Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Make Your Product Photos AWESOME!

Ok, a customer is searching for that perfect gift and your item is one of the many items their search query found.  Now how do you get them to actually click on YOUR listing instead of so and so's who sells something similar?  With an awesome photo of course!  Now, I may be an artist and have a degree and all that jazz but I am not a professional photographer, I don't even know how to use Photoshop (gasp!).  The good news is that you really don't need to either, you don't even need a $600+ fancy pantsy camera.  A simple point and shoot digital camera with 7MP or more will do just fine.  I am partial to Canon cameras and they're pretty inexpensive, packed with cool features and super trustworthy.  I have a Canon PowerShot SX100IS with 8.1MP and it cost me about $200 several years ago, the newest model is of course better and is pretty close to the same price I paid. Enough about that though, first make sure to dust off your camera's manual and brush up on what all those buttons actually do, it's always easier when you're completely comfortable with your equipment.

Now that you and your camera are now friends we can talk about lighting.  You can set up a lightbox or use natural lighting.  I always prefer natural lighting because it is, well, natural.  You can check out this handy DIY tutorial on how to make your own lightbox if you prefer, or buy one.  The only downside with natural light is you are at the mercy of mother nature.  She doesn't always cooperate.  You don't need to be outside, all you need is a sunny window or at least bright, indirect sunlight.  I use a little cubby box shelf system in my daughter's room which has a south facing window.  I get the best lighting in mid to late afternoon depending on the time of year; a little earlier in winter, later in summer.  A little trial and error will tell you what's the best time of day for your particular situation.  There shouldn't be any jagged shadows or harsh direct sunlight in your photo.  The same goes for shooting outdoors, aim for mid morning or early evening if outdoors so you're shooting in indirect sunlight.  Change your position to the sun if shadows are taking over your photo.  Your lighting should be bright enough that you don't need to use a flash.  Flash is fine for snapshots, bad for product photos!

A leaf dish that I use as my photo prop.  It fits the earthy theme of my items.
You are more than welcome to use photo props but they shouldn't take away from your item, they should be neutral along with your background.  Examples would be a neutral colored cloth like linen, a jewelry bust if for photos of jewelry, a muted color plate or mug, sand, light colored wood (your deck or side table perhaps), or even a sheet of white paper.  Try different things till you find what you like, just make sure your item takes center stage!  The key is to be consistent however in the use of your props so that your shop photos harmonize as a whole.  It'd look a little chaotic if say one item has a bright blue background, another has a green cup, and another has driftwood.   Also, have a little fun with creative angles and don't forget a close up shot if it's applicable to your product! 

Example of a BAD photo prop.  Too busy and it takes away from the item.
Too dark

Now you have photos, what to do with them now?  Most cameras and computers come with basic photo editing software of some kind.  I personally use Windows Live Photo Gallery to make all my initial alterations.  If you have a PC and don't have this great tool, get it, it's free.  Again, I'm NOT a professional, if you know how and would prefer to use Photoshop by all means do so!  All I ever tweak is brightness and color temperature (this may or may not be an option in some editing software, it changes the warmth, red, or coolness, blue, of a photo, it may be listed as "tint" and let you mess with the red, blue and green in a photo).

Before Fotofuze.  It's acceptable.
Once I have my photos through their first round of tweaks I have one more trick up my sleeve to get the crisp white (or black if you prefer) backgrounds that look like I paid a lot for software and have a general sense of what the heck I'm doing.  I use this super awesome FREE online photo enhancer, Fotofuze.  You can link up your Etsy shop to it and it will import all your listings for you!  It's easy to use, just watch the little video that pops up and you're ready to start fuzing!

After Fotofuze!  Awesome!
This is just what I do for my own shop.  Everyone has different needs and there's lots of advice out there!   Below is a quick link list of great articles and blog posts loaded with additional tips!  You can also check out my shop for more examples of how I use my photo prop, angles, close ups etc.

Etsy's Guide to Photograghy - basically everything you ever needed to know all in one spot!
Photography Lesson's I've Learned - a quick tip resource from Handmadeology
Time Saving Product Photography Tips - Some creative ideas for good shots from Handmadeology
The 5-C's of Photo Styling - Great tips on getting professional looking photos in no time


  1. I use a lightbox, but I still have problems with getting the lighting just right. I'm going to checkout the FotoFuse app. Thanks for all the information!

    1. Fotofuze really helps, and it's so easy to use- and free :)

  2. Your photos are wonderful. Like Sandy, I sometimes struggle with lighting.


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