Here’s a truth that applies to businesses big and small: If you’re selling a product, then Instagram product photos are non-negotiable! But, you don’t have to burn through your entire marketing budget to get high-quality, on-brand product photography.
This quick guide covers everything you need to know about creating effective—and cost-effective—product photography for Instagram:
- What is product photography?
- Why social media product photos matter so much
- How to leverage stock assets meaningfully
- 5 ideas for better product photography with stock
- Quick guide to Instagram sizes and aspect ratios
What Is Product Photography?
Product photography is exactly what it sounds like—photos of products! While any photo of a product would technically qualify, what matters most to effective product photography is quality.
The best product photos don’t just show the product; instead, they highlight its uniqueness, reflect its brand, and evoke powerful emotions in potential customers—like joy, desire, interest, intrigue, or FOMO.
When done right, product photography is often what makes the sale.
Why You Need Top-Tier Product Photography for Instagram
Product photos are an important marketing asset all around, but they’re especially critical for image-forward social media platforms like Instagram. You may have a hilarious caption or a high-value offer, but if the photo doesn’t stop the scroll, your words will certainly be missed.
With beautiful, on-brand product photography, you’ll:
- Build trust with potential customers
- Raise brand awareness and recognition
- Get more engagement, interactions, and followers
Most importantly, you may add revenue, too! With more than 130 million people shopping on the platform each month, Instagram product photography is a direct driver of sales.
Stock Photos: Your Shortcut to Amazing Instagram Product Photography
Many brands understand the importance of product photography but are afraid they can’t afford custom photos every time a new product comes to market. After all, successful photo shoots require more than just photographers—they call for set designers, stylists, post-production editors, and the list goes on.
Instead of bringing out the whole team every time you need Instagram product photos, try stock!
Stock assets save all the time, cost, and energy that goes into professional product photography. Rather than stress over on-set logistics, your marketing team can create on-brand Insta posts from millions of stock assets anywhere, any time.
Pro tip: If you need more than just gorgeous product photos, get tons of helpful tips and free templates in our Small Business Brand Kit.
5 Product Photography Ideas for Using Stock Imagery
Stock images can’t replace your product photos (since your product obviously isn’t stock!), but when chosen well, they’ll both complement and elevate your social media posts.
Here’s how to leverage stock assets effectively for Instagram product shots.
1. Put Your Product on a Pedestal
Even the most creative product photography doesn’t have to require a fancy set or expensive photo shoot. Just take a high-quality picture of your product, remove the background, and then layer it over a stylish stock photo of a product platform.
When selecting platforms for social media product photography, look for stock assets that:
- Fit within your brand in terms of color, mood, and overall vibe
- Are clean and simple (to keep the visual attention on the product itself)
- Match the lighting of your original product photo (so it looks consistent)
- Have extra visual details—like shadows, plant life, etc.—to reinforce your product’s qualities
Pro tip: Depending on your product and the platform you’ve chosen, you may want to crop the image to achieve a more balanced or interesting photo composition.
To make it easy, you can crop directly on the product licensing page in Shutterstock.
2. Try Other Backgrounds, Too
Platforms are one of the most popular product photography ideas for Instagram, but many other types of background images can work, as well!
Think about where your product is experienced in the real world and what kind of emotions it evokes, and then choose stock imagery with a relevant visual mood or connotation.
Try layering your product shots over these types of eye-catching backgrounds:
Decorative Flat Lays
Dramatic Lighting or Shadows
Product as Pattern
3. Stay Authentic & On-Brand
Given how marketing-savvy Instagram users have come to be, authenticity is paramount. And yes, stock photos can look authentic, even in the context of product photography.
To maintain that sense of authenticity, choose background images that harmonize with your brand identity and product style.
For example, a cosmetics company could choose a hot pink product platform, a soothing botanical scene with water and leaves, or a lifestyle shot of a man riding a Harley. All of these backgrounds could work, it just depends on what the brand is and who they’re speaking to.
Pro tip: One way to align stock images with your brand is to customize them! And, don’t worry, you don’t need to know how to edit product photography. You can add text, crop, apply filters, and make other edits directly from the licensing page.
4. Mix Stock with Original Product Photos
Another way to boost authenticity—and make your original product photos go even further budget-wise—is to mix stock assets into all of your product photo posts on Instagram.
So, instead of sharing all your product shots at once, spread them out over several posts by leaning on stock assets for variety and visual interest.
There are lots of creative ways to mix stock and original assets in this way.
For example, you might:
- Create a collage of original product photos and stock photos
- Make a carousel post that alternates product photos with lifestyle stock images
- Share a series of posts using the same product image overlaid over different background photos, patterns, and illustrations
- Crop the same product and background photo into different compositions, along with various types of text or photo filters to keep it feeling fresh
Pro tip: Want to take better original photos? Check out these product photography tips to learn what product photography is and how to take better product photos:
5. Get Data-Driven Recommendations
As you can see, there are so many ideas for how to take product photos for Instagram, but that often leads to an even bigger question: How can you know what will actually work for your brand?
The last thing you want to do is invest the time and effort into creating product photos only for them to fall flat.
The solution? Leverage Shutterstock’s AI-powered recommendations for higher-performing social based on your specific product and marketing objectives.
Product Photo Quick Guide: Instagram Aspect Ratios & Sizing
Before you post your beautiful new product photography, it’s important to understand how the final result will appear on Instagram feeds and in your profile.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Instagram allows three types of posts: square, vertical, or landscape.
- Within the feed and from your profile, all images are cropped to squares.
- Instagram will display images at their original resolution between widths of 320 pixels and 1080 pixels. Images below 320 pixels in width will be enlarged, and images above 1080 pixels in width will be sized down.
With these requirements in mind, make sure your Instagram product photos stick to these recommended sizes:
- Square posts: 1080px x 1080px (an aspect ratio of 1:1)
- Vertical posts: 1080px by 1350px (an aspect ratio of 4:5)
- Landscape posts: 1080px by 566px (an aspect ratio of 1.91:1)
Bring Your Product Photography Ideas to Life
It’ll take a few tries to find the best platforms and backgrounds for your product photos, but Shutterstock’s most flexible plan makes it easy!
With Shutterstock Flex, you’ll have all-in-one access to our massive library—over 600 million assets—plus the FLEXibility you need to select the perfect mix of assets every time.
License this cover image via Nikita Gordienko.