Great product photos can be created even with a smartphone, and there are even advantages to shooting with one. Learn why the simplest path may be the best for your photos.
- (lip smack) Ahh. You know, an important part of product photography is of course, the camera itself. You don't necessarily always have to have a big camera like a full DSLR or even a mirrorless camera. Sometimes the camera that most of us have with us every day, the camera in our smartphone, will work perfectly well. And there can actually be some advantages to shooting with this tiny little camera. For example, if you're shooting a little product like this tiny little coffee cup here, the fact that the lens is in such a small and low position on the camera means I can get the camera into some really interesting positions.
So that right there can be a great advantage. Another advantage is the fact that the picture is on the smartphone, ready to go, I can edit it with any number of apps, and then immediately post it to eBay, or Etsy, or wherever you may be selling your product. So those are some pretty great advantages. Of course, there's disadvantages, too. You have a lower quality image, you're only shooting in JPEG, you can't work with strobes, and, of course, you can't change lenses. So, it just depends on what you're shooting. Sometimes you want to go big, and sometimes going small works out great. So let's see what we can do with this smartphone and this tiny little teacup over on my shooting table.
We're ready to shoot our coffee cup with the smartphone. And, I'm set up here in a very simple environment, just a nice wood table, simple white background. The light above me here that is illuminating this scene is a Westcott CFL light bank. Now, this is a pretty inexpensive, quite affordable setup here, but the only reason we even have this is because we're in a indoor studio without any natural light. So I clearly need some light here. Chances are if you're shooting with your smartphone, you're going to be shooting with available natural light. So, we've set this up to pretty well simulate what that light would be like.
You'll also notice that I have filled up the coffee cup. You want to make sure if you're taking a picture of something like a coffee cup or teacup, you put something in there. It just makes the image a bit more interesting. Also finally, you'll notice that I have a cable hanging off my iPhone here. This is simply so that you can see what my iPhone sees as I'm setting up the shot. So, let's see what we've got here. Again, with the iPhone, we can get very close it'll focus very nice and close in there. And we can really frame it and see exactly what we want quite easily. In fact, let me just move this over a little bit. Get a little better angle there, make sure I've got that nice white background, and it's easy to get that in frame and get the shot that we want.
Remember that because the lens on the smartphone is so low to the table or ground, or whatever surface you're putting it on, it allows you to really get the camera into some quite interesting positions. So, for example, I can get really close down here. And then with the iPhone, I can even tap to focus. And you might recall, that you can also drag your finger up and down on the screen to make the scene look a little bit brighter, or a little bit darker. Tap to take the picture, and away you go. Now, one more point about lighting with your smartphone. Most smartphones are going to have some type of a light, kind of like a flash, but an LED light built into it.
If you turn that on for a photo like this, chances are it's not going to look very good. Let me just show you how that turns out. We'll go ahead and turn that light on, and I'll take that picture, and the lighting from this is really harsh. That is just not terribly attractive. That is not a nice lighting, it's not a nice look for the image. So remember if you're shooting something like this, don't turn on the internal flash. Don't turn on that LED. Just go ahead and disable that, and you'll get a much nicer image. Let's shoot that one more time like this. Make sure we see the white background poking through there, and away we go.
And that's going to make for a pretty nice product shot. So it's not too shabby what you can do with your smartphone. Decent lighting, again, just available light, window light is going to work out just fine. And pay attention to your backdrop, get close to the camera, and away you go.
Need a refresher on the basics? Check out Joseph's Photography 101 series.
- Shooting with a smartphone or full-size camera
- Creating a softbox setup for shooting small products
- Shooting against a white seamless background
- Lighting for product photography
- Shooting accurate color
- Retouching product photography in post