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Friday, 20 July 2012

How-To: Product Photography

I've been promising to start my how-to series for a while but have been so busy, it's taken me a while to get around to it.  I've been thinking about what might be the best subject to start with and funnily enough, photography seems to be the single most talked-about topic in terms of improving your Etsy (or any other) online shop.  

It makes sense really because your photos are the single best tool you have to sell your products to your customer.  Whilst it would be silly to make things look better than they actually are (bigger, glossier, brighter etc), it's just as silly to not to them justice.  You've put all this hard work into making a beautiful handmade item or piece of art so it's only fair on yourself if you put some work into photography that will do it justice.  

I'm not an expert by any means but I have learned an awful lot over the last year or so.  You only have to look at the terrible photos of the first few items I sold compared to now!

Here are some tips I compiled for the Etsy CB team, they're the ones that have helped me best.  Feel free to add any of your own in the comments below.

1. CONSISTENCY IS KING: Once you’ve settled on a style of photo, stick to it. People like to see consistency in your shop, it can really enhance your brand. Whilst people like buying handmade, they don't like things to look amateur.  This is an important difference to remember.  People love handmade but they still prefer to see a level professionalism when they buy and this includes product photography.

2. SAY NO TO FLASH! Avoid using flash – it will make items look washed out.

3. GO OUTSIDE: It's worth trying to shoot outdoors on a cloudy day, the clouds act as your very own softbox.

4. NEUTRAL BACKGROUNDS: I know there is debate about this but unless you're a particularly good photographer I say, if you can, shoot against a plain or white background. Whilst nature and home decor can look nice, it detracts from the item you want to sell. You want all the attention on your gorgeous product! You can buy a white blackout blind from Argos for a few pounds, they can be a great cost-effective alternative to buying a professional backdrop. When you've taken a photo, check if the white background looks white or if it has a blue/yellow tint to it. If it has a tint, try to move somewhere that has better lighting.

5. IT'S OK TO EDIT (a little!): Use some software to adjust the saturation levels and temperature of your finished photos so they really ‘pop’ on the screen and grab attention. There are plenty of free programmes on the market if you're on a budget - I know lots of people use Google Picasa.

6. STEADY NOW! If you’ve got one, use a tripod. A still camera can take longer exposures without blur which means more colour and more rich details for customers to see.

Camera Settings:

Depending on how many bells & whistles your camera has, here are some bits you might like to play about with to get the best from your photos. At the end of the day, the more suitable your camera settings, the less editing you need to do at the end of the process.

- FLASH - Say no to flash – flash is really bad for product photography and should be avoided, I can’t say this enough!
- ISO - Set your ISO as low as possible – lower ISO means less fuzzy ‘noise’ in the photo. If you find you can't shoot with the ISO low, it means you need to shoot in better light.
- SHUTTER SPEED: Slower shutter speed (much easier with a tripod or the camera resting on a steady surface) - Your camera may not have this option, don't worry if it doesn't.
- TIMER: Consider using the timer if your camera has one – that way you won’t cause any shake when you press & release the shutter
- APERTURE: Not all cameras will allow you to control this but if yours does, generally f8-f11 seems to be good for bringing products nicely into focus
- WHITE BALANCE: On my own camera I find it's best to set this to auto but you might find it worth trying the different presets on your camera to get the right one.

That's it for now, if I think of anything else I'll add it.  In the meantime, happy snapping! 


  1. Louise! Thanks so much for an excellent blog! I'm thrilled with the suggested camera settings as I have been looking everywhere for some suggestions. Again, thank you and have a great day!

    1. You're welcome Jeri! Let me know if you've any questions & I'll do my best to help! :)

  2. I checked this out when I saw you on EBSQ's Friday Five.

    Thanks for the info. Some I have tried, others I haven't.

    I'll have to give it a try with the tips you've given...Sherry

    1. Thanks for your comment & for stopping by Sherry. I hadn't realised I was in the Friday Five - that's good to know thank you! :)

  3. It's nice to see that you had pointed out the importance of product photography in selling a product. We may say it in a way or another, but as simple saying items with high quality photographs sells more will always be a fact.