Product Photography DIY: No Budget Required

Everyone and their mother seems to have the iPhone X. My mother doesn’t, but she does have the 8, which is still ten times better than my rapidly aging iPhone 7. My mom’s something of an amateur photographer pro: having a smartphone has allowed her to learn photography without all the BS of an actual camera, and has made photography accessible to a lot of other people, too. In a lot of ways, smartphone photography has completely revolutionized the photography industry.

When it comes to capturing your merchandise in product photography, it’s the same deal. Gone are the days of needing a DSLR that costs thousands of dollars; okay, smartphones are more expensive than ever and you do need to shell out a little dough to purchase one in the first place, but let’s assume you’ve already invested in one. You’ll be happy to know it is possible to take your product photography budget-free, using things you probably already have.

DIY Product Photography Tip #1: Creating Your Studio

If you’ve done your homework, you probably know by now photography is more than just the camera itself. There’s the lighting, your “studio” (which can refer to an actual studio, or space that only takes up a couple of square inches), all those weird umbrellas and bounce reflectors, and of course, in post-production, the editing. Fortunately, most of that extra stuff is not entirely necessary if you’re just trying to produce a simple product photo.

You can replace a photo drop with a crisp white bed sheet, and you can supplement studio-grade lighting with a lamp that has adjustable angles. If you don’t have access to a light, try using different kinds of paper to diffuse the flash on a phone’s camera. This works great when you don’t have access to a good light source, but don’t want the harshness of flash photography.

An adjustable angle lamp that can be used to light product photography.

Of course, it helps to know what you would use if you had the money to spend on product photography, because then improvising gets easier. This may be a little harder to do if you have zero photography experience, but fortunately, thinking outside the box can push you in the right direction.

DIY Product Photography Tip #2: Go Outdoors

Another way to sidestep the priciness of studio photography is to shoot on location. The use of natural light and showing your product in action are great ways to jazz up a product photo without having to worry about the restrictions of studio photography. Location photography usually calls for a better understanding of your camera’s features, so understanding how to adjust exposure and focus on your smartphone camera is key.

The good news is cooperative weather and an idyllic location reduces the amount of work on your end. Of course, not everything can be shot on location, but a little creativity and appreciation for the environment you’re working in goes a long way.

DIY Product Photography Tip #3: Play Around

You can Google and Google all day, searching for the perfect tutorial that teaches you how to hack product photography without the budget. Here’s a tip you’ll almost never see: there’s no one way to do something, and you can “hack” a technique further to suit your needs. Designing a makeshift tripod tied down with strings or taping a camera to a broomstick are things I’ve personally done, and I went to film school! (Oh, and we actively did those things in film school, too.)

A paper cup, some paper clips, and a rubberband - all of which can be used for DIY product photography.

You’re creative and have already done the creative process of starting a business. There’s no need to stress yourself over buying equipment, using that equipment once in a blue moon, and then worrying about if investing in that equipment was a good decision. As long as you have your trusty smartphone by your side, you can take good product photography, no problem, and feel satisfied that you’ve invested your time, budgets, and efforts wisely.