When it comes to showcasing your products, presentation is everything.
Photography impacts not only your brand credibility, but also customer trust and sales. Bad product photography can actually work against you and turn customers away, because it does not look clean. Your company will look new and inexperienced, and that is not a brand image you want to keep as your business grows.
But, with that said, it is all a part of the process as a creative business owner. We wear multiple hats and it takes time to master skills we have never done before. And, the only way to master them is by doing, learning, and pushing yourself to try new things.
I struggled with photography for a long time, and never thought I would get a handle on it. But, I decided to work at it, and it is crazy the progress I have made over the years.
This is a photo from just one year ago (Feb. 2016), to now.
What a difference a year makes!
Look at the difference in color and tone of the photos. The one from a year ago has too much blue in it, and the one on the right is my current editing style. I came up with my own way to have consistency in my photos which we will get into later in this post. As time goes on, my process will probably change, just like these photos have changed.
Ok, so I am absolutely cringing right now sharing this! Here is one of my very first product photographs from when I opened my stationery shop on Etsy back in 2010-2011 (photo on the left).
And, on the right is a stationery photograph of my business cards I took today to share in my newsletter. Wow! Holy smokes! Also, note these photos are with the exact same camera.
The point I want to make here is everything takes time and practice, and the pursuit of improvement must be part of your growth process. When you see beautifully mocked up photographs on Instagram or elsewhere, the photographer did not achieve that skill overnight.
Prior to taking your photographs, you can adjust the settings on your camera for the lighting conditions in which you are photographing. Check your camera’s user manual on how to adjust your settings, and play around with the settings until you get the images the way you want.
Aperture - is where light passes through your camera, and adjusting your camera’s aperture will control the amount of light. Too low of an aperture value can result in blurry photos.
Shutter Speed - is the amount of time the camera sensor is exposed to light.
ISO - is the sensitivity of your camera to available light.
You can read more in depth discussion on these camera settings here. I have done some adjusting to my camera, but since my camera is older there are some limitations in adjustments. I have found that with my lighting conditions, the auto setting seems to work best with my point and shoot camera. But, newer cameras, like these DSLRs, will give you more shooting options. (Note: This is not an affiliate link; just me drooling over some cameras).
Image Size - Set the size of your image on your camera to the highest possible setting. Mine is set to 4000 x 3000 pixels. You can go down to medium image size if you want to save on image storage space (which I did previously at medium size of 2816 x 2112 pixels). But, with that medium image size you can be limited in print size if you want to print a poster or large photographs.
Now that I covered learning photography and camera settings, we are going to get into the nitty gritty of this post and discuss staging your mockups to photograph them. If you have not read the first post in this series on planning out your mockups, you can read it here.
Staging your product photography
If you have your supplies, as mentioned in the last blog post, you should be ready to set up to take your first photographs. In my last post, I listed what I planned to photograph. Let’s start with the first item on my list, a summer tank top.
If you are using natural light, set up next to an area that gets a lot of light, but not direct light. You can use a screen, like a sheer sheet, to diffuse and soften the light. (I don’t, so it isn't on the list).
With boards in place you are ready to start shooting. Here is a photo of my camera view.
I typically photograph my items in a flatlay style, and shoot from directly above my items. I will take a photo of just the tank top by itself, and then add props into the shot. This way, if I only want an image of the tank, I have it without the props. Or, if I decide I want the props, I can use that photograph.
Here is the same shirt with props. I try to keep my props and flaylays simple.
Editing Your Photos in Adobe Photoshop
In this section, I am going to show you how I edit my images in Photoshop. If you take many photographs of your subject, you can do batch editing in Lightroom (which is what most photographers I know use). But, we are just editing a few images so I will be using Photoshop.
Before creating images you should have your monitor calibrated. I have used Huey Pro, but there are many other kinds of monitor calibration tools.
This is what the tank top looks like right from my camera, without any edits.
I have a image editing template that I created to easily adjust my photos. My template is the same size as I want my photos to be which is 4000 x 3000 pixels, and 180 ppi - the same size as the photos that come from my camera settings.
To get this unedited photograph into my template, I am going to go to
Select > All, then use the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl + C for Windows or Command + C for Mac.
Then, within my image editing template file I am going to Paste the image using
Ctrl + V for Windows or Command + V for Mac.
You will notice, when I paste my image in my image editing template, it automatically adjusts my image for me. This is because I paste my image behind my already made adjustment layers.
You can create your own adjustment layers by going to Window > Adjustments.
The adjustments I have made are set up according to my editing style and lighting conditions. Depending on the photo, I may use different settings and adjustments.
For this photo, I have used the following adjustments:
Brightness, Levels, & Curves
I also used Color Balance, but that is optional. (I only used it to make the pink shirt image for this blog post look a little nicer - but it is great to use when the colors are somewhat off.)
Here are the settings:
You may have noticed these 2 little squares in a few of my photos. I created these squares above my adjustments layers. They are a bright white and light gray.
While editing my images, these squares help me determine if the white background in my photograph is consistent with my other edits. There are tools built into Photoshop to inspect the color ranges of your images, but I like seeing where the white background color range is with my little squares. It works for me, and sometimes my background is more towards the gray, and sometimes more towards the white. It is nice to have subtle variations in your images.
Just remember to always turn these two layers off before saving your photos.
The colors for the squares are:
White - Hex ffffff
Light Gray - Hex f1f1f3
Another feature I have added to this file is my Instagram information on a separate layer. This makes it easy to just turn on the layer when I am done with the mockup for sharing on Instagram and making my post images.
Final Image Adjustments
In order to create our mockup, we need our tank top to be white. This will give us a nice neutral background to place our artwork on. The next post in this series will cover how to remove the color, and creating the shapes for our mockup.
Here is a preview of the tank top before and after our final image adjustments to create our mockup.
We will be using the tank top images throughout this series. You will be able to download the images shown in this tutorial from within the next post where we take the first steps in creating our mockup files.
What products are on your list to mockup? What props did you decide on, if any? Let me know in the comments.