10 Tips For Taking Better Product Photographs With Your Phone | Hello Pretty Bird! - A beauty and not-so-glamorous lifestyle blog

11 June, 2015

10 Tips For Taking Better Product Photographs With Your Phone


One of the biggest challenges I faced when I started blogging about beauty was how to take decent product photos. In the beginning, I had zero photography skills and nothing but a cell phone camera and ancient point-and-shoot to aid me along. If you look at some of my early posts, the photos are... well... bad. I may not be an expert photographer or anything now, but I've come a long, long way since then.

These days I'm lucky enough to have a DSLR camera, but there are still times when I reach for my phone instead. Let's face it, DSLRs are kind of heavy, and therefore not ideal for throwing in your bag when you travel or when you want to take 800 selfies. And truth is, while having a full-featured camera is nice, you don't have to have one to take nice pictures for your blog. Today I'll be sharing a few tips for taking better product photos with your phone—most of them are easy and can be done with stuff you already have around the house!

If I had to name the one thing that made the biggest difference in the overall quality of my blog photos, it would definitely be the addition of studio lights to my photography setup. I live in a place that doesn't get a lot of natural light, so a lot of my photos were coming out dim and shadowy (and therefore fuzzy). You don't necessarily have to rush out and purchase an expensive lighting kit though—you can try:
  • Setting up your photography station right near a window. During the day, of course.
  • Making a DIY light box with clip lamps and white card stock.
  • Dragging your regular old floor/table lamp over to where you're shooting. Sounds silly, but it really does help in a pinch!

If the camera on your phone auto focuses, it's a bad idea to set up your shot in an area that's super busy and cluttered with stuff, because it's harder to control what the camera will actually end up focusing on. For product shots, I recommend keeping a couple of plain light and dark backdrops on hand—depending on what product you're shooting, dark might offer more contrast than light or Vice Versa. When I say "backdrops" I don't mean you have to rush out to the photography store and drop a bunch of cash—things like poster board and non-wrinkled fabric will do just fine.

I used a piece of grey fabric as a backdrop for a long time. It seemed to work OK.

Most phones will allow you to change the white balance via presets (e.g. "outdoors mode"), if not manually. It's worth spending a bit of time messing around with the settings to see which ones look best with your lighting setup. Also remember that you don't have to use the same settings all the time—I use a different preset when I'm taking pictures of my face versus product shots.

Most devices come with both front-facing (towards the user) and rear-facing (away from the user) cameras, but the rear-facing camera pretty much always has a higher resolution. If you want the best photo quality, stick with the rear-facing camera! Yes, it makes taking selfies awkward, but they always come out looking sharper.

If you're taking photos of a product or swatch or something, it's good to get as close as possible to the subject. The closer you are, the more likely the camera is to automatically zoom in correctly, because it has less background stuff to "confuse" it. But what to do if you have to shoot far away from your subject for some reason? I recommend not zooming in—taking a normal, wide resolution shot of the whole area and cropping the part that you want will result in a clearer photo.

There's more to photo editing than just cropping and resizing. If the colors in your photo come out looking slightly off from reality, it is 100% OK to use photo editing software to brighten them up. I usually keep the product in question on my desk for reference while I'm editing so I can make sure that my color balance adjustments are as close as possible to the real thing.

The difference between an unedited and color-corrected photo.

I usually use trusty old Photoshop for photo editing, but if software isn't in your currently blogging budget, free web-based editor PicMonkey does a pretty good. I use PicMonkey when I'm not on my main computer, and my advice is to never use the "automatic" button—manually mess around with the brightness/contrast/saturation/etc. sliders to see how it changes the picture. Once you get the hang of it, the process will go much faster and you'll be able to edit big batches of photos in no time. If you need something more featured than PicMonkey, GIMP is also a great resource. I know there are a bunch of in-phone editing apps out there now too—I still rely on my computer for editing though, so if you have any amazing app suggestions let everybody know in the comments!

Seriously, I can't stress this one enough. Yes, you need decent lighting in order to take a good picture, but flash photography just isn't the answer. This is especially true when you're taking product photos, as the flash will create nasty-looking reflections off the packaging. Example:

That's a photo I posted to this blog back in 2013, before I knew better. Do you think that looks good? I certainly don't. So what to do if your picture is too dark? Drag over another lamp!

I have a chronic hand tremor, so taking photos that don't come out blurry can be a bit of a challenge. If you also suffer from shaky hand-itis, here's my advice: Balance the elbow of your camera-holding hand on something (like a table, your knee etc.) whilst snapping the picture to steady yourself. Alternatively, small mobile tripods and monopods (like Gorillapods and Selfie Sticks) really aren't all that expensive.

For realsies. Not all devices are built equally in this department, so if you plan on using your phone as your primary camera, it pays to choose one with with a really good camera.

If you're not sure where to start looking, the new DROID Turbo by Motorola in Gray Ballistic Nylon has an amazing 21-megapixel rear-facing camera. Seriously, that's insanely high-resolution—I think my DSLR camera is only 18-megapixel. "Only." Haha.

The DROID Turbo also has an exceptionally long battery life and 2.7 GHz quad-core processor, making it ideal for lengthy photo taking/editing sessions. I still prefer editing on the computer because I like using a mouse, but that's more than fast enough to do pretty much any kind of photo or video editing in-device. Choose from three accent colors: Blue, orange or violet.

Can you guess which one I'd choose? (Hint: I LOVE PURPLE!) Get your DROID Turbo by Motorola in Gray Ballistic Nylon with your choice of metallic orange, violet and blue accent colors at Verizon.com.

Photos coming out crusty or foggy-looking? Wipe off your lens, there's probably crap on it. A simple thing, but a lot of people (including me) forget to do it and wonder why their photos look so icky.

What do you think of my phone photography tips? Got any amazing apps to recommend? Let me know in the comments!

Motorola sponsored this blog post. The opinions and text are all mine. For more information, check out my full disclosure policy. #DROIDTurboGray


  1. This is such a great post! I'm constantly trying to figure out how to make my pictures better. I have a few apps that I like to use. I just downloaded something called Photo Wonder. I've only used it maybe once, but I like it so far. I really should play around with Pic Monkey more, but it's so much easier for me on my phone.

  2. Thanks! I think more and more people want to do 100% of their photo stuff in their phones or tablets these days, including editing. I've been using Photoshop for like ~15 years so it's a little hard for me to adjust to that, but I'm sure I will at some point. I've really been meaning to research it more - hopefully next time I write a post like this I will have more app suggestions. :)

  3. I do the same thing when I edit photos! Keeping the product by my side is definitely helpful, since I always try to show the true colors of the product. The worst thing you could do is show swatches of products in a different color than what it actually is- especially when it's makeup. Although I personally don't like editing and taking photos with my phone since the quality can never match up to that of a DSLR (I cringe when I look at my old blog photos taken by my phone), these are great tips for someone just starting out without any equipment.

  4. Awesome post! These are all really great tips, and I agree 100%. Natural light is the most important thing for me, and I've had to do some serious maneuvering to find the light, but it is always worth it! For backgrounds, I usually pull something from my fabric pile, and I also use clothes from my wardrobe if they have a good color or print. Even scrapbook paper works well!

  5. Yes definitely! I try to be as accurate as I can with colors, so actually looking at something is way better than just trying to remember what it looked like, lol. I really prefer using my DSLR too now that I have one, but when I started I was just using my phone and a crappy point-and-shoot.

  6. Fabric works so well as a background! You can drape it over any crappy-looking surface and it will immediately be photo-worthy.