Awesome news! While DSLR cameras are awesome (as per this article here), you can TOTALLY create great DIY product photos with your smartphone. There's an important key to successfully taking awesome product photos with your smartphone, and I'm going to share it with you right now.
While there are numerous methods with which you can achieve better DIY product photos with your smartphone (I’ll leave the others for future posts), there is none more valuable than this.
The key to better DIY product photos with your smartphone is light.
Really, light is the key to all photos. Quite literally, light is our number tool when capturing images. The reason it’s even more important with smartphones is because with them, we lack the tools to manipulate the light to our advantage.
With DSLR cameras we have the option of changing the cameras setting to allow more light in and those beasts are designed to retain high quality detail in lower light situations; we have three options for allowing in more light (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) but when it comes to smartphone cameras, they adjust their internal settings automatically, mostly by cranking up the ISO to brighten the image.
Unfortunately, smartphones really don't handle higher ISOs very well. The problem with higher ISO is that it reduces image quality and creates image noise, which is a graininess that is undesirable in just about any situation, except for perhaps in Film Noir.
Bonus tip: While bright light is key, we need to seek out bright diffused light, as opposed to direct light. Direct light creates strong highlights (bright spots) and harsh shadows, both of which will take away from the quality of the product and usually makes it look cheap.
So what can be done?
Get yourself in a brightly lit area, but not direct sunlight. We can’t change the way the cameras in our smartphones function, but we can change our environment.
Below is a photo I took for the purpose of demonstrating my point. Side note, my prop for this lesson today is a pair of earrings I bought at a market in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. They’re made of wood from local trees and Lucite. I highly recommend checking out their Etsy shop.
This first photo is an example of undesirable low lighting. Is it the worst ever? Not quite. But is it the quality that you want to share with your clients or customers? Heck no. The colour is kind of funky, the detail and quality is poor, the image isn’t sharp or crisp. I even threw some greenery to solidify the point that styling it won’t help.
Below is an example of swinging the pendulum far to the opposite side and going for direct light. The direct light from the midday sun creates unwelcome highlights and harsh shadows that detract from the quality of the product. Not cool. Direct light is almost always best to be avoided.
What did I do next? I moved out of the sunlight and into a different room. A room with large windows and bright, indirect light. By the way, the room I used is my office and the wood background in the photo is the surface of my new desk. Love it!
See the difference? It’s huge! This photo is crisp, it shows off the detail in the earrings, and it’s not hard on the eyes. This photo speaks to not only a higher quality image, but a higher quality product.
Add in some greenery for styling and hello there, you’ve got an Instagram ready image to share with your following.
An additional note: While you can definitely take great DIY product photos with your smartphone, there are limits that ultimately will make it tough to do so consistently. I recommend that all serious handmade sellers make it a goal to eventually invest in a DSLR camera for their product photos. Check out my post on choosing the best camera for your DIY product photography for more info.
If you have any questions regarding today’s tip, drop it in the comments!
Go-to product photography instructor for creatives since 2017
I'm a photographer and I teach makers, artists, and creatives how to take beautiful, compelling, and effective brand and product photos for their business.
With my signature straightforward teaching style and affinity for blending the technical with the creative, I'll teach you how to not just take a nice photo, but how to LOVE crafting stunning, stand-out images that significantly elevate your creative business.
A free 3-part video series to bust you out of your product photography funk so you can start taking better photos, faster
Free 3-Part Video Series To Bust You Out of Your Product Photography Funk So You Can Start Taking Better Photos, Faster