When your eCommerce business is in its first few years, you may not be bringing in enough revenue yet to invest in professional product photography.
Hiring even an entry-level product photographer can cost as much as $125 per image with more experienced photographers charging up to $1,000 plus per image. Buying your own professional DSLR camera can come with a hefty price tag as well. Quality, semi-professional DSLR cameras range from $500 to $3000, not including the cost of additional lenses.
If your budget is tight, these costs can be hard to swallow. However, not being able to afford the equipment, or not being able to hire a professional, doesn’t mean you’re out of luck when it comes to showcasing your products effectively.
Your smartphone has the capability needed to take quality product photography photos (if you know how to take advantage of the built-in features on your phone’s camera).
In this post, we’ll cover tips and tricks for taking high-quality product photos without the use of expensive or professional equipment.
Make Sure Your Smartphone Camera is Semi-New
If your smartphone was made within the last three to four years, its camera will be able to take great product photos. However, if you’re in the market for a new smartphone and want to make sure the camera is the best it can be for your product images, there are some smartphones whose cameras stand above the rest. Let’s take a look at those.
Best Smartphone Cameras
If you’re willing to pay for the best smartphone camera available, then you should start with the following options.
Google Pixel 3
With a price tag between $500 and $800, this smartphone came out in March of 2019 and has already had buzz around its powerful built-in camera. The camera is most heralded for its night-shooting capabilities which means it is an excellent option if you want to shoot at night or in low light settings.
Huawei P20 Pro
This smartphone was released a year earlier than the Google Pixel 3 (March of 2018), but its camera is a close rival. Similar to the Google Pixel 3, this smartphone is able to take high-quality photos in low light. It boasts three built-in camera lenses and costs $600 to $700.
The latest version of the iPhone includes the best camera from Apple yet. It’s especially adept at capturing the most realistic and natural colors in photographs, and stabilizing images for minimal blur. Released in fall 2018, it comes with a price tag of $1,000 which makes it one of the most expensive smartphones on the market. For iPhone product photography, you can’t get much better than the XS.
Inexpensive Smartphones With Quality Built-In Cameras
If your priority is to save money on your product photography, then the following options offer good quality smartphone cameras with a significantly lower price tag.
Compared to its top competitor the Samsung Galaxy S8, this smartphone camera is much better at taking sharp, focused, and balanced photos. The difference is especially noticeable with bright colors. This phone came out in 2017 and now costs only about $300.
This smartphone’s camera outperformed all other smartphones in its class, making it a great choice for a quality, built-in camera at a low cost. Released in 2018, it now costs about $350.
Though the iPhone has been through two iterations since the iPhone 8 was released in 2017, there haven’t been significant upgrades to the camera. That means purchasing this slightly older model of iPhone gets you roughly the same camera quality as the latest iPhone XS. At a cost of around $600, this smartphone is $400 less than the XS but still more expensive than many Android phones.
Improve Your Smartphone Photography Quality With a Camera App
No matter what kind of smartphone you have, it’s good to know of the helpful apps that can improve your product photos with a few quick taps. Let’s look at some popular options for doing just that.
Best Photo Apps for Android
Open Camera is designed to help you make full use out of your camera’s functionality, even if it seems to be lacking. It offers additional support for focus, white balance, ISO, and zoom, as well as offering additional grids to center your photos. It’s free to download but has limited editing capabilities.
VSCO is a popular (free) camera app for Android that allows you to take photos on your smartphone in the raw format instead of JPEG. You can control shutter speed, white balance, ISO, and focus. In addition, it comes with a mobile editing function and will allow you to add filters and tweak your images in post-production.
Best Photography Apps for iPhone
ProCamera turns your iPhone camera into a DSLR approximate. You can use it to shoot in different formats including raw, TIFF, and HEIF, and you can adjust manual settings like white balance, ISO, and shutter speed. It also comes with an on-screen histogram which can help you be a technical judge of whether or not you have too much exposure in your image as you make edits in post. It costs $5.99 to download.
Like VSCO, Camera+ 2 allows you manual control over your smartphone camera settings including white balance, shutter speed, ISO, and focus. It also comes with a few presets for special images like action shots, as well as a built-in editing function so you can get your photos looking just right. It is $2.99 to download.
Gather Other Equipment You’ll Need for Smartphone Product Photography
Unfortunately, even with the highest quality smartphone camera, you can’t just set your product on a table and click. To make up for the slightly lower quality camera than a professional DSLR, you should take the time to build a workable at-home product photography studio.
The good news: it’s not as difficult or expensive as it sounds. You can easily DIY many parts of an at-home product photography studio with household items.
DIY White Backdrop for Product Photography
The simplest way to get a crisp white backdrop for your product photography is to use a clean white sheet. Just attach the top of the sheet to your wall, leaving enough extra fabric at the bottom to run under your product.
Another easy way to achieve a white backdrop without spending much money, is to use a roll of white paper. Rolls can be found at your local craft store or purchased on Amazon. Like the sheet, tape the top of the paper to a wall and leave enough length at the bottom.
DIY Lighting for Product Photography
The least expensive way to get soft, bright light for your product photography is to set up your shoot near a well-lit window. Then, use a clean white shower curtain taped over the window to diffuse the light evenly. In addition, you can enhance or redirect less-than-ideal natural lighting using a reflector made from aluminum foil.
A tripod for your smartphone is crucial for quality product photography. A tripod keeps your phone camera in the same place for multiple shots to ensure that each image is framed identically. In addition, it drastically reduces the chance for blurred images, since it maintains a completely still position. Most smartphone tripods are relatively inexpensive — ranging from $15 to $40.
Make the Most of Your Smartphone Camera Functionality
Most smartphones include a way to manually adjust the camera settings. However, sometimes these settings can be hard to find or understand. The following tips will help you make the most of your smartphone camera functionality.
Tips for Using Manual Settings With Android
- Look for a “manual mode” or “professional mode” in the mode menu in your camera app.
- If you don’t see the manual mode, swipe up from the bottom of your screen in the camera app. The manual settings may be hidden there.
- Experiment with adjusting the metering, ISO, shutter speed, and white balance to see what works best for your studio light.
Tips for Using Manual Settings With iPhone
- Turn on the grid function in camera settings to frame your photos correctly.
- To change focus, hold down your finger on the screen where you want to focus until the “AE/AF LOCK” symbol appears (which means your focus settings are locked in place).
- To adjust exposure, tap on the screen once for the tiny sun symbol to appear. Drag the sun up to increase exposure and down to decrease exposure.
Make It Work
You don’t have to spend a fortune to get great product photos when you have a top-notch camera right in your pocket. No matter what style you choose, hopefully, these tips have given you the confidence to take amazing product images with your smartphone.