As we look towards a holiday season that’s all but certain to include more online shopping than ever before, it’s important that retailers are putting their best online foot forward through quality product photography that clearly showcases their goods.

While it’s certainly important for those retailers with ecommerce websites, it’s just as important to use quality photos for social media – especially given that some industry experts are predicting that social media will play a significant role in holiday shopping. Indeed, 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month while 83% of Instagram users report having used the platform to discover new products, with 79% of those taking it a step further and searching for more after seeing the initial post.

While professional photography is always the first choice, it’s not always a realistic option for many small businesses with budgetary constraints. But that’s OK, with today’s technology it’s easy to take photos up a notch with a few tips.

The Basic Equipment

Camera or Smartphone
While a DSLR camera is nice to have, it’s not necessary. Most newer smartphones are capable of taking high quality photos as well.

Tripod (optional)
If you’re going to be taking a number of photos (as opposed to one-offs) it’s a good idea to buy a tripod to stabilize your camera and provide consistent shots.

A Sweep
To achieve a seamless background on product shots, you’ll want to use a sweep to eliminate any harsh horizontal lines. While there are many you can buy, it’s also easy to make one yourself with a poster board or fabric. Click here to learn more about making your own.

Tips

Lighting
Nothing is more important in photography than lighting – after all if consumers can’t adequately see the product then how will you ever sell it? While there are many fancy lights and reflectors as well as strategies, the most important thing to remember for beginners is that you want to “find your light” and face it or be side lit. That being said, natural light will always reign supreme unless you’re going for a more standard catalog style shoot so try to take photos outside (slightly cloudy days are often best) or by a window. For more in depth tips on photography lighting check out one of the many online guides available.

Composition
Research has shown that the eye tends to gravitate towards key points in an image so when you’re taking a shot, try to think of the rule of thirds where you divide an image into threes both horizontally and vertically so that you have nine sections and where the intersecting points of those lines are the areas where the eye will naturally go, and subsequently where you should place your subject or product. You can also draw an imaginary Z with the points being those same areas. Of course, with product photography there will be times where you do want your product front and center and that’s ok, too. Click through to see more tips on composition.

Context
While clean product shots are great to have, it’s also important to show certain products in their natural habitat, if you will. Play with setting and props to show consumers how certain products will be used or worn. A little bit goes a long way in terms of setting the tone so make sure you don’t overdo it with props – after all, you want your product to remain the focus.

Go High, or Low
Play with angles while shooting your products. Try standing on a chair and taking overhead shots for certain items, and get down low for a dramatic look at other products.

Focus
A beautiful shot is meaningless if it’s not in focus. On iPhones this is as simple as tapping the object on the screen. For added effect, play around with Portrait Mode which offers a number of different blur and lighting options for the background which helps draw the eye directly to your product.

Shoot Multiples
For each product make sure that you take a few different shots that vary in style and angle. A good strategy is to show the product as well as how the product can be used in real life or a detail/size shot.