One of the biggest misconceptions people have when it comes to taking photos is that they think they need an expensive DSLR to take great photos. That is not the case. Most cell phone come with a camera that a plenty good enough to produce great product images. So instead of ponying up for an expensive new camera, start out with something that you probably carry with you every day. Here are a couple of tips to get you started.
1. Clean your lens…
This may sound silly and almost second nature to most seasoned photographers but for the best pictures, make sure your lens is clean. Most regular cameras have some sort of lens cap which covers the lens itself and keeps it clean when not in use. The exact opposite is true of most camera phones. The lens is usually fully exposed and is subject to all kinds of dust and pocket lint. For the best photos, it is best to take a microfiber cloth and just wipe the lens clean before you start taking pictures.
2. Don’t use the digital zoom…
On most DSLR and even some point and shoot cameras, you are able to zoom in on your subject by using what they call an optical zoom. This is where the optics, or the actual lens of the camera, moves to get a closer view of your subject. Due to the fact that most cell phone cameras have to be crammed into tight spaces to make them fit, they generally don’t have the necessary optics needed to zoom in and out.
Manufacturers have compensated for this by equipping most camera phones with a digital zoom. The main difference is that a digital zoom is done with software and not hardware. Basically, the camera takes the image you want to zoom in on and spreads it out over more pixels on your screen. This creates a subpar and often times blurry photo.
Instead of using the digital zoom, try to get closer to your subject. If that is not possible for whatever reason, do your zooming after you take the picture by cropping out the unnecessary parts of the image. This will yield a sharper image while still keeping the focus on your subject.
3. Applications are your friend…
There are a lot of applications in both the iTunes and Android marketplaces for taking or editing pictures. While it is true that some of them are totally worthless, there are a lot of really great apps that will help you produce better images. Even Adobe has gotten in on the game with their Photoshop Express App that is free for both the iPhone and Android devices. There are also other fun applications like Instagram that will make your photos look like they were taken by an old film camera. While it is great to inject a little bit of style to your product pictures, it is important to remember the purpose that they are there to serve. Photos that have too much going on in them will take away from your products. Photos that are too heavily edited might leave your customers confused about the product they are going to receive.
4. Computer editing is your friend…
Just because you used a camera phone to take your pictures doesn’t mean that you are limited to apps for editing. Most smart phones make it easy to send photos to your computer (especially if you have an iPhone with iCloud enabled) and thus you have the ability to edit your photos on your computer. While apps are great for quick, on the go editing, programs like iPhoto (for Mac) or Picasa (for Windows) have the ability to make your photos really stand out. It is also possible to use a combination of computer and application editing to get your desired effect. Remember that even professional photographers use a combination of programs to make their photos the best they can be.
5. Know the basics…
All the technology in the world won’t help you become a better photographer. The basics are still the only surefire way to get consistently great photographs. So, what are the basics? Well, with a cell phone camera, you generally don’t have to worry about things like aperture and shutter speed but there are other things that can be the difference between a mediocre picture and a great one.
Claire did a great job of explaining those in her series about how to photograph small objects. Even though you may be photographing different kinds of products, the basics of lighting, exposure and background still hold true. Just remember that your photos tell consumers what your brand is all about. Even though it is cliché, you only get one chance to make that first impression.
Bonus tip: Have fun!
No matter what, you should always remember the reason you opened your online store in the first place. Sure, you want to make some extra money but hopefully you also did it because you are selling a product that you believe in and love. While it may not always be easy running your own store, you should be having fun because that will come through in your products and your photos. In the words of the immortal Babe Ruth look-a-like in the Sandlot, “Follow your heart and you’ll never go wrong”.