How to take product photos with your phone for free

Selling products online means convincing buyers that your product is worth their money. Great photography is a crucial tool in persuading customers, and the natural beauty of South Africa puts you in an ideal setting to get creative photographing your products.

Not everyone has access to the latest camera or a professional photographer, but if you have access to a smartphone, or someone who has one, you can take the shots yourself and cut down on costs.

The benefits of product photography are that you can use them on your website, social media platforms, emailers, and even on print.

Planning photos for your online store

Consistency on a website makes your brand trustworthy. Colours, layouts, and angles should be the same or at least similar across your platforms.

Decide on how you want to portray your photos and what features you want to showcase. There are different types of layouts to consider, such as:

  • Flat lay – A flat lay image is taken from above, looking down, also known as bird’s eye view. If a product has several parts or it’s a collection, a flat lay image is an excellent way to showcase each piece equally (see below image.)

  • Lifestyle – these kinds of images show how a person can use your products in day-to-day life.
  • Compatibility – some products are designed to be used with others which is considered a feature.

It’s crucial to stand out with your photography and to use your imagination. Your images are going to sell your products so make them interesting and captivating.

Regardless of what you’re selling and keep in mind that sometimes, less is more.

Equipment and things you’ll need to take good photos

Before anything else, it’s essential to know how you want your products to come across on screen. Get inspiration from Shopify templates, Pinterest boards or other businesses you see online and adapt your ideas to something that you can achieve.

When you’re ready to photograph your products, you’ll need:

  1. A camera – A smartphone with a camera that has 12 megapixel or more and offers an HD setting is ideal.
  2. Design software – You’ll need to trim and edit the photos using filters and adjusting other settings to ensure consistency.
  3. Lighting – Natural light works best, so when taking pictures, make sure it’s roughly the same time of day. If you’re using a lamp, ensure it has a white bulb.
  4. Products – Clean, fully assembled products that are an exact replica of what people receive when they purchase.
  5. Tripod – Shaking hands can cause blurring, so using a tripod or just something to lean your phone against helps to keep the camera steady and get the best results.

Your photo file sizes should be about 70KB. The bigger the file, the better the quality and resolution when people look at your images online. You’ll also be able to use them on social media and print with them.

How to take good photos for your online store

For your website to look as professional as possible, having consistent photos is the way to go. To achieve this, we recommend following the steps below:

  1. Put your camera on HD (1080P) for the clearest picture possible.
  2. Only use the front camera as the selfie lens has a lower image quality.
  3. Ensure that you have enough space on your device and your phone is charged.
  4. Keep the lighting the same throughout.
  5. Use a tripod or something else to hold your camera steady.
  6. Swipe your camera left or right to try settings like aperture or portrait.

Depending on what you’re selling, you’ll want a range of photos of each product to show a variety of uses, looks, and angles. Tip: choose the best-looking ones for your website and the rest can be used as part of social media campaigns and other facets of your business.

Backgrounds and angles

A plain background gives you more versatility with your final product pictures. However, apps like Scratch Photos allow you to remove backgrounds from photos with ease.

Living in South Africa means that natural beauty is in abundance. Take advantage of this by including well-known landscapes in the background, incorporating local parks, neighbourhoods, and street art into your photographs, or having members of your community model your products. Make use of your surroundings and embrace that genuine South African flair.

Photograph your product from different angles so that people can see it from all sides:

  • Bird’s eye – looking directly down, over the product.
  • Eye-level – facing straight on.
  • High angle – looking down from a raised position.
  • Low angle - facing up from the ground.

Online photography tools to use

To catch a user’s attention, you want to make your images as appealing as possible. Luckily, you can edit photos yourself without requiring the help of a graphic designer.

There are several free tools online with manual photo manipulation features and built-in filters to make your photos stand out:

  • GIMP
  • Scratch photos
  • Canva

Check your Shopify template’s image dimensions to ensure you have the correct sizing. Always save your images in a JPG or PNG file format.

Take control of your business with Shopify

Taking these photos might seem like a lot to consider, but it’s entirely possible through trial and error. You don’t need a photographer, an expensive phone, or high-tech equipment to capture your products, just your entrepreneurial drive.

With Shopify, you’ve taken the first step. All you need to do is fill in your template with your product images and start spreading the word about your brand.

Useful resources:
Shopify is a platform that gives anyone the tools to start, sell, market, and manage their business. Sign up to Shopify for a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.
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