Cameras in smart phones have improved dramatically in several years. Although phones have limitations in low light, they can take excellent photos in ideal conditions.
The trick to improve your product photos is to set up a mini studio to stage ideal lighting conditions that will take advantage of your camera. Its possible to purchase an affordable product studio cube online from under $30, however you may already have the materials at home to quickly make a DIY studio.
Three steps to build and use your DIY setup to take product photos using your smart phone
Step 1 – Construct base and background
Join sheets of white A4 or A3 paper using tape to use as a base and background. Use a cardboard box or any stable object to use as a stand. Create a freestanding ‘L’ shape, or for a smooth transition arc the paper to form a ‘U’ shape. For the example pictured I simply taped A3 sheet of paper to a cardboard box to form a ‘L’ shape.
Alternative materials: For larger products you can use a white sheet or white mounting board. Mounting board advantage is that it doesn’t crease like paper which will produce a cleaner photo. Mounting board or white foam core can be purchased from your local art supply store.
Step 2 – Use natural lighting to your advantage
Outside location: Use a shaded area outside where there is plenty of light. Try to avoid direct outside light as this will cause hard shadows.
Inside location: Place your setup inside along a windowsill where its bright. Avoid areas inside where there is poor lighting from dim areas such as rooms artificially lit from tungsten lights.
Optional mixed lighting: Introduce a second light using a lamp with a daylight (cool white) bulb. Experiment with close distance and soften the light source with paper, tracing paper or white cloth. This technique works a treat if your wish to brighten the background or to illuminate the opposite side of the product to the main light source.
Step 3 – Smart phone settings and capture
- Use 1×1 (square) aspect ratio instead of standard rectangle. 1×1 works best for products for e-commerce websites.
- Don’t forget to clean the lens on your phone and remove the case if its obstructing the camera.
- Fine tune the brightness on your phone to see all details and snap away.
Composition tips: Photography is all about options so have fun and experiment by taking several photos of your products from different angles. Change the camera height to alter perspective and take close up shots if you wish to focus on important details.
Editing and distribution: Preview all your photos and delete the shots that are out of focus, display poor lighting, or where the framing just doesn’t work. Once you have your final selection, save them into a dedicated folder so you can easily find them again when needed. It’s best to use a cloud service such as Dropbox or Google Drive to transfer or share large file sizes or large quantities of photos.