6 Tips for shooting your own product photos

Easy to follow tips for shooting your own stock photos and product photography. DIY stock photos are easy! Plus the best tripod for flatlays.

Originally published on linemae.com which was rebranded to lizwhite.co.
Same content, same author, new brand, new website.

Taking your own product photography seems like a no brainer. But when you end up having to re-shoot all of your photos because you did it wrong, that can be a huge bummer. Over the past year I’ve worked out a system that works great for shooting product photos, and I’m finally happy with how everything is turning out!

A little background about the camera I use and my photography skill level:

My camera is a Canon Rebel EOS XSi that was purchased at CostCo in 2010. The camera came with two lenses and I just use the normal one that isn’t for zooming (see how technical I am?). After some extra researching this compact macro is on my short-list for when I decide to upgrade, but for now I make it work with what I have. I always anticipate editing my photos after I shoot them, but the goal is to limit how much of that I actually have to do!

Update: I did buy that lens linked above and while it's great for detail I had to shoot from a really tall height to do any kind of products photos and it is pretty terrible in low light situations. I recently bought this 24MM F/2.8 lens and it's working a lot better. Bonus, it's right around the $150 mark which is pretty stellar as far as lens prices go.

Now that you know I’m definitely not a professional photographer, here are my six tips for shooting your own product photography!

Tilt arm Tripod

Use a tripod with a tilt arm.

This has seriously, seriously, changed my photography game. The main issue I had when taking photos was that they always ended up out of focus or a bit blurry. My normal tripod didn’t work, because I wanted to shoot directly over my products, which is where the tilt arm comes in! Just make sure that your tilt arm can extend far enough out over the space you are photographing.

I ended up getting the Promaster Taskmaster UT25 Tripod System from Amazon. Yes, paying that much for a tripod hurt a bit. But, it was cheaper than what I could find at my local photography store (always shop around) and honestly it’s totally been worth the investment. I’m going to be able to use this tripod for years to come, and it’s already made things 100x better for my photography needs.

You can also buy the tilt arm separately: Promaster Tripod Accessory Tilt Arm

The 3Pod Orbit Aluminum Tripod is a cheaper tripod option (though I haven't tried it myself).

Shoot with a delay or remote.

If you’re using a tripod, why add the possibility of camera shake from snapping the photo? My camera has a 2 second delay that I currently use and I always make sure to step out of the way so I don’t cast any shadows. Though, I think I will be buying a remote soon. I recently shot some styled photos where I had my hand in the shot, and it was stressful moving my hand into position in that super short period of time!

Update: I bought this cheap Canon remote and it's been great!

When shooting flat, increase the depth of field.

When I was shooting my recent product shots, my aperture was set at f/18. This allowed for my lens to focus on the full surface, not just one little part of my whole set-up. That’s as simple as I can put it. 

Don’t ignore your camera’s white balance settings.

I can’t tell you which one to choose specifically, since your set up will determine what you need. But, if your photos are looking a little yellow or blue toned, changing to a different white balance setting may make a world of a difference. You might still have to color adjust your photos later, but you won’t have to mess with that nearly as much!

Shoot mid-day.

I’m lucky to have a large area with a lot of windows, so I’m able to shoot my photos with natural light. I’ve found that the best time to take pictures is on a sunny day from 11am-3pm. If it’s overcast, I honestly don’t even bother.

Use reflectors to brighten photos and even shadows.

As you can see, I used a big piece of white cardboard as a DIY reflector. I’ll probably experiment with different DIYs (like using tinfoil), but that worked pretty well for me. Using a reflector helped even out the shadows that I was getting, which was something I wanted to minimize.

Update: This is my upgrade from DIY since it's way easier to store and under $15.