If you run a cat blog and you want to make money from your blog, you will face the challenge of pet product photography. Taking pictures of products can seem difficult, but it doesn’t need to be.
Let me share with you how to do simple product photography with the equipment you have. No need for any fancy lights for your beginner’s adventure, grab your camera and let’s get started.
I am using my own product photographs in this post, including our Humarian promotion. To show how the professionals’ take photographs check the official Humarian product photos.
- You can hear me on the Humarian podcast, I was interviewed while at Blogpaws®!
Which Cameras ‘Work’ for Product Photography?
When you are starting to work for sponsors, you might feel you need a fancy DSLR before you can start. Not so. The camera you have will work for product photography. How you prepare for your shoot is more important.
Knowing the device you will be using for your product photos is a high priority. This means you need to either grab the manual or invest a few minutes in finding an instructional video. See what your camera can do. This gives you control over your images.
Starting Pet Product Photography
The settings you use can change how your photographs come out. It sounds obvious but needs saying. The trick is not to work against a looming deadline and try to work everything out as you go.
Not. Going. To. Work.
Take time to do a practice run. If you don’t have a sponsor to work with, pick a favourite cat product and set it up for a trial photoshoot. An exercise like this will help you understand the preparation you need to do before you undertake a serious project.
What ‘modes’ does your camera have?
Let’s start with a look at your most important piece of equipment. This is the camera you will be using and the questions you should to be able to answer.
- A DSLR or mirrorless camera will have specific modes. These include Aperture Priority (A), TV or Shutter Priority, Manual and Automatic modes.
- A Compact camera will have a range of options depending on the manufacturer. Modern compacts can be amazing so check what your own camera can do. Options will include close-up, sport, landscape etc.,
- Smartphones are very popular for taking photographs and the quality is excellent. If you have a ‘phone it can definitely be used for product photography on a blog. Online images are low resolution, not print-quality (which is much higher).
Preparing for Pet Product Photography
Make sure your battery is fully-charged and your lens is clean. A good lens cloth, like those you get with a pair of spectacles, is made from fine microfibre. This will not scratch or damage your lens, like a tissue might.
Unless you have professional lighting set up, start taking pictures using natural light. It’s free and when you are doing budget pet product photography, free is good.
There are plenty of lighting options to explore as your confidence grows (which it will). There are many basic selfie light setups, like ‘selfie rings or check out some of the larger lights that diffuse their glow in a product friendly way. Check these out online, or at your local photography shop.
Product Photography Lighting Tips
Professional product photographers know that lighting is an important part of a shoot. This focus on light quality applies to smartphone and compacts as well as DSLR cameras. Lighting is the most challenging part of taking pet product photos but you can get good results.
Always be aware of your light and what it is doing. Soft natural light is best but you have to work with what nature gives you.
Direct sunlight casts strong dark shadows that don’t flatter your product. But, if you have no choice but to shoot when the sun is high, you have a workaround. Pin or drape a net curtain or large sheet of cartridge paper over the window. This can help soften strong light.
A Super Simple Lighting Setup
The picture above demonstrates a larger setup than you or I would use for a simple shoot. But it does show how you should position your sheet of paper (called a sweep) to showcase products.
You can set up your ‘product photography table’ something like this:
- Place a chair or small table by a window.
- Put a large sheet of white card or paper on the chair and attach it at the top so it doesn’t slip. Masking tape or Blu-tack is good and doesn’t leave marks.
- Check your background is supported if you use a table.
- Take trial photos to assess the intensity of your light.
- Brightness = intensity and dark shadows.
- Softness = softer more flattering shadows.
- Shadows in front of the product can be removed with a ‘reflector’. Your reflector only needs to be a budget sheet of white card. Or you can invest in the collapsible kind.
TIP: A white background for pet product photography can be decorated with props. Plain white means you do not have to worry about colour clashes. If you are working with a specific colour scheme for a brand make sure your props match their feel or colour
This photo shows the successful outcome of a plain background and a single product. There has been a small amount of image lightening in post production.
Quick Camera Settings for Product Pics
Tips for helping to troubleshoot problems as well as discovering your camera’s capabilities. For DSLR, compact and smartphone users.
DSLR users can see what difference it makes when you alter these:
- White Balance
- Manual settings like focus
- Using a tripod
Compact Camera Users can explore:
- Auto/manual focus
- Close-up mode
- Exposure controls
- A tripod for support.
Smartphone users will want to check:
- Focusing on the subject
- Exposure and shadows
- Turn on HDR mode if you have it.
- Zoom reduces your picture quality. Don’t use it. Zoom with your feet.
- Tripods work too.
- Modern smartphones have a ‘portrait’ mode which blurs the background. This works like a DSLR’s ‘depth of field’. Experiment with this in your product pictures if you have it.
You can guess, from this, that a basic tripod might be a good idea. Another is turning off your overhead lights. Indoor lighting can give your photographs a yellow or a blue tinge.
For Smartphone Users Check to see if you have HDR. Your phone does all the work for you. Snap your picture and it will spit out one regular photo and one HDR photo. The result is something that should look more like what your eyes see, rather than what your camera sees.Lifehacker
Taking Your Pet Product Photos
The bad news is that there is not a standard set up for bloggers to use to shoot product images. The good news is you can use your digital device to take lots and lots of pictures until you find a set up that works.
Just don’t dismiss your failed photographs as disasters without checking them out first. Seriously. Take time to review your failures and assess what isn’t working and why. If you can, try to assess photographs on your computer screen. This gives you a different viewpoint, so you can adjust your set up or lighting to improve your next shots.
There really is no quick fix, or one size fits all solution. Different products will require different lighting, and it’s up to you to figure out what works best for your products. Once you get a handle on the basics, it’ll be a case of trial and error until you find the perfect formula. We’re going to focus specifically on natural lighting.Shopify
You can find a detailed explanation of product photography if you really want to take it to expert level here at Pixpa.
Don’t Move Your Camera
I found one piece of advice that pops up on photography blogs. As a beginner pet product photographer, I had not thought of this.
Once you have found an angle and light that works, don’t move your camera, adjust the product instead. It’s a lot easier than changing your set up, and your shots are all framed the same way. My thought was always ‘move the camera’ but I was making work for myself. Don’t make the same mistake.
Pet Products Pictures Outside
If you are taking product photos outside be conscious about your lighting. Checking shadows and the intensity of your light will keep you on track for good photographs. You can be a bit more relaxed about poses and product positioning with your pets.
- With pets enjoyment comes first so, remember to make your photoshoot fun.
You can achieve good pictures without beating yourself up about making mistakes. Here’s an example, this video clip includes Harvey enjoying our Raindrop fountain. It might not be perfect but it shows the product in use in a very positive way.
Remember, your sponsor isn’t looking for perfection every time. Your spontaneous snap of a cat breaking into the sponsor’s tasty new kibble reflects the life and cats we all love. Readers will relate to the culprit sneaking extra kibble!
As a blogger, your focus should be on what you can do to enhance your blog post with your authentic personality. These are what make the presentation your own.
Sponsor’s Ready-Made Images
A bonus for bloggers is professional product shots from the sponsor. These are ready for you to incorporate into your blog post. This lets you focus on your blog’s ‘take’ on the product with your own photograph(s).
Photo Editing Apps
Editing an image allows you to add final touches or improvements. You can adjust lighting, sharpen focus, adjust contrast, and crop. Adjusting an image is common practice and should not be considered cheating.
If you are nervous practice on a duplicate copy of your photo to experiment with different adjustments. You will be surprised how a photograph can be changed or improved.
- Photo software like Affinity Photo or Photoshop Elements is worth investing in. You take control of your photograph’s ‘post-production’*
Photographs Enhance Your Blog
What you do and how much is up to you as the blogger creating the post around a sponsored or featured product.
You are adding a lot of value to your blog post with good images and your own unique touch and skill allow you to create images you can be proud of.
Have you taken photos for a sponsored blog post or a post showcasing a product you love? How did your photographs turn out?
There is a good overview of editing to improve products here at Shopify. You do not need to join Shopify but the post is a helpful way to kickstart editing your product photography if you need help as a beginner.
- Post-production* Post-production includes all stages of production occurring after photographing or recording individual images or video segments.
- Once you have your prints – don’t forget to store your images properly.
- VSCO Photo Editing App
- iPhoto for Mac/iPhone
- GIMP – Free. Complex but versatile.
- The best free editing apps on Android – Gadgets 360
- Affinity – one-off payment. We use Affinity and like it.
Photoshop Elements– one-off payment
- Photoshop – subscription
Marjorie is a motorbike riding blogger and award winning cat photographer who believes that everyone can shoot and edit wonderful pictures they love regardless of the camera they use.
She is a Professional member of the Cat Writers Association, Kuykendall Image Award winner and published photographer at the Guardian newspaper.