Taking and managing great photos for your listing

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Photos are really crucial for selling on Amazon. Unlike a bricks and mortar shop, customers can’t touch and feel what they’re buying, so they rely on your photos to get a feel for the product.

You may think you need to have a DSLR and a whole load of studio equipment to take good photos. Actually, you don’t. Taking product photos is all about the set-up.

First of all, it’s about lighting. Unless you have a fully equipped studio, that should be natural light. Never use flash! Take your photos with the light from a window to the left or right or the photo, which will bring out surface textures and the shape of the product nicely. Don’t shoot into the light or you’ll just get a silhouette.

The best light is soft and diffused. You might use a professional diffuser; a muslin curtain can be a good stand-by but it does cut down light levels quite a lot. If you use a reflector on the other side from the window, you’ll be able to bounce light back from that side, which stops shadows becoming harsh. (Just use a large sheet of bright white paper or cardboard for a reflector.)

It can pay to spend a while taking photos every half hour, to try to find the right time of day when the light is just right. Then, you know just when to schedule your photo shoots.

Use a white background. Buy a huge sheet of white paper or light cardboard, and set it up as a ‘sweep’ behind and beneath your product, and with a smooth curve rather than a fold at the bottom. An easy way for small products is to find a straight-backed chair and clip the paper to the top of the chair, or use an upside-down table as your support.

For larger products, use a smooth white background such as a curtain, or buy a professional sweep with its own stand. You can get them from as little as $20, so it’s not a huge investment.

When you edit, the use of a sweep gives you several advantages. One is that you have a good reference for your white balance. Another is that you shouldn’t have any variation in the background color, so it is much easier to remove. There are a number of apps that are specially designed to remove gray. backgrounds; you don’t need to pay for Photoshop.

The biggest investment that you need to make is not the camera or the studio; it’s a tripod. Always use a tripod for product shots. If your camera has a timer, use that rather than releasing the shutter manually, to stop the camera from wobbling.

Use a template for all your photos. Record the setup you use, and repeat it every time, so all your product photos look similar. Use a template when you’re editing, so that the product occupies the same space, and the photos are the same size. For instance if you need photos of a shirt in six different colors, all the photos should show the shirt centered, and exactly the same size.

Remember to take at least one photo that shows your product size. Include a ruler, or a dime, or some other reference measure, in the shot.

For lifestyle shots, don’t forget to use the right lighting, just as you would for product shots. A good photographic technique is to set the depth of field so that your product is sharp, but the background is slightly blurred; if you have a DSLR, you can do this by setting the aperture (or f-stop) at 1.8 or 2.8. But remember to focus your camera manually so the product is the center of attention!

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