7 Components to Capture the Perfect Product Photo

For product photography studios and e-commerce stores alike, it’s crucial to capture the perfect product photo for every item in stock. Online shoppers today demand high resolution, high-quality media content that provides them with views of products from various angles and in vivid detail. In this guide, we’ll explain the 7 components that go into capturing the perfect product photo.

Photography equipment and tips for the perfect product photo

Blurry or low-quality product photos will not only cost a business sales but can also harm the brand’s reputation, so it’s crucial to capture and use only the best product photos. A great product photo increases buyer’s trust at the instance of purchase, and ultimately leads to higher sales and fewer returns in long-term operations. 

The product photo should replicate the in-store experience, placing products in the hands of the consumer to handle and examine just as they would in real life. Those leading in e-commerce know this. The professionals are setting high standards in eCommerce, especially so with 360 degree product photography

To stay ahead of the competition, it’s all about utilizing the right hardware, software, and accessories that can produce consistent, high-quality product imagery which is easily managed and distributed, and likewise that stimulates sales. Read on for the 7 components that go into capturing the perfect product photo for e-commerce stores, retailers and distributors.

Image of high-top shoe flat on turntable.

1. Prepping for the product photo

To capture the perfect product photo, first and foremost it’s vital that the product is in mint condition, and, secondly, that the product is positioned perfectly for the photo shoot. Whether the photo shoot is on-location or in a professional product photography studio, it’s important that the product does not get damaged, dinged, or scratched before the shoot. 

This can be of particular concern for high-volume product photo shoots, where there are many different items that need sorting, transporting, and prepping in a short amount of time. It is also of concern when shooting larger objects or machinery. It’s always important to be careful when transporting any product from storage to the photography station.

Beyond transport, the product needs to be positioned and perfectly centered for the photo shoot. It’s always important to get the product in the center of the rotation to produce powerful spin (or even still) photos. At PhotoRobot, we use lasers that are automatically switched on for positioning and then automatically switched off when snapping photos. This prevents operator errors, and, if for some reason the product is not centered perfectly, we have software capable of recentering an entire batch of images in a few clicks. The software can also recenter products vertically, even if the product was improperly positioned throughout the shoot.  

Sometimes, you will need additional equipment or accessories, as not all items stand on their own. You want the product upright in the photo so it can be viewed from various angles. To do this, photographers often utilize something for prop assistance. An example might be a wire hung from the ceiling that is attached to the product to hold it upright, or invisible plastic props to make an item stand on its own.

Orange shoe with black toe standing on glass plate.

2. Capturing a clean white background

When capturing a product photo, it’s important that the product is set against a clean, white background. This not only makes the product stand out but it is also a requirement if utilizing online shopping places like Google Shopping or Amazon, who both require pure white backgrounds for product imagery.

Capturing a white-background photo does however require certain tricks and a photographer’s touch to reduce the need for editing later on. 

At PhotoRobot, one way we accomplish this is by using a glass table for the product and having a white fabric several feet away, also with lighting to illuminate the product from behind. This creates an image with a smooth white background and outlining similar to what you would expect from Photoshop, and prepares the images for automated post-processing. 

What you don’t want from a product photo is distorted edges around the product. When this effect, so-called light wrap, is strong, it is clearly visible even without zooming in for detail, and requires heavy editing later on - if at all possible. This occurs when the product is superimposed improperly against digital white backgrounds, and calls for editing and post-processing that can be not only time-consuming but also costly, especially for high-volume product shoots. When you have a natural white background with the fabric, there is less likelihood you’ll need to go back and edit images later.

There are also additional lighting tricks that can be used to minimize this problem while getting the perfect white background, but the most important element to consider is background distance. This can be a common problem with traditional all-in-one “box” solutions, where the background is a component of the lightbox and light-wrap occurs naturally due to items being too close to the background. At PhotoRobot, we understand this and have built solutions around this.

Photo of shoe with studio lights on both sides.

3. Achieving the perfect lighting for a product photo

The perfect product photo makes your product stand out in vivid detail, with just the right lighting to convey shape and a deep depth of field. There should be no unwanted reflections, inconsistencies, or overwhelming shadows that distract consumers from the true nature of the product. And when every item surface is different, it requires a photographer’s knowledge of how different items respond to different lighting setups.

There are three pieces of equipment needed to capture the right lighting for product photos.

  • Lighting equipment, e.g. strobe lighting, LED panel technology, or DMX-controlled LED panels
  • Light Shapers, e.g. diffusers, honeycombs, reflectors black flags, etc
  • Various accessories, all depending on the studio, the type of product photography, etc.

At PhotoRobot, we suggest numerous solutions in terms of lighting, diffusers and accessories for small to medium and large objects or heavy machinery. With the right equipment, setup, and knowledge, it’s possible to capture consistent product photos, even when shooting reflective or translucent items that might require prop assistance or lighter toned backgrounds.

3 x 3 product photo grid of multi-colored shoes.

4. Getting consistent product image composition

With product photography for ecommerce, consistency can be critical, especially for product galleries. All the products need to look like they would in a shop display, replicating the real shopping experience in an online environment. The experience can then be enhanced with spins, detailing, 3D modeling and more, but the main goal is in first capturing consistent product images that can be used to later address these verticals.

To do this, it all begins with preparation, and this can be one of the most time-consuming elements of product photo shoots. It takes time to unpackage, transport, and prep products and set the photography scene, as well as to complete the shooting and post processing. 

And while not much can be done to reduce the prep time, PhotoRobot solutions are designed to drastically cut shooting time, making it possible to capture entire sets of images for still shots, spin photography and 3D models -- requiring only a few clicks of the mouse to create consistent and remarkable online product presentations. 

At this point,it all comes down to the camera. Cameras with wide lenses are best when capturing larger products, while macro lenses can be utilized for smaller items. The goal is to capture the same composition from every angle, whether for 360 degree or still photos.

Zoom views of shoe details: laces, material, sole.

5. Optimizing product imagery for excellent zoom capabilities

The next component to capturing the perfect product photo is in optimizing imagery for excellent zoom capabilities. It’s all about creating an interactive experience for the consumer, allowing them to rotate the product and zoom into the finest details, all the while ensuring that the product image is sharp and in focus throughout the experience. This is where utilizing high-end cameras with the appropriate lens comes into play to maximize image quality.

One issue here, however, is that you often produce large image files when trying to capture the perfect images for zoom capability. This is why PhotoRobot has chosen to integrate with a global Content Delivery Network (CDN), which can be utilized to distribute image files globally and at maximum speed and resolution, dynamically prepared on-demand and delivered based on viewer resolution.  Thus, the 360 product viewer allows us to drastically reduce data traffic and page load times to ensure online shoppers have a positive experience and increase SEO value on websites.

PhotoRobot solutions also support 3rd party hosting services if preferred, with zero-friction automation background to integrate with clients’ existing solutions when required.

6. Snapping angles that best capture the product

Establishing customer trust in today’s online shopping world revolves around showcasing products from various angles to replicate the in-store shopping experience. Just as zoom capabilities are important, the same is true for how consumers interact with, spin, and view a product photo. 

High-quality still images work well for zoom, but they only provide consumers with one angle of viewing. When making an object spin, however, static images alone are not enough. 360 degree or spin photos typically require 24, 48, or 72 still images which are all combined to create the product image. This is where you need extra equipment, like PhotoRobot’s ROBOTIC TURNTABLE for automating product and 360 degree photography.

7. Automating post-production for consistent product photos

A well-executed product photo shoot shouldn’t require much image post-processing after the fact, but sometimes it might be necessary to edit some common issues that might arise. One of the most common edits necessary is white balancing, and this is when you need to eliminate color casts and render products that are white into a product photo. Gray cards can be utilized as a standard component of PhotoRobot’s workflow and automated post processing for this. For highly translucent products, gray-scale edits are necessary.

Oftentimes products might also require “global edits,” which are edits applied across a batch of images. It might be that the product needs different saturation or contrast to make the colors more vivid, or you might need localized edits to fix a blemished product.

Consistency is key in e-commerce product photos

When it comes to capturing the perfect product photos for e-commerce stores, distributor and retailer websites, the main component to success is in consistency across all of your product imagery. Online shoppers enjoy the experience of digital shopping the same as they enjoy shopping in real life, by browsing shops and comparing items before making a purchase. 

This is why the goal for e-commerce stores should be to provide the same quality of product photos across all their various platforms. Ultimately, by doing this, you not only establish brand trust but also stand a chance against the competition in an online world where perfect product photography is trending and prevalent thanks to automation becoming significantly cheaper than traditional techniques.