Easy Peasy Product Pics: Camera Selection

Photo by Steve Johnson from Pexels

I will cut to the chase: use your phone’s camera. If you have a mid to top tier phone that you’ve acquired in the last two to three years, you should have a pretty good camera on that phone. You should also have the latest Android or iOS software, and that software gives you a lot of editing control over the photos captured by that camera. This would be enough for taking descent, beginner product photos.

Don’t get me wrong. An expensive camera with a gazillion fancy settings in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing can produce wonderful works of art. In that case, the camera becomes a versatile tool that allows the photographer to show a unique vision. For a beginner product photographer, however, the only vision you need is a crisp and clear one of the product.

The Many Cameras You Won’t Need

Let me tell you why you won’t need anything fancy (and expensive).

DSLRs. Most professional photographers use a DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera. These cameras are versatile, allowing the photographer great control, say, under low light conditions, over fast-moving objects, or on specific focus points in the shot. However, to fully unleash the power of a DSLR, you will have to learn what all those buttons, numbers, and dials mean. You will have to become intimately familiar with terms like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and how they relate to each other. All this takes a lot of time and practice. As well, because the camera body can be paired with many specialized lenses, the cost of owning a DSLR can balloon quickly. Because your goal is to take a few clear pictures in a controlled setting and then go do other things (like writing articles, selling the products on your web store, etc.), buying a DSLR is an overkill.

Bridge Cameras. “Bridge” or “superzoom” cameras are slightly less expensive than DSLRs but give the photographer almost as much control as DSLRs. The lens—usually a lens capable of zooming a great distance—is permanently affixed to the camera. Some of the top-of-the-line bridge cameras cost more than $1,000.00, and even the less expensive ones can cost around $500.00. These cameras, while nice, are still too pricey for the simple needs of basic product photography.

Point-and-shoot Cameras. Finally, there is the point-and-shoot camera. Point-and-shoots are easy to use and affordable compared to DSLR or bridge cameras. They offer a zoom lens and a certain amount of control over the picture quality, but these controls are intuitive so you can quickly learn how to use them. However, unless you need optical zoom—and in product photography, you can do without—a point-and-shoot camera does not offer a significant advantage over a cell phone camera. Cell phone cameras, along with the intuitive, real-time editing software available on cell phones, give as much if not more control over picture quality. Therefore, it is difficult to justify spending money on a separate piece of equipment just to shoot simple product photos.   

Your Phone’s Camera is Better Suited For Basic Product Photography

Your phone’s camera is basically a point-and-shoot that gives you some ability to intuitively control the picture quality and then edit the photo right on the phone. You probably already own a phone with an adequate camera. Though most phone cameras have limited to no optical zoom, you can just move your phone closer to the product because you are shooting indoors, under carefully controlled conditions, and the product is right in front of you.

Below are some photos I took with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 (specs). There are many other phones in the marketplace that can take comparable photos. While I am sure the practiced eye of a professional photographer can find flaws, for simple, no-nonsense photos to illustrate products, I don’t think they look too bad.

Essential Functionalities

Whichever phone camera you use, you need to make sure it has some essential functionalities. You will need to control where you focus, so you need that “tap to focus” feature. You will want the ability to adjust the brightness of the shot (i.e. exposure) before you even take the photo (or know that you need to adjust your lighting). Some phones have a small optical zoom. While this is not absolutely necessary, it can be beneficial. These are really the only functions you will need.

Laziness Scale

Using your phone’s camera for your first product photography setup is Lazy Worthy. You already have the camera, so you won’t have to spend extra money on a new purchase. You also won’t have to spend the time to learn how to use the multitude of controls over more sophisticated cameras. The software on your phone gives you enough control over the picture quality so you can take relatively good photos of stationary objects in a controlled, indoors setting. Because using your camera’s phone saves you money and time (from learning all the camera terms and functions), using your camera’s phone for product photography is Lazy Worthy.


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