The secret to an online store’s success is making a good first impression, and nothing does that better than good-quality product photography. When it comes to creating product listings for your online store, white background product photography can make a massive difference to your conversion rates.
According to Shopify, “50% of online shoppers think that product photos are more important than product information, reviews, and ratings.” And it doesn’t take an expert to figure out why; when shopping online, product photos are the only way a buyer gets a sense of what you’re selling.
Product photography is vital to both on- and off-site marketing, as photos play a key role in your shoppers’ buying-decision process. Not only are your product photos viewed on your site but in your PPC campaigns, such as Google Shopping and Facebook Dynamic Product Ads, and your social posts.
There are two main types of product photography: in-context (or lifestyle photography) and product-only images. Here’s an example of each from one of our favorite merchants, Old Guys Rule.
Product-only photos are clean photos of your product, taken on a white background.
Today we will be discussing product-only photos. We will go through why white background product photography is key to upping your product photography game and guide you through shooting and editing your own product photos like a pro.
So grab that coffee and get ready for your full guide to converting product photos!
Why White Background Product Photography?
1. They Make Your Products Pop
The benefit of choosing one background color means store consistency; white offers the most continuity as far as making different color and style products look great. Plus, if you want to show your products with the least amount of distractions, white backgrounds are the best way to do this.
2. They Offer More Versatility for all Marketing Channels
If you’re on a tight budget, you want to ensure that the product photos you shoot can be used in your marketing as well. For example, with Google Shopping campaigns, your product photos can only have white, gray or lightly colored backgrounds to be shown. Or if you decide to become a multi-channel seller and include Amazon as a marketplace, one of their image requirements is that backgrounds be pure white (RGB 255, 255, 255).
3. White Background Photos are Easier to Edit
When it comes to shooting and editing your product photos yourself, white backgrounds tend to be a lot easier for beginners to create awesome product photos.
4. It’s Easier to Upgrade from White to Color
There have been many posts over the last year trying to put white backgrounds to shame. But the truth is, even if you want to add a spot of color to your product displays by going neon yellow in your background, you need to start with a good background that’s easy to edit. The easiest one for beginners is white.
Now that we know why product photography on white backgrounds is the best choice for eCommerce product-only images, let’s get into creating photo guidelines, product photography must-have equipment, and how to shoot and edit your own product photos.
Why and How to Create a Product Photography Guideline
Before you get camera-happy, you need to come up with an action plan. In product photography terms, this is your photography guideline. Why do we do this first? Because our aim is to create a consistent look and feel for our eCommerce brand. This will not only help with building a strong brand presence but exude quality.
This guideline is dynamic and you’ll work on it while you’re shooting your first photos, until you’ve finished editing them to your standard. What you want to track and include in your guidelines are:
- Editing software and setting
- Lighting setup, product angles and distances between your camera and your product
- General image saturation
- Overall color palettes
- Focal length
- Image dimension and size
- Ratio of white space around each product
Creating a guideline to follow will help ensure that all the photos you take will have a consistent feel and maintain similar size and scale. It will also save you a lot of time as your number of new products increase.
What Basic Product Photography Equipment Should You Use?
The must-have tools for product photography on a white background are as follows:
1. Light Box / Light Tent
Light boxes are see-through boxes that allow light concentrated through, but soften any direct light. The advantage of this is it provides consistent lighting settings while eliminating the chance of too many shadows.
You can either get light boxes that come with built-in lights or if you have a bit more budget, you can get the softbox, where you add your own lighting (which is what I would recommend). The advantage of the latter is that a lot of those ready-made LED light boxes tend to be on the small side, which is limiting, and you have much less control over your lighting.
Here are some of the most popular light boxes brands:
Alternatively, if you’re feeling crafty, you can make your own light box! Here’s how to build a great DIY light box for under $50:
2. Shooting Table
This can be a table, a chair, a store or any 100% flat surface in your home to shoot on. If you are using natural light, you want to ensure that you will be able to place your shooting table or stand near the window (light source).
3. Lights & Bulbs
Next, you will need clamp lights and bulbs. If you’re not using natural light (which we will discuss later), this will be your primary light source and you will need three of these. We recommend 100-watt daylight bulbs for your clamp lights.
You can shoot without a tripod, but if you want to make sure that you are keeping your photos consistent in terms of distance, lighting and angles, I recommend investing in one. A good product photography tripod will have the following:
- Built in spirit-level
- Orientation adjustability
- Height adjustability
- Payload (that your tripod can carry the weight of your camera and heaviest lens)
5. Camera or Smartphone
One of the most important pieces of equipment is your camera. If you have a smartphone with a great camera, there is no need to invest in a DSLR just yet. Here are some smartphones which have specs good enough to shoot with:
- Google Pixel & Pixel XL
- Apple iPhone 7 or higher
- Samsung Galaxy S8 or higher
- LG G6 or higher
In the long run, buying a DSLR is a good product photography investment.
6. Photo Editing Software
Lastly, you will need photo editing software to make those important photo tweaks after your shoot. There are plenty of free and paid photo editing software and online platforms out there. Choosing between them should be based on your budget, your comfort, your PC/Mac specs and your photo needs. Some leading editing software or platforms include:
How to Shoot Products on a White Background
Step 1: Pick Your Lighting
The first and most important step is to pick your lighting. Getting your light right from the start means less time and effort at the editing stage. You have two light options when shooting your phone product photos: natural light or studio light.
1. Natural Light
Natural light is a good option if you have a smaller budget and aren’t using a light box. In fact, there are plenty of professional photographers who prefer natural over studio lighting where possible. But it does take some work and a little more of a learning curve.
You will want to make sure that you have enough light but are not shooting in direct sunlight, as this will create shadows, which you don’t want.
The best way to shoot with natural light is placing your shooting table near a large window that brings a lot of light (indirect) into a room. You can use white cloth or paper to cover the window to filter and soften the light. You also want to make sure you’re shooting at the brightest time of day. Here’s a great video guide from Emma Highfill on setting up for natural light product photography.
2. Studio Lights
If you have a little more budget for your product photography, it is worth it to invest in good lighting and a soft light box, which we mentioned in the photography equipment section. With your soft light box, you will need two or three clip-on or clamp lights with strong bulbs.
You need a minimum of one light to act as your fill light (backlight) and one as your key light, which is placed in the front and to the side of your box. You will then need to play around with your light angles and distances until you have an even distribution of light and shadows.
Here’s a quick video guide on where to set up your clamp lights when using a light box or tent.
If you do opt for a light box with built-in light, here’s a guide to setting up your lights from the guys at Foldio2 / Foldio3 – a popular light box brand.
No matter what lighting solution you pick, you are aiming to ensure the top, sides and product are all well-lit and either all have the same shadow tone you brighten up after, or have no shadow at all. The key here is light consistency throughout.
Step 2: Set Up Your Background
Whether you’re using natural light and a backdrop or a light box or tent, you want to ensure that your background material is set up with a sweep. The idea is to ensure you have no sharp corners or blemishes behind your product.
In other words, you want to ensure that it doesn’t sit at a ninety-degree angle to the chair, box or table, but ensure that it is at a curve like this:
You can check out photographer Taylor Mathis’s FStoppers case study, showing how using a sweep improves the quality of your photos, here.
Step 3: Set Up Your Product
Once your lighting and backdrop are in place, it’s time to place your product. You want to make sure that you put your product in the front of your background (before the sweep) and in the middle of your surface. You also want to make sure that you’ve placed it, or your light box, on a stable, flat surface.
Pro Tip: When shooting jewelry you can use a fishing line to hang your pieces or glue dots to position rings upright.
Don’t forget the small details when placing your products. The tiniest adjustments can make or break a photo. For example, if you’re shooting a bottle with a label, you want to make sure that the label is 100% centered to the camera.
Step 4: Set Up Your Tripod
You’ve got your lights, your backdrop and your product. Now it’s time to set up your tripod. The reason a camera or smartphone tripod is so important is that it ensures that you’re keeping a constant focus and depth. It’s much better to move the product slightly than to move the camera. Also, while taking the shot, being on a tripod your camera to be stable enough to use shutter speeds possible for ensuring your whole product is focused well.
Step 5: Make Sure Your Camera Settings are Right
The next step is to test your camera settings and get them just right. You will need to tweak this to ensure that you have achieved the best photos possible. Here are our top camera setting tips:
- Image size: Select the biggest image size and file size options your camera or phone has.
- Flash: Make sure your flash is off.
- Lens: For those of you using DSLRs, you don’t want to use wide angle lenses as this will distort your products.
- ISO: The higher the ISO, the brighter the photo will be. However, the higher the ISO number, the more distorted (noisy) your photo will be. If you’re using studio lighting, set your ISO to its lowest – 100.
- Quality: Set your image quality to its highest.
- Aperture (A): F8-F11 will give you the best depth of field. Too wide (f2.8 or 4.5) and not all of your product will be in focus.
- Shutter speed: The smaller the number, the brighter your photo will be. However, because this setting makes your camera sensitive to movement, it will require a tripod or could result in blurry images.
- White balance: I recommend beginners set their white balance to Automatic.
- Filters: Avoid using digital filters or camera light filters as this could distort the true colors of your product.
- Timer: To help eliminate the chance of photo blurriness, use the camera’s self-timer.
Step 6: Taking the Best eCommerce Product Images
Finally, you’re ready to take those awesome white background photos! Here are our top tips when shooting your product photos:
1. Take Test Shots
Before you go to town and get snappy happy, take some test shots before you shoot each new product to make sure your camera settings, lighting and product setup are perfect. This will ensure you can make the adjustments you need beforehand and save you a lot of editing time.
2. Don’t Delete Images Until You’ve Seen Them on a Computer
While you’re shooting, don’t delete any images from your camera until you’ve seen them on your computer screen. A lot of the time we can judge too quickly on the camera and delete awesome shots. By looking on a bigger screen, after the shoot, you will have a better idea of what images have the potential to be edited to greatness and which should be canned.
Pro Tip: Some cameras allow you to tether them to a computer, enabling you to see images on your big screen as you shoot. It’s called “shooting tethered”. Here’s a guide from DIY Photography to get you started: Introduction to Tethered Shooting.
3. Take Plenty of Photos from Different Angles
While you’re shooting, take as many photos as you can from different product angles. Move the product around until you’ve shot every aspect, to find its most creative side. Plus, having different perspectives on your website, like one of my fave kids apparel stores, WeeSqueak, helps your customers see all sides of the product they want to buy.
4. Highlight Product Details
Your photos should highlight all the qualities of your product. People should be able to get a sense of the texture, design, shape and scale. This could mean putting a coin in to show size or zooming in on certain textures or designs that make your product shine. Remember, your photos are the only thing showing potential shoppers exactly what they are getting.
5. Let those Product Features Shine
Remember to show off your product’s most appealing features. If you’re selling a wallet or a purse, for example, you want to show a photo with it closed and of the inside of the product. Both are important features that people consider when buying a wallet.
Pro tip: Consider adding a product photo that includes more than one color option of your product, to help your shopper choose their favorite.
Bonus Tip for Large Products
For those of you wanting to shoot larger products like tables or people wearing your apparel, it can be done. However, you are going to have to invest in larger backdrops and more substantial studio lighting. In principle, the concepts mentioned here will be similar, but it may take a little more time and brainpower to understand the tech side of things. Here’s a beginner’s guide to what’s involved in shooting bigger products.
How to Edit White Background Product Photography
When editing your photos you want to make sure that they are bright (the exposure is good), the colors are bright but still true to your product, that unnecessary spots or dust are removed, that you’ve cropped (framed) your products well and that your images are sized correctly for the platform you’re posting them to.
Here are steps to do just that!
Step 1: Remove Backdrop Edges
The first thing you want to do is crop the image so that all the edges that show the end of your backdrop have been removed.
Step 2: Adjust Background Brightness
Next, you want to lighten your background so that it is bright and white instead of dull and grey.
Step 3: Retouch Those Spots
Now it’s time to delete spots. This is erasing any fibers or dust that are showing on your backdrop or products.
Step 4: Make Color Adjustments
Adjust the brightness, exposure and saturation of your image to make sure the colors pop while ensuring that they still match the real thing as much as possible.
Step 5: Optional – Consider Adding a Shadow
Once your background is edited and your products are shining, this is when you add a shadow to your product if need be.
Step 6: Removing or Editing Background Color
Once your photo is edited and perfect, you could then change the background color at this stage if you’re using different backgrounds for marketing banners like Mrs. Bow Tie does, as shown below.
Step 7: Saving and Resizing Images
You want to shoot and edit at the highest quality, and then resize your edited photo to the dimensions you need. Each platform, marketplace or PPC campaign type has their own guidelines. So when you’re saving an image, save it within the ratio and size per platform. For example, with Shopify, the accepted ratio is 1:1. Save time by saving all the formats at once when finished with a product photo.
Step 8: Optimizing Your Photos for SEO
The final step is ensuring your images have been optimized for SEO. That means naming them correctly and compressing the final image so that it doesn’t affect your page load times.
For those of you already familiar with Photoshop, here’s a great tutorial on editing product photographs on a white background from Olivia Hayward.
There you have it – your full guide to product photography on a white background. As your store grows and the number of products you offer increase, this can begin to feel like a full-time job. In this case, I would suggest hiring outside freelancers or service providers to help you get new products online ASAP and scale up your product listings.
If you have product photography questions, feel free to post them in the comments below.
Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa with over fifteen years experience and flair for story telling. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she's not researching the next content trend or creating informative small business content, she's an avid beach goer and coffee shop junkie.
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