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DIY Your Own Product Photos for Social Media

So many of us run small businesses these days, either as a "side hustle", or as our main income. And photos are so important for all our marketing efforts - for social media marketing, brochures, website, print advertising, etc, etc.

Today's post will help guide you through how to take great pics for social media marketing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. These images can even be used on your website as supporting pictures. This info is available in a lot of places on the web, but I thought I'd give you a one-stop shop, all presented in layman's terms. I want to save you some time.

Let me first tell you which photos you don't want to take yourself...

  • Pictures for printed brochures or advertisements

  • Your "brand" shots - those featured on your website

  • Headshots for business cards, LinkedIn, etc

  • Super closeups where you want everything in focus (like for fine jewelry)

  • White background shots for Amazon

  • Featured images of products you mass produce

Use high quality, professional images for these. If you run your own MLM business or franchise, you'll likely get these images from headquarters. If you operate individually, you really should hire a professional to get high quality, high resolution images.

But unless you work for a company with an in-house photographer, or an agency on retainer, you are going to have to rely on your own skills for photos you post as part of your ongoing social media efforts. Very few of us can afford a photographer for those! And if you sell one-of-a kind, relatively lower priced products, you'll lose all your margin hiring a photographer for those.

Today's post will guide you how to take those "everyday" shots. And it is a VERY different post for me. Every photo you see will be taken with my cell phone instead of my many, many pounds of and dollars worth of photo gear. I'm doing that because I want to work with what YOU have available. I'm also going to use items I have around the house to demonstrate in order to make it relevant to more of you small business owners.

First recommendation - go with the highest resolution photo you can take on your cell phone, It will pay off later as you can edit and crop a lot easier. Second - if possible, pick a place where you can stage your photos on a regular basis. Go with the same time of day, the same location - develop a general look which your customers and potential customers will come to recognize, You may change the actual composition, but the overall mood will stay consistent.

Clean your products well. Use a dust free cloth to do so, The picture will highlight any dust, fingerprints, or smudges. After you've cleaned the item, you may want to consider using a cloth to handle the items, especially if they have any glossy surface.

So, where should you take your pics? Ideally, setup near a window that gets indirect light (north or south facing) and use sheer curtains to filter the light. But if your house is like mine, it may have only east and west facing windows. I need a little heavier sheer, or I try to take photos on overcast days. I suppose that's the one good thing about living in the Chicago area - we have PLENTY of overcast days. And to even out the lighting, you can use something white (cardstock, photo mat, white box, etc) opposite the window to reflect some light back onto the object you're photographing. This will subtly light the darker side and avoid harsh shadows.

You can vary the actual composition of your photos a few ways. Pull over a different table, use fabric under your products, even use scrapbook paper as your base if your items are small enough. But choose colors that are of a similar family. I wouldn't recommend bright neon colors one day, and warm rich colors another. Again, you want to develop a look that makes your pictures look consistent. While I personally like landscape oriented images, more and more social media posts need portrait mode (taller vs wider). This is because they're typically viewed on phones vs computers. Take more pictures, each a little different, than you think you'll need. It's easier to delete the extras than recreate to get a slightly different shot.

Edit your pictures. You can use the phone's edit function, but I really like Snapseed. It's free and available on both iOS and Android. The first thing I always do is select the Rotate function and straighten the photo. No matter how hard I work, it seems like they're always a little crooked. Then I usually increase the contrast a little, decrease the shadows and often increase the saturation. But you'll find your own style. I recommend staying away from the filters because they'll change the colors of your products a little, and that's definitely not what you want.

You can now use the images straight from your camera phone, or download them to use on your computer. If you're using straight from the phone, make sure you select the edited version vs the original.

Now some "don'ts" - sometimes it's just easier to know what to avoid.

  • Don't use flash unless you're a whiz with it. (That being said, if you have to shoot in bright sunlight, flash can help avoid dark shadows.)

  • Don't take a pic with dark shadows cast on your surface - that's all people will see. (See comment about the reflector above)

  • Don't leave out space on the sides, top and bottom of your pic. Space will allow you to crop your photo to edit however you like.

  • Don't skip the manicure if you're using someone's hand in the pic. This even applies for guys. Everyone will notice the ragged nails rather than your product.

  • Don't skip the model release if you use someone else in your photos and they are recognizable. Get their approval in writing to use their image.

Let me know if you have any questions. Remember to download your "DIY Social Media Product Photos" checklist.

Have a wonderful day!



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