Product photography may sound like an occasion for a fancy DSLR, but with the right tools and techniques, you can take high-quality product images with your smartphone.
Have an Etsy store? Want to take great product photos for it, but can’t afford a costly DSLR camera? Well, chances are, the camera on your phone is more than capable of taking sharp and beautiful product photos. So, go ahead and give it the tools it needs to do so!
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Supplies for Phone Product Photography
When it comes to product photography with a phone, you can’t skimp when it comes to gear. The old adage, “you have to spend money to make money,” rings true in this case.
And before you get offended, think of a few points:
Your phone, without any sort of additional gear, is less expensive than a good DSLR or mirrorless camera. Plus, your phone does a lot more stuff than take photos. Don’t be afraid to invest a little extra to get the best camera phone.
All of the gear we’re going to discuss is less expensive than the equivalent for a mirrorless or DSLR (meaning if you’re doing phone product photography, then you’re already saving money).
Taking better quality photos will be better for the sale of your product – this is just intuitive. Spend a little bit of extra money on your gear for phone product photography, and the sales to your Etsy store are sure to rise.
One of the most basic supplies that you’ll need for product photography with your smartphone is a tripod. People don’t want to buy a product if it’s advertisement includes a blurry image.
No matter how steady you think your hands are, you’re at risk of taking a blurry photo, so to get sharp, high-quality images you’ll need to use a tripod.
The size of your tripod will depend on the products you plan on photographing. For smaller items, a tabletop or mini tripod works best, while you may find a full-size tripod works better for larger items.
Regardless of size, make sure you buy a tripod that allows your smartphone to be clipped on or otherwise attached.
Since minimizing blur should be a priority, you’ll also need a wireless shutter remote. The stability of your tripod will do you no good if you bump your phone when you hit the shutter button. Even the tiniest motion can shake your phone enough to decrease detail and sharpness. Most wireless remotes connect to your phone via Bluetooth and are quite inexpensive.
Consider what kind of background you’ll be using and the lighting you’ll need to make your product look great.
For smaller items, a lightbox is a perfect solution. Lightboxes are ideal for simplifying the background to make sure your product remains the focus of the photo. Most lightboxes also have built-in lighting minimizing the amount of gear you’ll need to carry around.
If you’re photographing larger products with your phone or aren’t interested in lightboxes, you’ll need to invest in a quality background and lights. Depending on your needs, you may want to choose more portable options that can be taken with you and set up on location.
You may also be able to use natural light with a bounce card or reflector. Soft, diffused lighting usually works best for product photography.
Of course, your smartphone comes with a lens that will be adequate for product photography, but if you want the best photos possible, you’ll need to consider investing in clip-on lenses. If you were doing your product photography with a DSLR, you’d want the right lens for the job, so why not do the same with your smartphone?
Again, you can undoubtedly do product photography with the camera app that comes on your cellphone, but if you want spectacular photos, you’ll need to download the right app for the job.
Most third-party camera apps allow you nearly as much control over your photos as a DSLR as well as the option of shooting in either JPEG or RAW format.
Having the ability to customize your photos from the start will not only improve the quality of your pictures but give you more flexibility in editing them later.
Techniques for Mobile Phone Product Photography
Before you begin photographing your Etsy products, you’ll need to set up your studio. Choose a flat surface, either on a tabletop or on the ground, and set up your background or lightbox. Whichever you’ve chosen to use, make sure it’s large enough to fill the whole frame of your photo without having to get too close to your product. Otherwise, you may end up having to crop your final photos awkwardly.
Once your background is set up, you can get your lighting ready. As previously mentioned, if you’re using light from a nearby window, you may need to set up a reflector to create even lighting and reduce shadows. If you’re using a lightbox, setup may be as simple as plugging it in and flipping a switch.
Next, you’ll need to position your product.
Try to place your product in the center of your background. Depending on the type of product you’re photographing with your phone, you may need to put it on top of something or prop it up. Use the grid feature on your camera app to ensure that the product is straight and even.
Once you have the product where you want it, adjust the lighting one more time to make sure there aren’t any awkward shadows, and the lighting is soft and even.
Finally, you’re ready to set up your mobile phone. After you’ve connected your wireless remote and set up your tripod, be sure to check your lenses one last time for dust or smudges. Be sure to adjust the height of the tripod so that you’re capturing your product at its most flattering angle.
After setting your equipment up, you can open your camera app of choice and adjust the settings as needed. Don’t be afraid to take a few test photos to make sure everything looks right.
Helpful Tips for Cell Phone Product Photography:
If you need to get a closeup of your product, move your smartphone closer to the product rather than use the digital zoom feature. Unfortunately, using the zoom button on your phone will decrease the quality of your photo (need more explanation?). You might also want to consider using a different lens on your phone. A clip-on Moment Macro lens might be precisely what you need to get that detailed closeup.
After you’ve captured the perfect photo, it’s time to edit. Editing your photos gives you the chance to add the final touch to your already incredible images. Every smartphone product photographer has a different opinion on which app is the best for this. Some prefer paid apps, while others prefer free, but here are a few favorites.
It’s worth noting that when editing your photos, it’s important not to overdo it. If you’ve put in the work to capture a good picture, you’ll probably only need to adjust a few settings such as brightness, contrast, white balance, or sharpness. Try to avoid filters in the app, borders, and oversaturation.
Product photography is not the place for this.
Most of what you need to do product photography with your smartphone is already available on your phone. With the right tools and techniques, the average consumer won’t even be able to tell the difference between the photos you took with your mobile phone and those taken with a DSLR.
Remember, when it comes to product photography with phones, practice makes perfect!