Product Shots, Lifestyle, & Flat Lay: Where to Shoot Your Product Photography

Published on January 4, 2022
Written by
Filed under Shipping Basics
Read time 7 Minutes

Location, location, location.

Who’d have thought product photography and real estate had something in common?

Depending on what kind of product photos you intend on taking—and we’ll dig into those here—will dictate where (and how) you shoot. If you want lifestyle photos, you aren’t going to take your pictures in a DIY studio with a white background. If you want to be able to control lighting, shadows, and detail, you won’t shoot photos out and about. But you can also mix and match typical product photography and lifestyle photography to get something called flat lay photography.

So it’s time to ask yourself: what kind of photos are you trying to take? What style applies to your brand? Is your product something to be worn, used, or displayed? Is your social presence hip and trendy or more ‘traditional’? These are the questions you need to ask as your product photography, in addition to giving customers the best possible look at what you’re selling, should also be a reflection of your online business.

Each type of product photography can be applied to whatever you sell, you just have to make sure it matches up with your branding and marketing messages.

Keep It Simple: Product Shots

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry: you can still take high quality photos without going into debt to rent studio space or transform a bedroom into a photography suite.

Build Your Own Studio

What you need:

  • Table or desk
  • Desk lamp
  • Poster board or large sheet of solid color paper
  • Tape
  • 3-Ring Binder
  • Napkin, wax paper, or parchment paper
  • Shoe box

Find yourself some space in a bedroom, office, wherever to set-up a table/desk. Make sure you have an electrical outlet too. Tape the poster board or big sheet of paper to the wall and the desk, letting it curve where desk meets wall. Plug in the light and turn it on. Position your tripod and camera. Use the binder as a bounce and create a diffuser by cutting a hole in the shoe box and covering it with the napkin/wax paper/parchment paper.

Here’s what our budget studio looks like:


Editor’s Note: The desk lamp we used in this photo had a very yellow light. When you actually take product photos, try and avoid that much of yellow!

It’s seriously that easy to build your own “studio”. Now, just take pictures.

Living the Life: Lifestyle Photos

Maybe lifestyle photos—your product out in the world, being used/worn/etc.—is what you need. In that case, you’re probably taking a photo of a person. Models, while they know how to pose, how to wear something, and all the intricacies involved, can get very, very expensive (but their know-how is definitely worth it, depending on your budget).

Have some outgoing, photogenic friends? Wrangle them into this project! When it comes to lifestyle product photos, you need to make sure you do some research. How are other companies in your space showing off their products? If they’re also doing lifestyle photos, how you yours be even better? How can you inject your lifestyle into the photo?

Check out this lifestyle photo from ShipStation user Purple Elm Baby:


Their products are designed to be worn and also to hold a baby, to help make parenting easy. This photo gets that message across with every detail: we have parents out and about with their kids—they just happen to be wearing one of them!

For a bit more help in the area of lifestyle photos, check out this article from

Lay it Down: Flat Lay Photos

There’s another technique that combines aspects of lifestyle photos with your own studio: flat lay photography. Flat lay photography is still about just one item, but it’s not the only item in the photo. Your background can and should be more dynamic, with props and color and items that fit the lifestyle your brand represents, like in this Instagram post from Color U Bold:

Here’s a great guide from Color U Bold about finding the photo’s storyline, the right background, and a whole lot more.

And because we’re suckers for more and more resources, From Roses has a few more ideas on flat lay photography, available by clicking here.

There you have it. Find the style that works best for you, your brand, and your products. Experiment with all 3 styles—if you’re scrappy, you can get it all done on the cheap. And if you’re looking for what equipment you ought to use for your shoots, just click here.

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Written by


I'm Joey, ShipStation's Content & Social Media Coordinator. I spent over a year on ShipStation's Support team which has given me great insight into our product and our customers. Outside of work, you'll find me writing, getting into one of Austin's great microbrews, or relaxing on a trail with my mutt.

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