How to Take Professional Product Photography using an iPhone
In the word of mobile photography, iPhones are known to have the best image quality. Apple’s latest offering, the iPhone 7, probably has one of the best smartphone camera sensors that money can buy. Nowadays, these devices have become a staple for entry-level marketing campaigns on social media platforms. The question is – can you use an iPhone for professional product photography? While this device can’t replace fully-pledged DSLR cameras for professional photography work, they can still work on product photography given its limitations.
- Sensors often dictate the price of DSLR cameras. It’s the part of the camera where it captures light that passes through its lens. Compared to crop and full frame cameras, iPhones have very small sensors. This means, it doesn’t harness light very well, resulting to poor ISO capabilities.
- DSLRs have interchangeable lenses, which is a useful feature for wide and tight shots. On the other hand, iPhones have wide angle lenses, and can only let you shoot tight angles using a digital zoom feature. This process is counterproductive in maintaining a high image quality in your product photos.
- A professional photographer ALWAYS shoots in RAW. Unlike jpeg, this kind of image file allows you to optimize photos in post-production without compromising quality. While iPhones these days can save image files in RAW format through third-party applications, these devices do not support RAW files natively – making it troublesome to transfer files for post-production.
With these limitations in mind, let’s discuss how you can use your iPhone for product photography. If you already know the basics of image composition, exposure, and light manipulation, this guide should be easy to follow. That’s right – these basic rules in photography are applied in any kind of photography, whether your images are coming from a smartphone or digital camera.
Things You Need!
Product photographers often use equipments that allow them to create the best image possible. Bounce cards, lighting kits, and tripods for example, are often needed in this kind of photography work. Since you’re only using a smartphone, the use of these equipments can make your images look even better. If you can’t afford these photography equipments, at least prepare these simple solutions before you start your journey in DIY product photography.
- A decent backdrop
This will serve as a background for your products. White backdrops are very common in product photography, but you can still use other colors as long as they fit perfectly with the image you are composing. If you have a white wall in your house, you use it as the backdrop for your images.
- Stabilize your device
Image sharpness is very important in product photography. To get sharper images, you will need something that will stabilize your device. Nowadays, there are special tripods for iPhones that you can buy for a couple of bucks.
- Light sources
Being able to manipulate light allows a photographer to create great photos. If you’re going to market your products through images, make sure you have proper lighting. A table lamp is a good light source if you’re dealing with smaller objects. For larger objects, you can always use natural light from a window.
- Bounce Cards and Diffusers
If you’re going to deal with highly reflective objects such as glass and metal, bounce cards and diffusers prevent harsh shadows and highlights when you take photos. You can use a white curtain to diffuse light coming from the window. If you’re using a table lamp as a light source, you can use a piece of paper as a light diffuser. The soft light from these diffusers enhances details in images, making your products look better!
- Post-processing software
Snapseed and Instagram are decent post-processing apps you can use on iPhones. On the other hand, these applications only work with compressed image files ( jpeg). If you plan to shoot RAW (this is what we prefer), you’ll need post-processing software, such as Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to optimize your images without compromising image quality.
- Optional: DIY or Ready-made Lightbox
Lightboxes make product photography a lot easier. It’s a simple set-up that most product photographers use to shoot items for catalogues and brochures. If you’re not going to shoot huge objects and you don’t plan on changing lighting setups, this is a great product photography equipment to have.
Before the shoot, make sure you have all the things you need. It’s also advisable to know a few lighting techniques in product photography. Since there are lots of techniques you can use for lighting objects, we’re just going to focus on the basics – they are the easiest to follow. Also, let your creative mind work in shooting your products. Allow yourself to learn and create images that “pop” to audiences.
Let’s Get Started!
If you have everything we mentioned above, you can start doing product photography with your iPhone. Set up your mini-studio on a table – this will make it easier for you to take pictures of your product during the photoshoot. Make sure that your iPhone isn’t too far or too near to the subject. Experiment on the angles and see which ones work the best.
- The most budget-friendly option in DIY product photography when it comes to lighting is natural window light. Set-up your equipments near a large window to light up your subjects properly. This also prevents digital noise that’s often seen in high ISO shots from low-light scenes.
- If there are no windows in your mini studio, you’re definitely going to need a table lamp as a light source. Instead of setting it up right in front of the subject, try to place the lamp at an angled direction – whatever works best for your products. This also applies to multiple lighting setups.
- Another inexpensive option in DIY product photography is the use of a plain white wall as a background. If you want a “studio-like” effect in your images, you can use a large poster board, craft paper, or ironed white sheet to create an “infinity curve”. It’s a simple photography technique that gives an impression that the background extends to infinity.
- Instead of setting up your iPhone in a fixed position, try to work with different angles. You might not know this, but camera angles often affect the way audiences perceive the subjects you’re shooting.
- Always remember to clean your products before the shoot. Removing imperfections in your products – such as dust, strings, and price tags, makes it easier for you to optimize images in post-production.
- Shooting multiple objects requires proper arrangement and styling. Don’t forget to compose the subjects, and make sure that items of different colors complement each other. Be creative in shooting multiple objects and get everything in focus.
- Once you’re finished with the shoot, make backups of your image files using physical drives or cloud storage. If you don’t have access to post-processing applications like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, use decent image optimization apps you can download from the App Store.
While following some guidelines in photography can help you a lot in achieving great product photos, you can always ignore them sometimes to let your creativity work. Take photos that you “feel” are great for the subject that you’re shooting. It’s also a great idea to look for samples on the web that you think would work great for your products.
If you think that you don’t have the “eye” in photography, DIY product photography may not be for you. It definitely provides a great learning experience for business owners who are also into the art of photography, but it may be troublesome for people who don’t have any interest in taking photos. A word of advice – your iPhone is not a substitute for a professional photographer. You can use it for product photography if you’re just starting out, but product photos will always look better if done by a professional.