Taking product photographs

Using high quality product photographs on your store demonstrates to your customers what they'll get if they buy your products. Your online store looks more professional with good quality product photography, and it can increase customer trust in your brand.

If you want to take the good quality photos at home, then there are some tools that you can use, and steps that you can take to produce the best results.

Photography definitions

  • Aperture - Aperture is the opening in the camera lens that light passes through to enter the camera. Its size can be modified to control how much light reaches the sensor or film. The diameter of the aperture, also known as the f-stop, affects the exposure and depth of field.
  • Aperture priority - Aperture priority is a camera mode in which you manually set your aperture, and the camera automatically selects a shutter speed.
  • Depth of field - Depth of field defines the area of sharp focus. A lower f-stop produces a more shallow depth of field, or focused area.
  • Exposure - Camera exposure is the overall amount of light that reaches the film or camera sensor when a picture is being taken. It determines the overall brightness or darkness of a photograph.
  • F-stop - F-stop is the focal length of the lens. The f-stop determines how much light you allow to hit the sensor through the camera's aperture opening.
  • ISO - The ISO controls the sensitivity of the sensor. The higher the ISO the more noise there is. Often times the lowest ISO you can set your camera to is ISO 100, so set it there if you can.
  • Shutter speed - Shutter speed is the length of time that the lens stays open and the camera sensor is exposed to light when taking a photo. Slow shutter speeds capture the blur of subjects in motion. High shutter speeds allow you to freeze a single millisecond in time.
  • White balance - White balance is the adjustment done to an image to compensate for the temperature of the light illuminating the scene. Cameras offer a few pre-set values based on the most common types of illumination, but it can also be set manually during or after the shot.

Tools for product photography

A good photograph is made up of a series of choices that incorporates lighting, exposure, styling, and post-processing decisions.

If you want to take the most professional looking photos possible from your home, then you might want to use some or all of the following equipment:

  • the right location (a room with a window)
  • a camera
  • a tripod
  • a table
  • a white background
  • tape
  • white reflector cards made of foam board or paper

1. Choosing a location

If you aren't a photography expert and don’t own photography lights, then you need a room with a window to take your photographs next to. Indoor light bulbs and built-in camera flashes can create harsh contrast, light reflections, and undesirable color shifts on your photos.

You can position your setup closer to the window to create a softer light with darker, softer shadows. You can also position your setup further away to give a more even light but with sharper, lighter shadows.

2. Choosing a camera

You should take product photos with the best camera that you have available.

Although a higher quality camera can produce higher quality images, you don't need professional level equipment to have good results. You can use a reasonably priced DSLR, a point and shoot camera, or your smartphone.

3. Choosing a tripod

You might need a tripod to stabalize your camera. Tripods are more important when you use the manual camera settings, especially in low light conditions.

For example, if you're using a smartphone infront of a very large window, then you might not need a tripod, however one might still be helpful for stability.

If you're using a manual DSLR, then you might need to use a tripod to stabilize your camera to use a very small aperture, and slower shutter speed. When you use these settings, you let the most light in while getting the most depth of field, but you create the potential for camera blur.

4. Choosing your surface

You can use any table that you have, placed near a window. A good standard table width for product photography is between 24 and 27 inches.

5. Creating a white background

Make sure that your products are the main focus of the photograph by removing visual distractions. Using a pure white background for your product to sit in front of ensures that your product is the central focus.

There are a variety of background options depending on your budget. Check your local department or office stores for white poster board, or look online.

You can also buy a more professional photography background called a sweep, which is a roll of paper on a roller. If you intend to do a lot of product photography, then sweeps can be beneficial because when the used part gets dirty, you can cut off it off and roll a new piece down.

6. Securing your set with tape

You can use tape or clamps to secure down your board or paper sweep, depending on what kind of table you're using, so that your board or paper sweeps properly on a 90 degree slope.

7. Using a reflector card

If you want to have more control over the light in your photograph, then you can use either a white foam board to reflect light, or a black foam board to absorb light.

When you’re lighting your product with natural light, there's a bright side where the light hits it, and a shadow side. The shadow side can sometimes be too dark, so you can use something white to reflect the light back into the shadows to make the shadows brighter.

Alternatively, you can use black foam board to make the shadows deeper. This is helpful if you’re photographing a white product on a white background. You can add black foam board to the sides, just outside of the photo and behind the product to create a dark edge on the white product.

You might be able to buy foam boards from a department or art store. You might also be able to simply balance a sheet of white printer paper or use a piece of poster board.

Photography settings and techniques

The following is a list of steps you can take to create your photography set, and adjust your camera settings:

  1. Setting up your table
  2. Setting up your sweep
  3. Adjusting your camera settings
  4. Setting up your product
  5. Setting up your reflector card
  6. Taking the picture and evaluating
  7. Retouching your images
  8. Optimizing images for your website

1. Setting up your table

Place your table as close to the window as possible without intersecting the shadow from the windowsill. Start with the window 90 degrees to the right or left of your setup. Make sure there isn’t harsh direct sunlight hitting your set.

You can also try rotating the set so that the window is at a 45 degree angle to the set, or try it with the window straight onto the set for a different style of natural lighting.

Turn off all other lights inside the room you’re shooting in, as other light will contaminate the set.

2. Setting up your sweep

If you want a seamless white background, then you might want to sweep your set. In product photography, sweeping means setting up your mat board or paper to sweep or curve from being flat on your table to being vertical. You might need to roll up the board to help it reach that shape.

An example setup is to have a table placed against a wall and the sweep taped to the wall and the table. If you don’t have a wall, then you can make something to secure the back of the sweep onto.

Place your product in the center on the flat part of the sweep and leave enough room to add your white reflector card in later.

3. Adjusting your camera settings

Before you start adjusting the exposure settings on your camera, make sure your camera is set up with the following settings:

  1. Set your white balance (WB) to automatic.
  2. Turn your flash setting off.
  3. Set your image settings to the highest quality. Look for L for Large size, and Superfine quality.
  4. Set your ISO to 100.

Option A: Set your camera to Manual (M) mode

You have the most control over your photography when you shoot in manual mode. In manual mode, you set both your f-stop and shutter speed separately.


  1. Set your f-stop to the highest number, which gives you the greatest depth of field.
  2. Adjust your shutter speed to make it bright enough that the image is properly exposed in the image preview.

Option B: Use Aperture Priority (AV) mode

In aperture priority mode, you set the f-stop, and then the camera adjusts the shutter speed to work with the f-stop you’ve chosen.


  1. Set the f-stop to the highest number.
  2. Optional: If the shutter speed that the camera picks seems wrong, then you might need to use the exposure compensation dial to add light.

Option C: Auto Exposure

  1. If you have an exposure compensation dial, then you might need to add +1 or +1½ to get the correct exposure. If you have only presets to choose from, then try picking a low light preset like Sunset.

4. Setting up your product

Take time to position your product appropriately in your set. Take a few test photos to make sure all of the product's important details are visible. You might need to make many tiny movements to get everything lined up perfectly from the camera’s viewpoint.

For example, if your product is a bottle, then pay attention to keeping the label type centered.

5. Setting up your reflector card

If you’re using a white reflector card, then test out different angles to observe how it changes the lighting. The light bounces off the card and fills in the shadows.

6. Taking the picture and evaluating

When you take the first pictures, take time to look at the image. Consider what’s working, what isn’t working, and what you might do to make it better.

Shoot multiple angles to give your customers different perspectives of the product. Some customers might prefer close up images and others might want to view items straight on.

Some camera angles to try are:

  • eye level, which displays your product as you’d view it straight on.
  • high angle, which displays your product as if you’re looking down at it.
  • low angle, which displays your product as if you’re looking up at it.
  • bird’s eye, which displays your product as if you’re standing above it.

7. Retouching your images

When you have final images that you’re happy with, you can use a photo editing software to retouch any areas that need improvement, like lightening the background to pure white.

There are a variety of retouching softwares available, and depending on your price range, you might want to hire a professional to do the retouching for you. You can also look for apps in the Shopify App Store or hire a Shopify Partner.

8. Optimizing and resizing images for your website

You might want to use an image editing tool to take your high quality photos and optimize and resize them for the web. Larger images can contribute to slower page loading times. A good image size to aim for is no larger than 200 KB, with lower numbers being better.

There are a variety of tools and softwares available online that you can use to optimize your images for the web. You can also use an app from the Shopify App Store, or hire a Shopify Partner to help you.

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