Welcome to the dynamic world of product photography, where the precision of a camera’s settings harmonizes with the artistry of lighting and composition to create a visual symphony.

You might be thinking, “Give me the best camera settings for product photography and I’ll take photos like a pro,” right?

Well, not so fast.


Just like a comedian knows that the secret to a great joke is not just the punchline but the delivery, the magic of product photography goes beyond just the settings.

It’s about the performance of light, the stage of your environment, and the personality of the product itself.

Even with the “best” settings in hand, the unique character of your shooting space, the reflective dance of light on your product’s surface, and the strategic angle of your lens all play leading roles in the final act.


In this guide, I’ll share with you not only the optimal camera settings to start with but also how to tweak them to perfection in your own studio.

Whether you’re shooting in a cozy corner with soft natural light or a professional studio lit like Broadway, I’ll help you find the sweet spot for your shots.

So, let’s gear up, play with light, and capture some show-stopping images that make your products not just seen, but truly noticed.



Understanding the Basics of Product Photography Settings


Diving into the world of product photography is like learning the chords to a new song. You need to know the basics before you can start improvising. So let’s strike the right note with your camera settings, which are the building blocks of a great product photo.


Manual Mode Mastery


Think of manual mode as the solo performance where you’re in control, not just playing back-up to the pre-sets that come with your camera.

It’s about understanding the relationship between light and shadow, depth and detail.

Manual mode gives you the reins to manipulate these elements, ensuring that your product is the star of the show, not an extra blurred in the background.


The Importance of Shooting in RAW


Shooting in RAW is like having a backstage pass to your image’s potential.

This format records all the data from your camera’s sensor, giving you a VIP ticket to the highest level of quality and control in post-production.

It’s the difference between a one-liner and a full comedy set; you’ve got more material to work with when you’re looking to perfect the final piece.


ISO: Finding Your Sweet Spot


ISO is your camera’s sensitivity to light, and finding the right ISO setting is like tuning a guitar before a performance—it’s essential for ensuring the quality of your play.

A lower ISO like 100 gives you the cleanest shot, akin to the crisp sound of a well-tuned string, but it demands more light and can limit your depth of field when you open up your aperture to compensate.


Here’s how to hit the right note with ISO in various shooting scenarios:


Start at ISO 100 for the Cleanest Image:

Begin with ISO 100, the baseline for the least noise and the highest quality image.

This setting is ideal for well-lit environments where you have control over lighting.

Balance ISO with Aperture and Shutter Speed:

If you’re using ISO 100 and find your images too dark, you could open up your aperture or slow down your shutter speed.

However, remember that a larger aperture reduces depth of field, and a slower shutter speed can introduce blur.

It’s a balancing act—each adjustment will have an impact on the image.

Increase ISO in Low Light:

When you’re in a low-light situation, gradually increase your ISO.

Watch the exposure meter and the image preview to see how your adjustments affect the shot.

Increasing ISO can create a “grainy” or “noisey” effect in your image, which is why I recommend the lowest ISO possible, unless you like that result.

It’s similar to a performer stepping into the spotlight; you want just enough illumination without washing out the performance.


Use the Histogram:

The histogram is a great tool to check exposure levels.

Ensure the graph is well within the left and right edges, which indicates that you’re not losing detail to over or underexposure.

Think of it as a meter; it shows you the reaction you’re getting, so you can adjust your settings accordingly.


Test and Review:

Take test shots at different ISO levels and review them on a larger screen, not just your camera’s LCD.

Zoom in to check for noise and sharpness. You want to check every detail to make sure it’s just right.


Know Your Camera’s Limits:

Each camera has a different threshold for noise at high ISO levels.

Get to know how your camera performs by practicing at various ISO settings and seeing how much noise you can tolerate before the image becomes lower quality.

It’s about knowing your equipment and delivery—what works for one photographer may not work for another.

By understanding and experimenting with these tips, you’ll be able to find the ISO setting that brings out the best in your product photos, ensuring clarity and detail that make your images stand out.



Aperture Settings for Sharp Product Images


Aperture is the eye of the camera, and like a performer squinting into the spotlight, it can change the focus of your audience.

It controls not just the light that reaches the sensor but also the depth of field—the range of sharpness within a photo.

A low aperture (a lower f-number) opens the eye wider, letting in more light but narrowing the depth of field.

A high aperture (a higher f-number) lets in less light but increases the depth of field, keeping more of the stage in focus.


Here’s how to fine-tune your aperture settings for the sharpest product images:


Low Aperture for Individual Products:

When shooting a single product, a low aperture (like f/2.8) can make your product stand out with a sharp focus against a softly blurred background.

It’s like putting a spotlight on a solo act, making it the undeniable center of attention.


High Aperture for Group Shots:

If you’re photographing a group of products and want each item to be in focus, dial up the aperture to a higher number (like f/8 or f/11).

This is akin to lighting up an entire ensemble on stage, ensuring every performer is seen clearly.


Trade-Offs of High vs. Low Aperture:

Using a low aperture lets in more light and is ideal for indoor or low-light conditions, but it comes at the cost of a shallow depth of field.

On the flip side, a high aperture extends the depth of field but requires more light, which could necessitate additional lighting equipment or longer exposure times.



Aperture chart explaining f-stops for beginning photographers


The Sweet Spot for Product Photography:

Many photographers find a sweet spot between f/8 and f/11 for product photography.

At this point, the aperture is not so wide that the depth of field is too shallow, nor so narrow that the exposure requires a compromise on light or sharpness.


Using Aperture to Control Detail:

Want to highlight the texture of a product or ensure the details of a product label are readable?

Adjust your aperture to control which elements are in sharp relief and which blend into the background.


Aperture Priority Mode:

If you’re new to controlling aperture, try using Aperture Priority mode on your camera.

This lets you choose the aperture while the camera automatically selects the shutter speed, giving you a quick way to learn how different settings affect your images.


By mastering aperture settings, you can control the visual narrative of your product photos, directing your audience’s gaze with the precision of a seasoned director.

Whether you’re going for a dramatic shallow depth of field or a comprehensive sharpness that tells a full story, the right aperture setting is key to a clear and impactful image.


Shutter Speed and Product Photography


When I performed corporate comedy, I learned timing is everything, and the same goes for shutter speed in photography.

A fast shutter speed can freeze time, capturing every glittering detail as if it’s under a spotlight.

A slow one allows more light to pour in, but like a drawn-out pause before a punchline, it requires a steady hand or a good tripod to pull off.


Only with practice will you have a solid grip on these camera settings and be ready to take on the creative challenges that product photography throws at you.

And remember, while the settings for product photography I give you are a great starting point, the true art comes in adjusting them to fit the unique “stage” of your product shoot.

When it comes to products and your brand, it is important to make every shot worthy of a standing ovation.


professional product photography to boost online sales
Aperture Test: Which image has the lower aperture number, and which has a higher one?
The answer will be at the bottom of the page!


Lighting and Equipment for Professional Product Photography


Now that you’ve got the hang of the camera settings, let’s shine a spotlight on the supporting cast of product photography: lighting and equipment.

After all, the finest products need the right light to be seen.


Lighting Setups for the Best Product Shots


Lighting is the unsung hero of photography, the difference between a good shot and a great one.

It’s the director, casting the right shadows, creating mood, and highlighting your product’s best features.

Here are some lighting setups that can help you capture the essence of your product:


Three-Point Lighting:

3 point lighting for product photography


This classic setup includes a key light, a fill light, and a backlight.

The key light is the main light source, usually positioned to one side of the camera to create a slight shadow.

The fill light softens and reduces the shadows produced by the key light, placed on the opposite side of the camera.

The backlight separates the product from the background, giving it a three-dimensional look.

It’s like having a well-rounded cast to support your lead actor, ensuring they shine.


Softbox for Soft, Even Light:


soft box created by Dall-E 3


A softbox diffuses the light, giving your product a soft and even look with reduced harsh shadows.

It’s perfect for a gentle, inviting atmosphere—like the warm, approachable glow of a soft-lit stage.


Umbrella Lights for a Diffused Effect:


Umbrella lights are a go-to for product photographers looking for an easy way to diffuse light over a larger area.

They’re great for illuminating the product evenly and are especially useful for products with reflective surfaces.


Ring Lights for Even, Direct Light:


ring light for product photography


Ring lights provide even, direct light that reduces shadows and is excellent for bringing out details.

They’re particularly popular in beauty and fashion photography, where details matter.


Using Reflectors to Fill Shadows:

Reflectors bounce light back onto the product, filling in unwanted shadows and highlighting details.

They’re the sidekicks of your lighting setup, ensuring that no detail is left in the dark.


High Contrast Lighting for Drama:

To create a dramatic effect with high contrast, use a single, strong light source without diffusion.

This setup casts pronounced shadows and highlights, giving texture and depth to products with detailed surfaces or interesting shapes.


Natural Light for Authenticity:

Don’t underestimate the power of natural light.

It can bring out the true colors and textures of your product with authenticity that’s hard to replicate with artificial lights.

Use a window as your light source and reflectors to manage shadows for a fresh and natural look.


By experimenting with these different lighting setups, you can discover which one best suits the product you’re shooting.

Remember, the goal is to create an environment where the product looks its best, telling its story through light and shadow.

Whether you’re aiming for a bright and bold look or a soft and natural vibe, the right lighting setup can make all the difference.


Essential Gear for Product Photography


A product photographer’s toolkit is essential for capturing that perfect shot.

We’ll unpack the must-haves: from the right lenses for crisp detail to the tripods that keep everything stable.

And let’s not forget the unsung heroes: reflectors, diffusers, and backdrops that turn a good photo into a great one.

For a complete list of essential gear for product photography for beginners, read this article – complete with links to suggested equipment.


Gummi Bear product photography for social media


Crafting the Perfect Environment


The environment where you shoot your product photos is the stage on which your images come to life.

It’s not just about having a good camera or lighting; the space itself plays a crucial role in the outcome of your photos.


Here’s how to ensure your environment is set up to produce the best possible images:


Choose the Right Background:

Select a background that complements your product without competing for attention.

Solid white or neutral tones work well for most products and create a clean, distraction-free environment that makes your product the star of the show.


Control the Ambient Light:

Be aware of the ambient light in your shooting space.

Too much variability in natural light can introduce inconsistencies across your shots.

Use curtains or shades to manage natural light and create a consistent lighting setup.


Manage Reflective Surfaces:

Be mindful of reflective surfaces, including walls and tables, which can cast unwanted colors or reflections onto your product.

Use matte surfaces or coverings to minimize this effect, or position your product strategically to use reflections creatively.


Utilize Space to Your Advantage:

If you’re working in a small space, use lens choices and camera angles to give the illusion of a larger environment.

Wide-angle lenses can make a space seem more extensive, but be careful of distortion around the edges.


Make Use of Color:

Use colored backdrops or surfaces to evoke different moods or highlight certain aspects of the product.

Remember that colors can affect how a viewer perceives your product, so choose tones that align with your brand and the product’s message.


Keep It Clean and Clutter-Free:

A cluttered environment can translate into a cluttered photo.

Keep your space tidy and remove any unnecessary items from the frame before shooting.

A clean space is like a clean canvas, allowing your product to shine.


Modify Your Environment as Needed:

Don’t be afraid to modify your environment to get the right shot.

This can mean anything from painting a wall to hanging fabric or setting up partitions to control the flow of light and the look of your space.


Consider the Acoustics:

While not directly related to the visual aspect, the acoustics of your shooting space can affect the comfort and mood of your shoot, especially if you’re also capturing video.

Soft materials like carpets and curtains can dampen echo and create a more controlled audio environment.


By taking the time to craft the perfect environment for your product photography, you’re setting the stage for success.

Just like a well-prepared stage can enhance a performance, a well-prepared shooting space can significantly improve the quality of your product photos.


Premium Product Photography Services In Bethesda, Maryland


The Role of Posture and Positioning


In the visual symphony of product photography, the way your product stands on the stage can make as much impact as a headliner hitting the high note.


Here’s how to ensure your product’s posture and positioning strike the right chord with your audience:


Understand the Product’s Best Features:

Just like a comedian knows their punchlines, you should know which features of your product to emphasize.

Position the product so that its best side is facing the camera, and use angles to highlight unique attributes.


Use Angles to Create Impact:

A straight-on shot is the front-row seat to your product, but don’t shy away from using high or low angles to add drama.

An overhead shot can reveal a layout or design, while a low angle can make the product appear larger and more imposing.


Create Desire with Space:

Use space around the product to create a sense of importance.

Just as a pause in a performance can make the next line stand out, space in product photography can focus attention and create desire.


Tell a Story with Positioning:

Position your product in a setting that tells a story.

For instance, a watch placed on a rustic wooden table suggests ruggedness and adventure, while the same watch on a sleek black surface might convey sophistication and elegance.


Consider the Rule of Thirds:

The rule of thirds is a classic composition technique where the image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines.

Placing your product along these lines or at their intersections can create a more balanced and engaging shot.


Experiment with Grouping:

When photographing multiple items, consider their relationship to each other.

Grouping products can suggest compatibility and completeness, like a family portrait that’s greater than the sum of its parts.


Balance the Composition:

Ensure your product’s positioning contributes to a balanced composition.

An unbalanced photo can feel like an unfinished story—it leaves the audience wanting more and not in a good way.


Dynamic Positioning for Dynamic Products:

If your product is meant to convey motion or activity, like a bicycle or running shoes, position it in a way that suggests movement.

This could mean turning the wheels or lacing the shoes as if they’re in mid-stride.


By mastering the art of positioning, you ensure that your product not only looks good but also speaks volumes.

It’s the visual equivalent of a well-delivered line, leaving a lasting impression and driving the message home.


Product Photography Banner 21


Post-Production Processes to Enhance Product Photography


Capturing the shot is just the beginning of the show. The real magic happens in the editing room, where post-production turns good shots into great ones.

Let’s dive into the digital darkroom and discuss turning those raw images into masterpieces.


Editing RAW Images:


RAW is a dynamic range file format that contains unprocessed data from the camera’s image sensor when you click the shutter.

RAW files contain details that can be brought back in editing. settings from the camera detailing white balance, sharpening, color and contrast, and much more.

Think of a RAW image as an uncarved block of marble. It holds a masterpiece within, just waiting for the sculptor’s (editor’s) touch.

With RAW, you’ve got the freedom to adjust exposure, balance colors, and bring out details that were invisible to the naked eye.


Advanced Photoshop Techniques for Product Photographers


Photoshop allows you to amplify the impact of your imagery.

It’s where you remove blemishes, adjust highlights, and shadow to showcase your product in its best light.

Using advanced techniques like frequency separation, blending, spot removal, cutouts and masking, allows the editor to create flawless textures and compositing to create scenes that would be impossible in a regular studio setting.


Creating Consistency Across Your Product Line


Consistency is key to a coherent set of product and branding photography.

Whether you’re editing photos for an e-commerce site or a print catalog, maintaining a consistent look and feel across all images is crucial.


The Finishing Touch: Detailing and Refinement


The last step in editing is about adding those finishing touches that take your product from “just photographed” to “catalog ready.”

These steps include sharpening techniques, noise reduction, and final color adjustments to ensure your product is the star of the show.


In my product photography studio, I use Adobe Lightroom & Photoshop for editing.

Software changes quickly, so for that reason I am not going to be sharing more exact editing techniques.

I highly recommend you consider taking a course on image editing using these softwares if you intend on shooting your own product photos.


The goal of product photography editing is to enhance, not change the product. Over editing an image can create a negative impact on your brand.

So edit your product photos to leave customers reaching for their wallets. Let’s turn those pixels into profits, one edit at a time.


small business photography for cosmetics


Educating Business Owners: The Value of Professional Product Photography


In the spotlight of the digital age, a picture isn’t just worth a thousand words—it’s worth countless impressions, clicks, and conversions.

As a business owner, understanding the power of professional product photography is akin to knowing your audience in a comedy club; it can make or break your performance.

Let’s break down why investing in high-quality images is a punchline that always pays off.


How Quality Images Impact Your Brand and Sales


A great product photo is like the headliner of a show; it grabs attention, stirs interest, and sets the expectations.

It’s a visual handshake, an introduction to your brand’s quality and attention to detail.

We’ll discuss how top-notch photography can elevate your product’s perceived value and how it translates into real-world sales.


Case Studies: The Transformation of Product Sales Through Quality Photography


Nothing speaks louder than success. Take a look at the case studies and client testimonials on my website.

These clients illustrate the transformative effect of professional product photography on sales and customer engagement.

These case studies will serve as testimonials to the ROI that crisp, clear, and compelling product images can deliver.


Educating Your Eye: What to Look for in Product Photos


Developing a discerning eye for product photography is like fine-tuning your taste in wine; you learn to appreciate the subtle nuances that make a vintage memorable.


Here’s how to cultivate that critical eye and pick out the hero shots from the outtakes:


Clarity and Focus: The main subject of your photo should be in sharp focus. Check for crisp edges and fine details, just as you’d look for the clarity in a wine.

Lighting: Good lighting can make or break a photo. Look for balanced lighting that avoids harsh shadows or overexposed highlights.

Composition: A well-composed photo guides the viewer’s eye to the most important elements. 

Background: The background should complement the product without competing for attention. It’s the setup to your punchline; necessary but not the star of the show.


Color and Contrast: Colors should be true to life and pleasing to the eye, with enough contrast to make the product pop but not so much that it looks unnatural.


Emotion and Storytelling: Great product photos evoke emotion or tell a story. Look for images that make you feel something, whether it’s the luxury of a leather bag or the freshness of garden produce.


Brand Consistency: Every photo should align with your brand’s aesthetic and message. Create your unique style, your product photos should be instantly recognizable as your brand.


Market Positioning: Consider how the photo positions the product in the market. Is it a luxury item or a practical buy? The photo should communicate this positioning clearly.


By keeping these elements in mind, you’ll be able to select photos that not only look professional but also resonate with your audience and reinforce your brand’s message.

It’s about more than just taking a good picture; it’s about crafting an image that carries the weight of your brand’s story and delivers it to the customer with impact and precision.



The Cost of Compromise: When to DIY and When to Go Pro


There’s a time for DIY and a time to pass the job to a professional.

There is a balance between budget and quality.  How do you decide when it’s worth it to invest in a professional photographer?

It’s about knowing the value of the stage you’re playing on.

Are you playing to a local audience? Or do you plan to play on a national level?

What are the competition doing?


With this knowledge, business owners can make informed decisions about their product imagery, understanding that professional photography is not an expense but an investment in their brand’s visual identity and success.

Let’s turn the lens towards your business goals and focus on a future where every product is a headliner in its own right.

Then you just need to know if it is a headliner at the local highschool production or a headliner on Broadway.


Troubleshooting Common Product Photography Issues


Even the most seasoned photographers hit a snag from time to time.

Knowing how to pivot and adapt can turn a potential flop into the photographic equivelent of a standing ovation.

In this section, we’ll tackle the common hiccups you might encounter in product photography and how to troubleshoot them like a pro.


Dealing with Glare and Reflections


Glare and reflections can be the unruly hecklers of product photography, uninvited and distracting. But with a few lighting adjustments and the right angle, you can silence these interruptions.

There is no hard and fast rule for dealing with these other than to practice photographing shiny objects.  You will find that lighting and camera angles are extremely important when trying to solve this issue.

Also, white or black foam core boards just out of frame can help cover unwanted reflections.


Achieving Consistency Across Multiple Product Shots


Consistency is to product photography what timing is to comedy—it’s essential.

When your product line looks cohesive, it builds trust with your customers. Set up your shots to maintain a uniform look, from lighting, colors and backdrop selection to camera angle and product placement.


Taking Product Photos Without Shadows


Shadows can add depth and drama to a shot, but unwanted shadows can be a nuisance. Again, this comes with practice, but here are some tips:

Raising Your Light: will cause the shadow to shorten. With a high enough light, the shadow will be limited to a dark space under the product.

Lowering Your Light: will cause the shadow to lengthen, creating extra depth to the image.

A Bare Blub (Hard Light): will create a crisp shadow for your product.

A Diffused Light (Soft Light): will soften the shadow of the product.

Another way to deal with shadows is to cut out your product from the background during editing and place it on a clean one.


Why Should Photographers Shoot in RAW Format?


Shooting in RAW is like having an insurance policy for your images. It allows for greater flexibility in post-production, making it easier to correct those unexpected issues.


How to Make Your Product Stand Out in Pictures?


Making your product stand out in pictures isn’t just about the quality of the photo, but also about capturing the essence of the product. Composition, color use, and adding elements that draw the eye to make your product the hero of its own story all play a part.


By mastering these troubleshooting tips, you’ll be equipped to handle the curveballs thrown at your product photography service with grace and skill.

Let’s get your products ready for their moment in the spotlight, without a shadow (or reflection) of doubt



Making Your Products Stand Out: Composition and Styling Tips


Capturing a product in a way that not only shows it off but also sells it, is an art form. It’s like delivering a punchline; it’s not just what you say, but how you say it.

In this section, we’ll go over some composition and styling tips that will help your products not just be seen but make a lasting impression.


The Best Angles for Product Photography


Finding the right angle for your product is like finding the right angle for a joke—it can change everything.

Some products look best shot from above, others straight on, and some need a three-quarter angle to really shine. 

This decision is up to the photographer in most cases, so don’t be afraid to experiment and when in doubt, shoot some ideas and have a conversation with your client.


Styling Your Product Shoot


Styling is what sets the scene and directs the viewer’s attention to the main event: your product.

From choosing the right props that complement without distracting, to selecting a background that makes your product pop, styling is what turns a good product photo into a great one.


Creating a Narrative with Your Product Photos


Every product has a story, and your photos should tell it.

Whether it’s the ruggedness of outdoor gear or the sleek sophistication of high-tech gadgets, create a narrative with your images that resonates with your audience and reinforces your brand’s message.


Perfect Lighting for Product Photography


Lighting can make or break your product photography.

It’s the mood lighting that can set a romantic dinner apart from a casual brunch.

Explore ways to get the perfect lighting for your products, whether you’re using natural light by a window or a professional lighting setup in a studio.


Making Your Product Photos Look Professional


There’s a fine line between amateur and professional, and it often comes down to the details.

As you progress, you will notice that the little things will elevate your product photography.

From the cleanliness of the scene and product to the precision of the focus, ensuring every shot is gallery-worthy.

By applying these composition and styling tips, your product photography will not only attract attention but also keep it, turning viewers into customers.

Let’s set the stage for your products to tell their story and take the spotlight they deserve.


As I wrap up this comprehensive guide to a camera’s best setting for product photography, remember that the perfect shot is a blend of technical know-how and creative flair.

Like the final bow after a stellar performance, your product images should leave a lasting impression that commands an encore from your audience—your customers.

We’ve covered the ins and outs of manual settings, the importance of lighting, the necessity of the right gear, and the power of post-production. We’ve also touched on the collaborative spirit of working with your environment and the continuous learning curve that comes with mastering product photography.

And, like any good show, it’s all about engaging your audience from start to finish.


So What Is Next?


Now, take these tips and turn your product photos into the headliners they were meant to be.

Experiment with angles, play with lighting, and don’t be afraid to take a few risks.

And when you nail that perfect shot, share it with the world. Your website, social media, and product catalogs are your stages. Make them count.


And if you’ve got a trick or two up your sleeve, don’t keep them to yourself.

Share your success stories and let’s grow together as a community of creators, business owners, and photography enthusiasts.

After all, the best performances are those that inspire others to step into the spotlight.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and make every shot your showstopper!


Need Help With Product Photography?


If you are a small business or entreprenuer looking for help creating product images that sell, reach out using the contact form or information below.


We can arrange a no obligation consultation call to discuss your needs, go over some ideas and see if my services may be a fit for your brand. 

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The Aperture Answer!


The left hand image was shot with a lower number (wider) aperture, giving it a narrow depth of field. This makes everything in the foreground and background blurred drawing attention to the product. 

The right hand image of the soaps was shot with a higher number aperture (narrowed) giving it a much deeper depth of field to keep everything in focus.