DIY Product Photography with your Phone

Product Photography (Beginners Guide with your Smartphone)


Not all local Geelong businesses have the budget for professional photos for their social media, online store, or website. Or perhaps you’re looking to open an online store and want your products to stand out during the long scroll…

And I’m sure it’s crossed your mind, can you take great photos with your smartphone?

Here’s the thing, unless you have high-quality, engaging photos, you won’t sell your products. It doesn’t matter how incredible or valuable the products are. 

If you have poor photos, you won’t make a sale. 

With practice and this step-by-step guide, you can unleash the power of your smartphone sitting in your pocket to help you sell more.




Which smartphone do you need?

Like all tools, it boils down to how well you know how to use them. For many small businesses and e-commerce stores, you don’t need to invest in an expensive mirrorless or DSLR camera to take great product photos.

Ultimately, whatever current smartphone you have will do a fantastic job as you will be confident in using the native camera app. So, if you have an Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or Google Pixel, you already have a capable camera to get started. 

Crisp product photos with a tripod

Whilst most smartphones have inbuilt image stabilisation to reduce blur if you move or shake while taking a photo, you could consider a small tripod to take full advantage of getting crisp, sharp images. 

And by using a tripod, you can reduce camera movement by using the remote shutter in your app (more on that later). 

You can purchase a small, lightweight, flexible tripod like a Joby Gorillapod. Or, if you own an existing tripod, you can buy an attachment to use your smartphone on the ball head.

Clean up the background

You’ll notice in many online stores; the product is usually on a clean, white background. This ensures the product is presented as cleanly as possible, allowing the viewer to focus and not be distracted. 

Now, there is a couple of ways you can achieve this look.

You can purchase a roll of white paper (or even one A4 sheet if the product is small). Then, you can buy semi-professional white backdrops or a lightbox. A portable lightbox combines lighting and a studio-like backdrop in a small box.

The other option is if you have a relatively clean background, think of a wall, and you can use online tools with artificial intelligence (AI) like Canva to remove the background. AI tools often do a decent job, but the process can be tedious, leading to ordinary photos.

A white foam board or reflector for more balanced light

Purchasing a white foam board or a reflector can help your product photos look more professional. In addition, a whiteboard will help minimise any shadows on the product.

Additionally, a white foam board or reflector can help you shape the light by directing natural or artificial light to give a balanced look.

Consider a diffuser for your light source

Soft and even light helps make your product stand out and look natural. To achieve this look, you can use a simple hack like a white sheet, pillow slip or frosted shower curtain in front of your light source. 

Of course, when using a window, you need to cover the entire window, so if it’s larger than a pillow slip, you’ll need the sheet. 

And take care if you are using lights, especially non-LED, as you must keep the sheet or pillow slip away from them to avoid setting it on fire.




Natural light is often enough

To avoid poorly lit and grainy images, don’t take product photos on your kitchen table with only your smartphone. You must consider how to light your product to get the best results.

As mentioned above, using a window is an excellent option for using natural light. You will likely have access to a window, and as the light comes from one direction, it allows you to generate realistic shadows and texture for your products. 

It may seem counterintuitive but overcast days will produce better results. The shadows will be softened and not as harsh as taking photos on a bright, sunny day (which we all enjoy living here on Bellarine and Surf Coast). 

Harsh light can make your photos look heavily saturated in colour and show even the most minor flaws in your products…most things people would not see with their own eyes. 

Take advantage of natural light

To start, position your product so it’s 90 degrees to the light source. Then, assuming you have diffused the window, you can shoot the photos at the brightest time of the day. For example, if you live in the Geelong region, the brightest time is 1 pm in spring and summer. And in autumn and winter, it’s 11 am.

Learn to control the light

You can determine how the light falls on your product with the reflectors or white foam boards we spoke about earlier. When using a reflector, you can impact the reflected light on the product by moving further away or closer to the product.

And if you’re using natural light like a window, you can use it to reflect it on your product. 

Working with natural light has its challenges. For example, the sun might peak or go behind a cloud, so having a whiteboard on hand can help you bounce or increase the light to fill the shadows. 




Which is my best angle?

With product photography, you need to consider different perspectives for your online store. I’m sure you have looked at other e-commerce websites and seen how engaging, let alone helpful, it is to look at a product from every angle. 

Many shoppers need to be able to see themselves wearing or using your product. So a range of images is critical to increasing your sales. 

You have seen how major online retailers position their products with photography, including close-ups. This allows the retailer to highlight the quality of their product, including print details, texture, and fabrics, just as they would in bricks and mortar stores. 

Here are five camera angles to start your next product photography shoot:


  1. Eye-level: highlights the product as you’d see it looking straight on. 
  2. High angle: shows the product as if you’re looking down at it from an angle.
  3. Low angle: showcase your product as if you’re looking up at it from the floor.
  4. Bird’s eye: this view shows the product as if you’re standing over it.
  5. Slanted: highlights the product from one side.


Before you start photographing

Now before you get shooting, take a few moments to check the following on your iPhone or Android phone:

Clean and charge your phone

Ensure you charge your phone and have plenty of storage space in the cloud.

Clean your camera to remove any dust, lint and fingerprints from the lens. We’d suggest using a lint-free micro-fibre cloth, so you don’t damage the lens.

Set up your white balance 

White balance removes the unwanted colour cast from your photos to ensure a natural look. 

However, for product photography, a natural, realistic look is what you want to achieve. So to set the white balance on your Android smartphone, you need to use pro settings in the camera app and then touch the WB button. 

Using the native Apple iPhone app, you can not adjust the white balance until after capturing the photo. Open the Photo you wish to change, then tap Edit and swipe until you find Warmth. 

Use Auto Exposure/Auto Focus

To check your exposure and focus, tap on the screen. 

The AE/AF lock feature on your iPhone camera will ensure that you get consistently sharp images that are correctly exposed. To use it, compose your product photo, then tap on the screen where you want the camera to focus. 

A yellow square will appear around the area in focus. You’ll also see a sun next to the box on your screen. With your finger, move the sun up to increase the exposure or down to decrease it. 

Now, to keep your product in focus and exposure correct, you can lock these settings. Long press on the yellow box, and you will see the AE/AF yellow button at the top of your iPhone. This way, your camera will maintain the exposure and focus even if you accidentally move your iPhone around. 

Avoiding blurry product photos

To avoid camera shake or blur, you can use the timer in the camera app so you are not touching the phone as the image is taken. 

You can access the remote time on your iPhone by pressing the little downward arrow at the top of the camera app to reveal the menu. The time is on the far right with a small clock icon, and you can select 3 or 10 seconds. 

Alternatively, you can purchase a remote shutter if you want more control. 


Review your first photo

After your first image, review it to see if it’s the proper exposure. In other words, is the photo too bright or too dark?  

Then, if you think the exposure needs changing, change it as outlined above.  


Other smartphone features to avoid

Whilst we all love our smartphones and the convenience they bring to our lives, be sure not to use them for your product photos: 

  • Avoid digital Zoom, as this will reduce image quality. Instead, move the smartphone closer, or if you have multiple optical lenses (e.g. iPhone Pro 14 has four), you can use them.
  • The front camera does not have the same resolution or quality lens as the rear. 
  • Switch off the flash, which will overexpose your images, altering the colour. 


Present your product in its best condition


Ensure your products are clean

If you have cleaned your iPhone’s lens as we suggested, you might think that’s all you need to do. However, cleaning your product to present it in perfect condition is equally essential. 

When photographing products that are shiny or have reflections, like shoes, bags and ceramics, you should pay particular attention. Asides from any scratches, reflective surfaces can show blemishes, fingerprints and smudges easily, ruining your images. 

Check all sides, stitchings and openings to remove dust, lint and other foreign objects. 


Photograph on a stable surface

You want products to stand out, so photograph them on a stable surface like a bench or table. 

Not only does this position them professionally, but it also avoids you needing to adjust them when you review them, so they are level and straight. 

Be sure to place a clean background under the product. You don’t want to have a clean white background and your kitchen table (unless that’s the look you want to achieve). 


It doesn’t have the be a white background 

Aside from a white background; you could consider photographing with a complimentary backdrop to reduce distractions. 

I’m sure you have seen many images on social media or marketing campaigns where the product is placed with other elements. Sometimes, product photos are captured in more of an environmental or lifestyle context. 

And this can hint at other products and services you may sell. For example, if you’re selling a range of organic skin care products, you might consider pairing a body wash with a hand moisturiser. 

Or perhaps place towels in the background or shoot the photographs in a bathroom.

Once you feel confident, why not experiment with different backgrounds and elements to showcase your products?


Do you need to edit your photos?


That’s not a simple question, but less is generally more. For example, with product photography, you want to ensure your images look realistic and natural.

So, save fancy filters or editing techniques for your holiday and family snaps. We’d suggest you edit your photos in the following way if you feel they need it:

  • Decrease your highlights
  • Decrease your shadows
  • Increase contrast
  • Increase sharpness

Ensure a light touch; the aim here is to keep your products looking accurate. 

Of course, you can adjust your exposure if you feel the photo is too dark or bright.


Which app to edit your photos

The quickest way is to use the native Photos app on your iPhone or Google Photos if you use an Android. You’re probably already familiar with these apps, and there are plenty of easy tutorials you can watch on YouTube.

For more advanced editing options, consider Adobe Lightroom, Snapseed or VSCO.

Lightroom and VSCO offer a free version for mobile, with some additional paid features.

In comparison, Snapseed is currently 100% free and has an easy-to-use interface making it extremely popular.


Should you hire a professional photographer?


Now, if you’ve read this far and thought…“Wow, that does sound like a lot of work”,  to take some high-quality product photos. 

Or you’re time-poor and want someone taking care of it; well, you’re in the right place. 

Naturally, we are biased and highly recommend hiring a Geelong professional photographer and videographer to showcase your incredible products. 


But you need to take our word for it; here’s what Maree said recently when we shot her Holiday Home for Air bnb…

“Hi, I used Abode Productions recently for residential photography and I can’t recommend them highly enough. Chris was very professional and had an excellent eye for detail, ensuring that our job was captured perfectly. The are very reliable, professional and excellent value for money.”


Or what another recent holiday home owner said:

“Chris and Kara’s photography is amazing, very professional, used for photography of our AirBnb Point Lonsdale Beach House – Relax Beach Surf Golf. High quality, very quick turn around and great service. Highly recommend!


You can read more about our happy clients on Google reviews.

To learn more about setting your online store for success this year, call Kara or contact us.