If you are reading this, you probably don’t have $10,000 lying around to spend on photography gear or hire an agency, but you need to showcase your awesome products to your customers and the world. As entrepreneurs working on a tight budget, getting good photos could be quite expensive, but as the popular saying goes “Your first impression is important”.
For those trying to harness the benefits of e-commerce and online marketing, having high-quality product photographs determines how people perceive your brand. Using beautiful photos to showcase your brand can be the “x-factor” especially when selling your products on marketplace sites like Jumia and Konga where you have numerous competing brands.
Let’s get a few things clear first:
1. You are not Anne Leibowitz
2. You can take the DIY route
3. You can get fairly-used gear (camera, tripod, lights, stands, softboxes, e.t.c)
So for a practical example, we will work with a bootstrapped budget of N85,000 to actualize your goal and get you started on this great adventure.
Step 0: Take a free photography course / Watched YouTube videos on photography
It all begins here. Taking free courses and watching videos, all the while practising what you learn is a nice way to test the water (sea). At this point, a smartphone camera comes with all the basic and core elements of a professional DSLR camera, which makes it the perfect learning tool for starters.
There are countless free courses and videos online to begin your journey into self-taught photography. A lot of newbies make the error of just buying a camera without knowing anything about photography or the art. Begin by using your smartphone camera to practise what you’ve learnt. The Nikon school in Ikeja offers good, periodic crash courses from industry pros too.
It will take an average of 3 weeks to learn and apply the core skills and know the terminologies, like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, focal length and depth of field e.t.c. You may also learn editing skills depending on your level of commitment to the whole process of learning.
Step 1 : The Gear
Gear is at the heart of photography and can be really exciting, but typically it’s the aspect that most people become confused about.
A– The Camera
You don’t need to break the bank buying a camera you’ll end up under-using or you won’t even need at all. Considering budget constraints, it makes sense to go for a mid-range camera or an entry level DSLR camera.
My advice is:
1. Spend at least a week doing research on Prosumer (Pro + Consumer) to entry level cameras. Use Google and photography blogs to inform your decision. This will help you narrow your search and eventually make the decision process an albeit easier one.
2. Once you find your camera of choice, take the time out to go to an actual store to make your purchase. DON’T ORDER ONLINE!!! Aroloya Street on Lagos Island is the best bet if you are looking for any kind of photography gear. Going out to buy your first camera has immense benefits. You’ll be able to test the real thing, get advice from sellers on the DOs and DONT’s and have an opportunity to bargain on a fair price *wink*. (These things can’t be done online)
PS: Remember your budget, don’t have long throat!!
B- The Tripod
You can not go wrong here because even a relatively cheap tripod will help you achieve 100% results. A tripod will help you get stability in your shots and greater camera control. There is nothing worse than a shaky/grainy and badly composed shot. It is also important to know that you are trying to showcase your goods.
No matter the quality of a product, it won’t matter with a bad photo. Position your tripod and camera so that it directly faces the product. Most of the time, you will not move the camera throughout the shoot. For different angles of the product, you will move the product.
Also, getting a tripod from an offline store would be great but not compulsory.
The ideal beginner lighting setup for e-commerce photography consists of two light sources. No need to overthink it. What you’ll need essentially are:
– 2 light stands
– 2 light holders
– 2 regular LED lights
So, Let there be light.
As we all know from taking selfies, good lighting is key and the same goes for product photography. Light from a natural source is often the best but it is impossible to control and you often end up with varying results, unless you can control Nigerian weather. It is important to note that, what matters most is the uniform distribution of the light source as opposed to the quantity / intensity of the light.
Hard vs Soft Shadow: To achieve optimum results, avoid shooting your products with hard shadows. Hard shadows are created when the size of the light source
is small compared to the size of the subject or when the light source is too close to the object.
Conversely, soft shadows are created when the size of the light source is larger than the subject or when the light source is far enough from the object. Diffusing the light source can help you reduce the harshness of the light.
D- White Background
Cost: N5000 – N25000
There is no easy way around this. A white background is essential to almost all e-commerce photos.
The Infinity cove / sweep: This is an all-white space with no corners, designed to give the impression that the background of an object extends to infinity. Infinity coves range from a simple roll of paper to whole studios (often used for photographing cars). The principle of design is that everything behind the object is curved so that no edges can be seen. You can build a cheap one with just a wide and long sheet of white paper, but unless you have a means of diffusing the light, like a softbox, you’ll get hard shadows/ They are often ideal for fashion, automobile and large items.
Product Tent: This is a ready made squarish translucent box that range in size from 24″ to human sized tents. They are great for beginners because they are built with materials that diffuse light and create a soft shadow.
In my next article, I would talk about essential tips on how to optimize your photography gear to the maximum.
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