How to Photograph Small Items for Your Blog
We’ve previously talked about photographing food, fidgety kids and even yourself, but what about shooting those smaller subjects – that new lipstick you’re reviewing, or a luxury candle you want to show off on Instagram?
First things first, a good photo starts with the right equipment. That needn’t mean splashing out on a fancy DSLR though – we shared our 10 favourite, budget-friendly cameras for blogging here and they start at less than £60. Even your smartphone can take some pretty awesome photos provided the lighting is right (more on that below), but not all phone cameras have a macro (close-up) setting. If yours doesn’t it may be worth looking into Olloclip, a nifty little gadget starting at £39.99, which transforms your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S4/S5 lens into a much more sophisticated one.
Here are 6 tips to get the most out of whatever equipment you’re working with, and take your blog photography up a notch today…
Shine a Light on the Product
Lighting will make or break a photo, and we recommend taking your blog images sometime between late morning and early afternoon when the sun is at its brightest. Of course, that won’t make much difference if you’re shooting in a dark corner of your home, so try to find a window ledge or table top near to a south-facing window.
If you find yourself with no choice but to photograph in dim conditions, you can fake natural lighting with a desk lamp. Use a high-energy bulb that will mimic bright daylight, or else you may find your photos come out with a yellowish tinge.
Whatever lighting you use, ensure that it is shining onto the product from the front. Lighting an object from behind will only make the front appear in shadow.
Avoid Using the Flash
Why should I bother with windows and lightbulbs when I can just turn the flash on, we hear you ask? Although a camera flash can come in handy in certain situations, when it comes to photographing smaller items close-up, it’s more likely to wash the photo out and make it too bright to see any of the detail.
Or, the flash can cast dark shadows behind your item and make the image look dark and dingy. Plus if you’re trying to capture something shiny or metallic such as jewellery, the flash can reflect off of it and leave your photo with patches of glare.
Turn the Macro On
‘Macro’ is your camera’s close-up setting, and it’s often depicted by a flower symbol. It allows your camera to focus on items close to the lens, though there’ll still need to be a certain amount of distance between the two. If you want to get a really close-up photo, gradually move the camera away until the product becomes in-focus* and take the photo using your camera’s highest quality setting – then you can crop it down and it’ll still be crisp and clear.
*On most cameras, gently push down on the shutter without fully pressing it to refocus. On an iPhone, tap the screen on the part of the image you’d like to focus on.
Perfect the Backdrop
Sometimes a crisp, white background is all you need to really make the product stand out. However, remember that if your camera is focusing in on the tiny details of the product it’ll also be able to highlight the tiny flaws of your background too – an old bed sheet might be fine as a backdrop for a bag or dress, but if you’re shooting earrings then even light pilling is going to show up!
For added interest, experiment with different backgrounds – everything from a dusty chalkboard to an off-cut of textured white wallpaper can make lovely backgrounds for smaller items and give your photos a whole different feel. Love that marble you’re seeing all over Instagram? You can splurge on a marble coffee table, or simply fake it with sticky-backed marble illusion film.
Experiment with Props
Another way to make your product photos more interesting is to add other objects into the frame. A picture of your new workout earphones coiled up on your desk may show the product off just fine, but shooting them dangling out of your gym bag with a dumbbell or protein bar in the shot is far more interesting. Similarly, if you’re reviewing a kitchen knife for your food blog, arranging it on a chopping board with some freshly-sliced fruit or diced garlic adds context and interest.
Just remember to keep the product you’re blogging about the main focus of the shot. Try positioning it or angling your camera so that it’s a little in front of everything else. If your camera and skills are more advanced, you could also experiment with making the background props slightly out of focus.
Remember the Rule of Thirds
This is a well-known photography ‘trick’ that can elevate your images to the next level! Making the product the centre of attention needn’t mean making it the centre of the shot. Instead of arranging your image so that the object is dead-central, try placing it a little to one side. Imagine there are two lines diving your photo horizontally or vertically into thirds, and line the product up along these.
The result can be more artistic and eye-catching, though that’s not to say you should never shoot a product square-on, so try a few different angles and compositions to see what works for you.
Bonus tip! A little editing can go a long way. Struggling to get a brightly-lit shot despite the tips here? Do your best and then adjust the brightness level digitally – though be sure you don’t overdo it. Editing should be seen as a way to tweak a good photo until it’s great; masking a bad original image can be more time-consuming and difficult that getting a better one in the first place!
It can take a little time to get that handful of perfect shots for your post, but it’s worth it. Great images make your blog seem more professional, and make your content more shareable too. Once you’ve gone to all that effort, don’t let anyone steal the results – here’s our guide to protecting your blog images online.
Do you have any more tips for photographing small items? Leave a comment below!
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These tips were so helpful! I’m always struggling to photography small products effectively so thanks for sharing your advice 🙂
Really useful tips. I bought some white floor tiles from B&Q to use and I know other bloggers use material remnants or sample wallpaper as props. I believe there are some good value light boxes and photography props on Amazon and Ebay too.
The floor tiles are a great idea, thanks for sharing!