Product Photography on a Budget: Creative Hacks for Taking Professional-Looking Photos

Effective product photography plays a crucial role in capturing customers’ attention and driving sales. While professional photography equipment can be expensive, there are creative hacks you can employ to achieve high-quality results without breaking the bank.

When you’re working with product photography, there are several factors to consider. Some of the most important include light, direction (how you lay your objects out for display) and composition (how the objects are captured in the frame). 

Let’s look at different ways in which we can alter these elements for more creative product photos.

Utilize natural light

Natural light is a cost-effective and flattering light source for product photography. To make the most of it, you can:

  • Set up your shooting area near a large window or in an outdoor location with diffused sunlight.
  • Avoid harsh shadows by using a white foam board or reflector to bounce light onto the product.

Foam boards (known as ‘polies’) and silver or gold bounces are tools that help you ‘shape’ natural light. Another tool is ‘negative fill’. This is essentially holding a piece of black cloth opposite your bounce/poly to absorb the excess light. This creates more contrast in your images and makes the natural light look and feel noticeably more ‘dramatic’. 

Create a DIY lightbox

A lightbox helps diffuse and soften light, resulting in clean and well-lit product photos. Make your own lightbox using affordable materials such as a cardboard box, tissue paper, and white fabric. Place the product inside the box and position light sources outside to achieve a soft, even illumination.

Alternatively, place your homemade light box around the light and move it around the subject to create a more cinematic look with a large, soft source of light. Using a large white Chinese lantern works as well and is readily available from most Asian import stores. 

Make use of household props

Look around your home for props that can enhance your product photos. Utilize items like fabric, decorative paper, or utensils to create interesting backgrounds or add context to your shots. Experiment with different textures and colors to make your product stand out.

This will add massive value to your direction. A good source of inspiration here might be shop windows or photo walls. Just look at how window dressers everyday objects to accentuate their products. When it comes to a single image, your job is easier as you can use perspective, angle, and composition to get even more creative with your creative direction. 

Master the rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a basic photography principle that can greatly enhance the composition of your photos. Imagine your image divided into a grid of nine equal parts and place your product along the intersecting lines or at their intersections. This creates a visually pleasing and balanced composition.

Once you’ve mastered this, look for other interesting compositions (circular, L-shaped, etc) and start   experimenting with these. These visual formulas have been used by artists such as painters, photographers and filmmakers for years to create visually pleasing images, and you can too!

Experiment with angles and perspectives

Capture your product from various angles and perspectives to add depth and interest to your photos. Try shooting from above, at eye level, or from a low angle. Play with different focal lengths and explore unique angles to highlight the product’s features or create a sense of storytelling.

Experimenting with different focal lengths is one of the most rewarding parts of photography. When it comes to product photography, focal length becomes more important than simply aesthetic taste. 

If you’re photographing a product in your inventory that’s on the larger side, you’ll use a very different set of lenses for shooting a watch, for example. This is because different focal lengths have different fields of focus. An ultra wide lens probably won’t be able to focus on minute details right in front of the glass because that’s simply not what the lens has been designed for. 

Use post-processing tools

Take advantage of free or low-cost post-processing software to enhance your product photos. Adjust brightness, contrast, and saturation to make your images pop. Crop and straighten your photos to improve composition. Explore tutorials and online resources to learn basic editing techniques.

Using post-processing tools such as Lightroom and CaptureOne isn’t only important for creating professional looking images but also for understanding the photography process from a more engaged perspective than just pressing the shutter. Knowing how you’re going to be processing images informs how you’ll shoot them and vice versa, thereby, enriching your product photography with different layers of knowledge. 

Focus on details

Customers want to see the details of your product before making a purchase

You can do this by:

  • Capturing close-up shots to showcase textures, intricate patterns, or fine craftsmanship. 
  • Using macro or zoom settings to bring out the product’s unique features and create visually compelling images.

A lot of beginner lenses (for SLR and mirrorless cameras) will have a macro setting on the lens itself. Look out for these lenses as they offer a huge amount of versatility for the beginner product photographer and generally won’t break the bank in the same way a purpose-built macro lens will. 

Learn from online resources

Many professional photographers and industry experts share their knowledge and tips for achieving stunning product photos on a budget. Take advantage of the abundance of online tutorials, articles, and videos that offer guidance on everything to do with cameras for product photography. You can learn everything from the latest techniques to how to build a portfolio website without spending a cent.    

Not only is the information freely available, but also created in a way that’s super easy to understand, no matter your skill level. All you need to do is invest your time, and you can learn all there is to know about shooting great photos. After that, it’s a matter of practice, practice, practice!

Final words: Shoot to sell

With these creative hacks, you can elevate your product photography without the need for expensive equipment. Remember to experiment, learn from others, and continuously improve your skills. By investing time and creativity, you can capture professional-looking product photos that effectively showcase your offerings and help you to sell your goods online.

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