With the increased evolution and capabilities of technology, managing the marketing of your business is becoming easier and more competitive. Technologies like smart phones, tablets, and mobile Internet access means you have higher quality tools available at a lower cost to promote your service or products.
One of the most powerful tools available is the smart phone. These mobile devices come stocked with applications that can help you grow. One of the most ubiquitous and useful applications on all smart phones is the camera. With a little investment, a little patience, and a little creativity, a small business owner can leverage the smart phone camera in ways that make them look more professional and individual while saving them money.
This article focuses on getting good photos of small to medium sized items ranging from clothing to jewelry. To get better quality, retail item photos from a smart phone, there are several things that you must invest in. The basic items include:
A smart phone with a camera app (obviously)
smart phone tripod attachment
lighting and stands
Backdrops or a consistent, clean environment
For this article, I use my Galaxy S3 smart phone. You can’t take many photos without a smart phone, so you really need to have one. There are dozens and dozens out there, and the chances are, any of the more recent models will proved the level of quality we’re looking for.
Smart phones, even with their anti-shake function, can be difficult to hold steady. This is why a tripod is necessary. It also allows you to have the camera in the same position for multiple photos of similar composition.
Tripod Attachment For Smart Phones
Out of the box, a smart phone does not have a mechanism to attach to a tripod. These attachments are inexpensive and can probably be purchased for most major brands of smart phone. Note, the attachment for my Galaxy S3 required that I take my phone out of my protective phone case.
Lighting And Stands
I am not a professional photographer. But, with a little trial and error and research, I learned that lighting is one of the crucial elements to getting a professional looking photograph. Multiple points of lighting allows you more control over shadows and gives the photo a bright, crisp, and refined look. You must control your lighting.
Depending on what you are shooting, I have found that 3 points of light are a minimum. I have done some with only 2 points of light, but 3 or more is much better.
A cheap way to get your lighting is at the hardware store. I purchased 4 inexpensive lighting cans from Ace for around $10 each. These cans attach to portable fixtures with clamps. These fixtures also cost around $10. I used bright, high watt bulbs (1500 lumens). If you don’t have that much money to spend, you can also try using lamps from around your home. I have had some success with this, but it is a little more cumbersome, not as controllable, and you still need 3 or more.
For the lights with clamps, you’ll need something to clamp them to. Being a musician, I have many microphone stands laying about. I use these and they work great. You can buy these for as low $15 a piece online. If you don’t want to invest in stands, you can clamp the lights to whatever is available: a chair, a ledge, a table, etc. Again, this is a little more clunky, but in a pinch it works.
Backdrops Or A Consistent Environment
A clean backdrop or uncluttered, consistent environment is crucial to making the photo look professional. If you’re taking photos on a table top or in a cluttered area, it looks terrible. If the photos are in different environments every time, it looks inconsistent. If the backdrop is dirty, the photo looks….. dirty.
For small items like jewelry, bath and hair products, knick knacks, print materials like business cards, CDs, or other such small products, an inexpensive light tent of 12 to 20 inches cubed will do just fine. These can be purchased online starting around $16.
For larger items like musical instruments, clothing, small chairs, etc, you’ll need a slightly more complex solution. Though it should be easily doable.
You can invest in professional backdrop cloth and stands, though you are looking at costs starting around $60. My guess is you could purchase the necessary backdrop equipment for around $100. An affordable solution given the potential outcome.
Another inexpensive solution to a backdrop is purchasing rolls of seamless background paper made for photographers. This product starts at around $10. Of course, you still need a way to hang it, but if you can tack it up against a portion of wall, that could do the trick.
If you don’t want to invest money, you can always take a small corner of your shop or home and decorate it for photography. A consistent, plain background is good. Maybe you have some shoji or panel screens hanging about. If not, a blank section of wall, a small prop and lighting can do just fine.
A good way to get ideas for the setting of your photos is to do a Google search for your industry. Look at photos of how your competitors arrange their photos. When you find something you like, try to mimic it.
It is important to remember that a smart phone camera will never render the same quality as a professional. That said, for the average small business, the quality of photos that can be attained with a smart phone and a little investment are far superior to many other alternatives. Basically, it can be the best bang for the buck.