How to take good photographs of your work

Emma Yench

Courtesy of Dr Emma Lynas

Taking good photographs requires a little bit of preparation and decent equipment. When I say ‘decent’ equipment I don’t mean fancy DSLR cameras, tripods and soft boxes – I mean a smartphone, piece of white paper and access to natural light.

Step 1. Setting up your workspace

  • Create a DIY product photography studio. Using a piece of white paper drape it down and across a table close to natural light, the curve in the paper is called a ‘sweep’ or ‘infinity curve’ it will reflect light and (hopefully) prevent any strong shadows and light spots from appearing in your photo. Refer to the visual example below:
Product photography tools - natural lighting setup
Left: paper draped next to a window. Avoid direct sunlight as this creates too much light and subsequent shadow.
Middle: place the images / objects being photographed on the paper. Right: photograph of objects with little to now shadow.
Image credit: (FIWIST Photography in Fabregas 2017). 
  • Ensure the lighting is right – it shouldn’t be direct, it should be soft and gentle.

Step 2: Get your smartphone ready

  • Clean the lens – VERY important first step, give the lens a quick wipe with a soft cloth.
  • Turn the grid on –This is a very helpful tool, it will ensure your image is square in the frame. To use the grid on your iphone – go to SETTINGS, scroll down to select PHOTOS & CAMERA, then scroll to GRID and select box to ON.
  • Turn on the AE/AF lock – The auto exposure (AE) auto focus (AE) lock allows you to select a point in your composition to focus on. You can activate AE/AF lock by placing and holding your finger on the screen at the precise spot where you want the camera to focus. Hold until you see both the yellow square and sunburst indicating focus and exposure. If the exposure isn’t to your liking, you can make it lighter or darker by swiping your finger up or down on the screen.

Step 3: Take the pic

  • Depending on what you are photographing you might need to stand on a step and take the photo from above. Use the grid and AE/AF lock to ensure the image is square in the frame and in focus. The more care you take at this point, the less editing you will need to do.

Step 4: Edit the image (if required)

  • Don’t be tempted to go straight to Photoshop to edit – your phone has pretty good editing options built in. This link will take you through the basics of editing (light + colour / crop + straighten) using an iphone. If you use a different sort of smartphone  google the make and ‘edit photo’s’ to find relevant information. 

Reference list

Fabregas, K 2017, ‘Product Photography Made Easy: How to Take Great Shots with iPhone and Android’, Fit Small Business, blog post, 10 January, viewed 15 June 2020, <>.