Whether you have an E-commerce site or you just need some staff photos doing, getting professional pictures can be expensive. Even though I would always recommend using a professional photographer for the best results, here are some tips that will help you do it yourself.

Lighting

Arguably the most important thing in photography is light, without it a photograph cannot exist. So that you don’t have to mess around with studio lighting the easiest thing to do is use natural day light. Ideally go outside on an overcast day. This will give a nice diffused light avoiding harsh shadows. If you live in somewhere like California or Brighton where it is always sunny then seek some shade. Try and avoid indoor lighting such as florescent.

 Three images depicting different lighting conditions

Even when photographing outdoors on an overcast day, the light will be stronger from one direction. Try and position you and your subject so that the most intense light falls on your subject slightly from the side

lighting diagram

Background

A mistake repeatedly made is to find a really cool background and then put the subject in front of it hoping that will make a good picture. Often the light is terrible and the background is distracting. As we’re photographing products and people for the web I would suggest using a plain background. White or grey are the easiest to manipulate if you wish to cut out your subjects. A plain background will ensure that all the focus remains on the subject.

Two images depicting different backgrounds

One thing to note when taking pictures on a light background is that the camera will often under expose the image. This is because the camera thinks that the background should be equivalent to a mid-grey tone. To compensate for this you need to over expose the picture a bit. How to do this will depend on the camera. Look in the instruction manual for the term bracketing; you want to increase the exposure by about +1.5.

Another thing to be aware of is the white balance (WB). Try a few different ones to see which gives you the best colours and tones, but you will probably find auto white balance or the cloudy setting will work best.

Posing and placement

When photographing a person don’t just stand them square in front of the camera. The more flattering thing to do is have them turn their body at an angle and then turn their head towards the camera.

When working with inanimate objects, remember to photograph them from several different angels. Take some close ups of the important details.

product images

Composition

There are lots of ideas and rules for composition, such as ‘rule of thirds’, ‘leading lines’ etc. However, for what we want to do, 90% of the time placing the subject in the centre is a winner. Having said that, if you are photographing people, try and avoid having their head in the centre of the picture. See example below.

images depicting composition

Manipulation

Manipulation software can be expensive but hopefully by following the tips in this post there will be little need to manipulate your pictures.  It may be necessary to resize your photos. Your web designers will be able to do this for you. If you are using WordPress, as long as the image file doesn’t exceed 2mb, it will resize it for you.

In none of the example pictures have I used any professional lighting. All the pictures are straight out of the camera, and I didn’t even use a professional one of those. If you are interested then the camera was a Sony NEX-C3.