How To Take Awesome Product Pictures With Your iPhone

We take A LOT of pictures. Lots for fun, and also lots for our businesses. And since we’ve been taking photos for a long time, we’ve learned a few things over the years. I guess we’ve gotten pretty good at it—I get asked all the time for tips and tricks for pictures. Now, I could make this super complicated and talk about the cameras and the lenses and all the other expensive, boring, and sometimes overwhelming details. But that’s just not me—more often than not I’m shooting photos on my good old iPhone. So whether you’re using your phone because you’re on the fly or because it’s what you have, let’s learn how to take awesome phone pics!

Find Your Light

Using natural light plus artificial light.

Lighting is KEY. Natural light is always best but finding it can be such a chore. Weather, time of day, and location all can play a part in creating the right natural light. I don’t know about you but I have a life to live—I’m not here to schedule things around taking cool pictures. So we’re working with what we have. If you have a nice window in your space, that’s great—we shoot in front of our kitchen window A LOT. If you can combine natural and artificial light, WINNING! We use a super cheap light kit we bought eons ago, here it is: Lighting Kit for Photography. And here’s what our setups usually look like:

Lighting for flat lays: even and direct.

Want lighting setups broken down more? Determine where your light is coming from based on what your subject is. For example, if you were photographing food you would want it to be lit from one side to capture all the delicious details. Whereas if you were taking a picture of a flat lay you would want the light to be even and direct.

Style Your ‘Set’

Props. Background. Texture. All the things. Taking a minute to style your photos always pays off. If you’re taking a picture of a product or object, add something else complementary. A plant, a book, a muffin—make sure it makes sense though. I see flat lays sometimes and I’m like, “Why is a random sunscreen in this picture?!” Get what I’m saying? When we style clothes, we add jewelry, glasses, shoes, bags, and occasionally a book or planner if it fits the situation. My husband takes a million pictures of coffee and each one ends up different even though the subject is the same. Your background and added elements need to add ambiance, interest, and all the vibes while not stealing the focus.

Now let’s get into TEXTURE. So when it comes to photos, what exactly do I mean by texture? Let’s say you’re taking a picture of a cut-up apple. And it’s just there, laying on a plate. It would look much more appealing if instead, it was on a plate on top of a woven placemat, and perhaps you add a pretty napkin or a beverage. Adding layers, light, and appetizing accents will set your photos apart. Also, when photographing on surfaces (like you are with food), it’s important to note you want to use something with a matte finish. This way you avoid glares and reflections —wood surfaces work great!

Line It Up

When taking overheard shots or flat lays, make sure those arrows line up, the yellow one and the white one. When you’re at an angle with your flat lays, it ends up looking distorted or just not right. Use the tools your phone has! Make sure you’re directly overhead. Use the grid. Make sure you’re lined up! The grid is even more important when you’re not doing flat lays. You want to keep your horizon line level, aka you want whatever you’re taking a picture of to look level. Here’s how it looks:

Tap to Set Your Light

Tap the item you want to focus on. Here’s an example: the other night I was taking a picture of my daughter in the glow of the sonic menu. (lol—also, we had just been swimming and I had no idea I would be sharing this photo for demo purposes. Keepin’ it real!) I thought I got a decent shot. My husband then says, “tap her face and lower the light just a touch.” Voilà! What a difference that made. This is an iPhone camera tool he uses a lot. He’s tapping and moving that little light button while I’m over here frustrated like “Take the picture already!!” But as you can see it makes a difference. 

Why does this matter? Why is it helpful? Here’s the boring detailed answer: your phone automatically tries to adjust for proper exposure. In low light situations, your phone tries to make the subject brighter, which often causes the image to be grainy. See—in the second one the shadows got darker but her face got clearer. You can always edit the exposure later to brighten up your picture, but you can’t get rid of that graininess.

More iPhone Camera Tips

  • Clean your lens and clean your screen. If your lens is dirty you will look hazy and soft, and not in a flattering way.
  • Make sure your brightness is all the way up. If your brightness is turned up (aka that sun light slider in your phone’s control panel) it will enable you to use the grid and light tools on your phone properly.
  • Avoid selfie mode whenever possible—the camera isn’t as good so your photos won’t look as sharp and high-quality.

Oh, and before you say: “Well Katie, I don’t have the newest fancy iPhone,” keep in mind we’re using OLD phones (like iPhone 7 & 8’s) and we’re making it work! We don’t like change—I’m getting anxiety at the thought of getting a new phone.

I hope this helps you take some awesome product photos with your iPhone! Leave your questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. And don’t forget to tag me (@katie.dunlavy) in your pretty pictures using hashtag #thepearlpages! Stay safe and be kind to each other.



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