Learning how to create polished, professional product photos can help you take your screen printing business to the next level. Great product photos ensure that your business is seen in the best light possible. Mastering the basic steps of professional-looking product photos allows you to post top-notch images to your website and social media accounts, and gives you great content to use in your marketing materials.
Fortunately, setting up a photography space is simple, and it doesn’t require a big investment in expensive equipment. Here are 7 steps to taking professional-grade product photos at your screen printing business.
1. Decide on a camera
Choosing a camera can be the most intimidating part of product photography. If you don’t already own a high-end camera, you may be worried about the cost. Fortunately, if you have a smartphone, you can use it to take high-resolution product photos easily. If you’re willing to invest in a camera, and take the time to learn some fundamental photography skills, you can find affordable DSLR cameras that are capable of even better results.
2. Create a polished background
You can’t have a professional-looking product photo without a polished background. What type of background you choose will depend on the product, where the product photo will be used and your branding. Generally, photos are taken against a white or light-colored solid background for product pages, and real-life backgrounds are used to show a product in use in marketing materials, on social media, or as supporting images on product pages.
A simple way to create a polished background is to set up a “sweep” background in your photography space. A sweep is a long piece of paper that’s hung from a vertical backdrop — like a wall or a chairback — and “swept” gently onto the horizontal surface below to create a curved edge. This curved edge becomes invisible when photographed, eliminating a distracting, harsh horizon line. Never use an uncovered wall or table as your backdrop, as flaws will show up in the final image and distract from product.
3. Prepare your product
Determine which position you want to shoot your product in. For clothing, you might consider using a mannequin to give your product dimension and accurately demonstrate the drape and fit. Or, you can lay the product flat with some simple styling to give it dimension. Either way, you will want to make sure that the garment has been ironed or steamed to remove any wrinkles. If you are using a mannequin, place the mannequin directly facing the camera, and use pins or clothes pins so the product fits the mannequin neatly. If you are laying the product flat, be sure to smooth it out. You can tuck seams under and gently shape the garment to mimic the look it would have when worn. You also can stuff it with a little tissue paper for added dimension.
4. Set your camera, or phone, on a tripod
Always use a tripod when shooting product photos. A tripod will give you a steady, level base to avoid blurry or shaky photos, or photos that are off kilter. By putting tape on the floor to mark your tripod placement, a tripod also helps ensure that your product photos are all shot from a consistent angle. Tripods are inexpensive photography tools. If you are shooting your product photos with a smartphone, you can purchase tripods made for smartphone use, or you can purchase a smartphone adapter for a traditional tripod.
5. Find the right light
Perhaps more than anything, proper lighting affects how professional your product photos look. If your shop has a lot of natural light, you might be able to take advantage of that when shooting product photos. Otherwise, you will have to purchase some photography lights. Fortunately, photography lights can be found at a relatively low cost.
Generally, great photography lighting requires two light sources, a primary light source and a fill light to reduce shadows. The fill light is placed opposite of the primary light with the product directly in between. If you are using natural lighting, you can make use of a bounce card, a large piece of white poster board or cardboard. If you are using artificial light, you will need two photography lights. Don’t be afraid to play around with light intensity and light placement to find the effect you’re looking for. If you are using natural lighting indoors, it’s best to take photos when you have the maximum amount of light coming through a window. If you’re shooting outdoors, try to shoot in the early morning or evening when the light is less intense.
6. Learn how to retouch photos
Even with the right preparation, high quality product photos can be difficult to achieve without some photo editing. You don’t need to become a Photoshop expert, but you should learn how to use some simple tools to eliminate backgrounds, edit out flaws or adjust lighting and contrast. There are some simple (and free) apps that can be used for editing product photos. Just be careful that you don’t take photo editing too far; when you’re photographing products, you want to accurately represent what you are selling to potential customers, so avoid using filters or adjusting the photo to distort the product’s real-life color.
7. Put your photos to good use
Once you have mastered taking great photos, you will want to put those photos to good use selling your product or highlighting your screen printing capabilities to attract customers. Post artistic photos or photos of your products being worn or used on social media. If you are selling products through your website, it’s a good idea to have at least 3 different shots of the product in the product’s photo gallery. The more you share your professional-grade product photos, the more customers you will attract to your screen printing business.
Screen printing is a visual industry, which makes product photography is an essential skill for screen printers. Taking a little money to invest in the right equipment and hone your product photography skills can pay off big by showing your products, and your screen printing capabilities, in the best light possible to potential customers.
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