.

Advanced bonus tips:

- Use the lowest ISO setting you can; 100 is ideal

- Make sure camera white balance is adjusted accordingly (daylight/tungsten/etc)

- Use a small f stop (higher number, like f11 or f16) to get more depth of field (the area that will be sharply in focus)

- Shoot RAW format for best control over color and brightness

- Use a tripod to help keep the photos sharp, and to make things easier if you’re shooting multiple objects with the same setup

Questions? Let me know in the comments section below.

Jim Newberry
Jim Newberry is an internationally published, award-winning photographer based in Los Angeles. His interest in photography began as a young child, when his father—James Newberry, who founded the photography department at Columbia College Chicago—gave him a camera and taught him how to use it. He later graduated from Columbia, and soon after began shooting assignments for magazines and record labels. Jim continues to shoot for editorial and commercial clients, as well as shooting fine art photography, especially street pictures.
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