Framing Your Frames: DIY product photography with your smartphone

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At EyeInnovate 2019 (the marketing & growth conference), we ran a session on Instagram and part of that was a workshop surrounding product photography.

It was a lot of fun and many eye care professionals that we connected with saw value in the process. This article distills those learnings and will help you take amazing photos for your website and social channels.

Product Photography Basics

Taking a photo is easy; taking a good photo is “hard.” With a few tricks of the trade, you can produce great product photos with your smartphone.

You will need:

  • A smartphone with a decent camera (anything 2017+ will suffice);
  • A smartphone with the ability to use a manual/pro mode (if your phone doesn’t come with this standard, there are apps you can get);
  • A smartphone tripod (easily found on Amazon for under $20); and
  • A decent lighting source (a product photo booth, an area with lots of natural light, or portrait-style softboxes)

Framing Your Shot

The type of photo you want to take dictates how you frame your shot.

  1. Backgrounds: Product photos for Instagram/etc. should be done with a single-colour background. White is usually best to showcase a product, but other colours can work well when done tastefully.

Photos for your website can also use a single-colour background, but adding some texture (such as using ceramic tile as your backdrop) can really level up a photo.

While not a perfect example, the above photo would really stand-out on an Instagram grid that was otherwise all-white. 

I love the above photo as it simultaneously showcases the frames while demonstrating the life that surrounds them. The bokeh in the background is a wonderful touch.

  1. Props: To make things more dynamic or to convey a sense of lifestyle ownership, consider looking at how props can change the mood of a photo.

The above photo does two things really well: it showcases a variety of frames, while also providing leading lines that help the eye focus on the important parts of the image.

The above photo really pops and elevates the frames; the books bring colour, texture and a sense of professional polish to the photo that the frames alone could not.

  1. People: Nothing helps people visualize themselves wearing something better than seeing people wearing or interacting with the something they are looking at.

The above photo is easy to reproduce: find a place outside with a nice colour, grab a book and take a photo. Try a variation of the poses to mix things up.

The focus in the above photo is clearly the frames, as the model has both a neutral expression and her hand positioned in such a way so as to not dominate the scene. This one is another one that is easy to replicate: hop outside (notice how the light is coming from the right side), get close to your subject, and snap away.

  1. Lighting: Lighting is tricky, especially for items with reflective surfaces (protip: take lenses out of frames when shooting them) and it’s hard to provide universal advice on the best way to do it as a result.

These rules will make life easier:

  • Avoid direct light as much as possible – glare on frames and lenses can totally ruin a photo;
  • Use the same colour temperature of light sources – sunlight has a temperature of about 5000k; mixing sunlight with artificial light will cause discoloration in the photo which is hard to correct;
  • Always diffuse light if you can – sunlight beaming in via a window is good; sunlight being diffused via a white sheer curtain is better;
  • Manage glare – direct light on lenses will produce visible glare in the photo, so try different angles for your lighting and camera to manage it.

Tools to Level Up Your Photos

You can take great photos with a window, a tripod, and a smartphone. If you want to take things to the next level (without using a DSLR), try:

  • Using a product photo booth – generally found for under $100 on Amazon;
  • Using a ring light for even lighting – once you’ve popped the lenses out, a ring light is an awesome light source that provides uniform lighting;
  • Use Photoshop to correct minor faults – adjust colour balance, remove specks of dust, and enhance contrast to really upgrade a photo;
  • Use the pro mode on your camera to dial in lighting and focus – while you can’t get that incredible bokeh shown above using a smartphone, you can get an effect very similar by manually focusing your smartphone.

Now What?

It’s easy to read about how easy product photography can be and something else entirely to execute on it. The key here is patience and practice: snap a lot of photos and experiment. Following the above tips, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it all comes together.

Cameron Martel is an experienced digital marketer, managing SEO and content campaigns since 2005. He currently works with dozens of eye care practices through his work with Marketing4ECPs. Cameron can be reached at www.marketing4ecps.com or cameron@4ecps.com.

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