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Product Photography – Take Great Photos Of Your Merch With Your Phone

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Today, mobile phones are less about making a call and more about everything else. Capturing that Instagrammable moment and getting the content right out there for everyone to see RIGHT NOW!

That being said, we don’t need to get into the technology being put into smartphones. We’ve all seen the fidget spinner memes about a certain popular brand. The question is, do you even need a DLSR camera to take good photos of your merch for the web? We think – probably not. 

You’ve got your merch, so let’s jump right in and take some shots using some of the built-in features on (most) smartphones.

Things you’ll need:

1. A smartphone – In my case a Huawei P-30 Pro.

2. A window, or natural light.

3. Context – this could be a garment or surface or even just a hand, putting your merch into the real world.

4. Got to love a plant; let’s get some greenery in the frame.

5. A reflector or sheet of white paper.

6. An editing app like VSCO or Photoshop/Lightroom if you are confident in using these programs.

7. Not forgetting of course – your merch. 

Phone Camera Set-Up

Let’s set the phone up to get the best out of it. You can put the phone into the Aperture setting. This enables you to get that blurred background look without having to have a big lens. Some phones can be hit and miss with this, but most of the time you can get some great results.

Go to your camera app and choose ‘Aperture’. If you don’t have this function don’t worry, just keep it on the standard setting.

Setting Up The Scene

I’ve chosen this lovely enamel pin by Make More Stuff to take photos of. It’s small so we will need to think about its surroundings. I picked this concrete display up for around £12 on Etsy from RandLDesignStudio which will offer a great industrial platform for this custom enamel pin.

Additionally, I want to show it ‘in use’ so I’ve chosen a denim jacket – I think the green contrasts the brass colour of the pin nicely. During lockdown I think we have all bought or have been given house plants. Adding a plant into the scene will add an element of interest to either the foreground or background. 

Taking Our Photos

Of course we have ‘just’ had the best spell of sunshine in spring for the last however many years, so that’s the reason it’s raining today. Nevertheless we will try to get some good results regardless of the weather.

I like to find where the light is interacting nicely with the surface, look at the difference turning just a few degrees makes. One is really flat and lifeless, but with the other, the pin pops and you can really see the colour. I’ve tried to stack the scene here with a plant in the background to add some interest.

In a close up or ‘macro’ shot I feel we need an instantly recognisable context, so in this shot I used the pocket for some detail and a bit of interest.

Let’s Edit!

This is where personal preference plays a big part, sometimes that ‘film look’ doesn’t work for everything. I’ve chosen to use VSCO, a great photo editing app. It allows you to choose from predefined filters, tweak them for a desired effect, or go in and play about with the sliders to be as abrupt or as subtle as you like.

  • Choose your favourite and import it to VSCO.
  • Next, let’s pick from one of the filters to start us off – if you press on the filter it gives you a slider to decrease or increase the strength. I’ve gone with C1, it’s giving the colours a bit of a boost and adding depth to the greenery. I’m going to take it down a couple of notches until it looks right. 
  • Now let’s take some more adjustments, press the slider icon (second from the left). Let’s play with the contrast and boost the saturation to bring back some of the brass colour in the pin. I’ve also added some sharpening to make everything pop a bit and then some grain to make it feel a bit less ‘digital’.
  • There you have it; as simple as that. Save it to your camera roll and you are ready to upload.

I personally like to create a set of images using the same treatment on each to create a collection of images that have a collective vibe.

Let’s repeat the same process with the next shot and attach the pin to our jacket.

For this shot the window is behind me on my right. I am happy with the shadows in this shot, so I’m not going to use the reflector. We don’t want the background blur function on this one, so just go back to your regular camera setting – I think it’s important to see the texture of the jacket.

I have had to compensate for the brightness, the camera thinks I want to expose the image for the jacket, but we don’t, so bring the exposure down on your camera by tapping on the sun and sliding down until the pin is the focal point.

Import your next image into VSCO, and copy the edits you made on the first image. Paste them on the new image and you’ll have 2 images that feel similar and appear collective. I’ve tweaked the exposure slightly up to compensate for the filter we just added.

There you have it – not a bad solution considering we have these devices on us most of the time.


Click here to check out our enamel pins.

Here is our guide to choosing between soft or hard enamel pins.

And here is a bunch of examples of enamel pins we made.

Here are some more photography tips

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