Written by Janet
High-quality, engaging, and clear product photos are an essential component to running a successful boutique. As the first thing your customers see when visiting your website, images create a strong first impression; Will it be one that inspires trust or one that drives them to click off, never to return? I'm here to help it be the former!
So what do you do when the only camera you have is attached to your phone? When you're a new boutique focused on minimizing costs, you also need to prioritize showcasing great photos as quickly as possible. I've pulled together a quick-start guide to taking wonderful photos with just your phone!
1. Find a clean, neutral background.
While lifestyle photos are fun to shoot and post, I also recommend taking photos in a clean setting. An uncluttered background keeps customers' eyes on your product. What are a few good ideas for photoshoot locations?
The image above works for Instagram because it's intriguing and eye-catching. What it lacks as a product photo, though, is focus. The customer's eye is drawn toward the painting and the flowers in the background, rather than the blazer and camisole, the products featured in the photo.
I'm not saying you should completely nix lifestyle photos (several of our featured images are in this genre!), but that you should rather make sure to include cleaner shots in the mix.
Ultimately, your photo should accurately convey what your item looks like. Distracting elements draw attention away from your merchandise.
2. Shoot at the right time for the best lighting.
If you don't have a lighting setup, I recommend shooting indoors in a room with natural and even light. You could also shoot outside against a shaded blank wall.
If you decide to shoot indoors, turn off any lights and simply work with window light. Mixing natural and artificial light can create a strange mix of warm and cool tones that makes the picture more difficult to edit. Below is an example of a photo taken with artificial light from above and natural window light from the top-right.
Artificial and natural light- unedited.
Now compare it with the photo below, which was taken with only the window light.
Natural light- unedited.
While the first image is brighter since the lights are turned on, it also features an unflattering mix of warm and cool light. On the other hand, the second image is darker, but the lighting also looks more even. And now compare the two with the same preset, with no adjustments:
Artificial and natural light- edited.
Natural light- edited.
The second image is lit more evenly and has no strange orange cast. Resist the urge to turn on the lights and instead brighten the image in post for a clearer image.
The photo above was taken in a studio with plenty of large windows that let in gorgeous natural light from the right. It was bright enough to fill the entire space and looked great in all the photos we took at this location. This particular photo was taken with a DSLR camera, but the point still stands: Great lighting matters!
Shooting outside against a blank, shaded wall is also a great option for even light. You also only need a little setup to set the scene, which saves you time (and money)! The most important factor is shooting at the right time.
The ideal time frame will vary depending on your location and the time of year, but as a general rule of thumb, I prefer to shoot photos 2-3 hours after sunrise or 2-3 hours before sunset. This particular photo was taken against a blank, shaded wall at around 6PM Pacific in late April.
Shooting with proper lighting is even more essential for phone photos than a professional camera. While a professional camera registers more information in each image that allows for a fine-tuned editing process, most phone cameras are not at that level (yet). A solid lighting situation pays off tremendously in the long run.
And speaking of editing...
3. Use mobile presets to quickly and professionally edit your photos.
See how dull, gray, and dark the first image is compared to the bright, vibrant and clean second photo? That's all editing magic, performed right from my phone through a simple but powerful tool: presets.
In layman terms, a preset is a filter that gives you the freedom to manually adjust the color, light, and other details to suit your needs.If you're working with a consistent lighting setup, you can efficiently sync your settings to a multitude of photos at once, making your editing process a lot faster.
The most well known app for professional photo editing with presets is the Lightroom Mobile app. A quick search will lead you to a plethora of free mobile presets or a well-priced preset pack to suit your personal needs!
If you're too intimidated to get into the world of photo editing, don't be. As long as you're not in a crazy lighting situation (and you shouldn't be if you followed tip #2!), learning to adjust the basic elements can dramatically improve the look of your photos.
If Lightroom is still intimidating, Snapseed is a user-friendly and powerful alternative mobile editing app. Like Lightroom, you can save the edits you make as your own preset to use every time you take a photo.
Interested in mobile Lightroom presets? Check out this article.
4. Style your product with a specific mood in mind.
Styling your products consistently is an important factor in setting the right tone for your website. While it may be fun to try a bunch of different looks, it can tend to look cluttered when seen as a whole.
This is a screenshot of our Instagram feed from when we had a strong image in mind:
All these photos feel as if they fit the same brand and evoke a similar mood. This helps create a story and an image that your customer can relate to easily. The images are internally consistent, from the tone, mood, and styling of the products themselves.
On the other hand, this part of our Instagram feed is harder to read:
While the photos separately are great, the colors and mood of the images don't tell the same story. Focusing on the whole can help create a sense of professionalism that tells your customer exactly who you are. Aim to create a solid, recognizable style that your customers can immediately recognize as yours.
Please note that this is a suggestion: Sometimes, a photo that's out of the box can pleasantly surprise and engage your audience! Just be mindful of the way your brand is presented so new visitors won't be confused about who you are and what you sell.
5. If you're a team of one, invest in a tripod and a hands-free shutter.
You can use stacks of books and boxes in a pinch for the right camera height, but framing your shot will take much longer. A tripod can give you the exact angle you want and keep your phone steady for a clear shot for as long as you need.
Once you attempt to take a photo of yourself with boxes sliding around on top of random objects stacked precariously on a chair, you'll appreciate this tip.
Fun fact: I took the photos of the floral dress in tip 1 on the makeshift tripod above which worked surprisingly well! Still, if you don't want to drop your phone, use an actual tripod.
Also, consider taking your photos hands-free. How?
- Purchase a Bluetooth remote
- Set up voice commands on your phone
- Download an app with gesture recognition
Self-timer is always an option, but being hands-free speeds up the process enough to make it worthwhile!
6. Avoid using the front-facing camera.
Even if it's convenient to use the front-facing camera, the photo quality is noticeably grainier compared to the rear camera. It also makes it difficult to see product details: It's a shame when customers can't see the intricate embroidery on a top you thought people would love, or when they miss the pretty pendant on a necklace in your shop.
Unedited photo using front-facing camera
Unedited photo using rear-facing camera
When all is said and done, a well-shot selfie here and there on your product page may be a good idea- just make sure to have other photos that clearly display your product.
The goal is to take photos that clearly represent your product and your boutique to your customer, which will mean fewer returns and happier customers!
Feel free to throw a fun candid shot in there somewhere. Just make sure not to leave your audience hanging!
Do you have any questions on the specifics? Want me to expand on a specific point in a separate blog post? Leave a comment or reach out to us on Instagram! We'd love to clarify anything that wasn't clear or point you to a helpful article or two.
Now go forth and take some amazing product photos!
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