For many handmade sellers, product photos are a real thorn in their side. Product photography can feel overwhelming, confusing, and frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be! If you master these three things, you’ll have gorgeous DIY product photos every time.
Lighting the the MOST important thing when it comes to product photography. Or any photography at all. Photography literally means “drawing with light” and an photograph is create based on the relationship of light with the items in the image. Without great lighting, your photo will have quality issues, colour issues, and the general overall aesthetic of your photo will be poor.
Lighting isn’t an easy thing to master but once you have a grasp on a set up that works for you, you’ll notice a world of difference. Seek out bright, natural light that is indirect - meaning it’s not direct sunbeams. Areas like the shade or near a bright window in your home are good places to start.
If you don’t have a suitable area for natural light, you may have to introduce artificial lights. Avoid using the built-in flash on your camera at all costs. It creates a bright foreground and a dark background in your image which is unsightly and looks unprofessional. Instead, purchase a simple tabletop lighting setup or softbox studio light kit for your setup, or if you have larger items opt for a speedlight (FYI though, only DSLR cameras can use these though). You can check out my recommendations for lighting and other equipment on my Amazon Influencer page here.
Styling your product photos is very important in drawing in the attention of your ideal customers, standing out in a sea of product images, growing your social media following, and being featured by influencers.
The key to good styling is keeping it simple and keeping it consistent with your brand. If your brand is all about being eco-friendly and that’s important to your ideal customer, you won’t want to use cheap plastic props like fake flowers. Customers are super savvy these days and they’ll see that inconsistency a mile away. A misstep like that can cost you sales and social media followers.
Choose one or two props that are consistent with your brand message and are a fit for your product. Be careful not to choose props that will overwhelm or take away from your product. Shoppers should be drawn to your product, not the props! Click here to read my blog post on where to find props for your photos.
When arranging your styled photos, keep your product front and center so it’s the star of the show. Arrange props so that they lead the eye toward your product by “pointing” them toward it or have them subtly interacting with your product.
Possibly even better than styled photos are lifestyle photos. Lifestyle photos actually show your product being used in-action in some way. Lifestyle photos create a strong connection between your product and your customers, making them envision your product in their life and making them more compelled to buy. Most product looks even better and more desirable when being shown in action.
Editing can be enough to make some handmade sellers just straight up say “nope, no editing for me thanks.” The programs can be confusing and knowing how to edit correctly can feel unachievable for makers. But, my friends, I am here to tell you right now that it is TOTALLY achievable.
The first thing to know about editing is that you only need to know a few of the tools. How to crop, how to adjust light and dark tones, and how to balance your colours are the main players you need to focus on. If you focus on just those tools, editing suddenly becomes a lot less overwhelming.
A quick note about editing programs: Make sure that your photo editing program enables you to embed a colour profile. Programs such as Photoshop and Lightroom, Affinity Photo, and Snapseed all embed color profiles. Programs like Pixlr do not.
When it comes to cropping, you should crop your product photos at a 5:4 ratio (for Etsy) or square (for your own website). Your photos should be 2000px at least along the long edge. Next, adjust your image tones. Using the levels adjustment, drag the sliders around until the tones are bright with appropriate amount of contrast. Be careful not to over-do it. Next, balance your colours using the color balance tool. Then, save your product photo (with an embedded color profile!) and you’re good to go!
Now that you know what you NEED to know, you’re ready to go out, learn, and conquer your DIY product photos! You’ll find loads of information about these topics here on my blog, in the free Facebook group, in my free webinar and trainings, and of course in my masterclasses and courses.
Got a question? Drop it in the comments!
Last week I answered question of “do you really neeeed a white background for handmade product photos?” and the big answer was NOPE. You do not. But, you do need a simple, neutral background.
Those kinds of background don’t have to break the bank either. Here are 5 ideas for cheap or free backgrounds for handmade product photos.
When I bought my desks (I have two), I bought them both with product photography mind. One is a natural wood, and the other is slightly glossy white. Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new desk (that would hardly be cheap or free, amiright?), but take a look around your house. You may very well already have a cool desk or table with a suitable surface for your product photos.
Hardwood floors may also work. Just make sure that the wood you’re using (regardless of its source) isn’t tinted or stained to create colour-affecting undertones. If the wood is reddish, yellowing, greenish, etc that can seriously impact your photo in a negative way.
One of my favourite DIY background hacks! You can buy contact paper (intended to line shelves or drawers) or even wallpaper and stick it to rigid foam board for a great DIY product photography background.
Don’t forget - you’re going for neutral and no busy patterns. Keep it simple! Avoid glossy finishes (they will make glare-free photos virtually impossible), and opt for patterns that could be table tops, like marble, woods, slates, etc.
3. Posterboard for a seamless background
Ever see one of those product photos where it looks like the product is floating in nothingness? Those are seamless backgrounds. You can buy paper roll seamless background for a chunk of change at a camera store, or if your products are smaller, you can grab a piece of posterboard from the dollar store and make your own seamless background.
To do this, take your posterboard and stick one side of it (the short side if it’s rectangular) to a wall and allow it fall straight down the wall, curve toward the floor (or tabletop) to lay flat on the surface. Place your product on it and start shooting!
If you have small products like jewelry, scrapbook paper can be a great option. They’re smaller, easy to store, and inexpensive. They come in a wide variety of patterns and are pretty easily replaceable as well.
Same rules apply as with contact paper and wallpaper. Keep it simple, neutral, and avoiding patterns. Seek out marble, woods, slates, and maybe even a linen texture. Experiment! With scrapbook paper you can afford to.
While not suitable for every brand, this may be one of my very favourite free or cheap backgrounds. I love incorporating nature into product photos. It creates character, interest, and deepens a connection between the product and the shopper.
Seek out things like slabs of slate, bark, logs, stone, and moss for your product backgrounds. This approach is really only suitable for brand that embrace things like eco-friendly lifestyles, rustic vibes, adventure, and wilderness. But for those brands, this can be a super option.
Now that we’ve outlined some great free or cheap backgrounds for handmade product photography, let’s talk about some backgrounds you want to steer clear of.
- Anything cloth. Cloth is extremely wrinkly and nearly impossible to make look smooth, polished, and professional.
- Bright colours. Unless this is a stand-out characteristics of your brand, you’ll want to avoid bright colours. Colourful backgrounds take away from your product, and can distract and overwhelm shoppers.
- Patterns. As I’ve mentioned a few times in this article thus far, patterns should be avoided. Patterns clutter up your photo, make it look chaotic, and will make shoppers just keep on scrolling. Your product should never have to compete with the background.
And there you have it! Some awesome free or cheap background ideas for your handmade product photos. Have a question or comment about backgrounds? Drop it in the comments!
Got a question or comment? Drop it below!
One thing I hear a lot from makers is how difficult it is to get a white background for their handmade product photos. And it’s true, it IS really difficult for the DIY product photographer. But the first thing I asked them is, do you really need a white background for your product photos? The answer usually is “I think I do… Don’t I?”
In short: No. You don’t need a white background.
Back in the day when Etsy first became a thing, the recommendation was that you should use a white background. However, they very quickly changed their tune and dropped that recommendation. If you visit any of their “Editor’s Picks” featured collections, you’ll see a variety of different backgrounds, many of them not white.
First let’s figure out when you do and do not need a white background, then I’ll give you some ideas for some awesome alternatives.
There are no requirements for a white background on any of the aforementioned websites. So you’re off the hook!
Your backdrop for your products should support you brand’s overall vibe. Unless your brand is super clean and minimalistic, it probably doesn’t warrant a white background. Even then, a dark grey background may give a better look. For more info on how branding plays into your product photos, click here.
It can be SO tough to get white or light coloured products to pop on a white background. A camera’s limited dynamic range make it difficult for it separate the tones of your product and the tones of the backdrops. I can be done with a lot of editing, but why make more work for yourself?
If you’ve tried every which way to get a beautiful white background and you’re about ready to pull your hair out, then know this - you don’t need a white background. You can switch up your background, save yourself the frustration, and make your photos look even better with a different background.
If you’re confident that a white background is what you need to express your brand properly, then a white background you should have.
And I don’t mean if your handmade listings show up in the regular Amazon feed. I mean if you straight sell on regular Amazon, and not Handmade at Amazon. Regular Amazing does require a white background. Handmade at Amazon does not.
There are some website aside from Amazon and some publications that may want to feature your products that do require a white background. Read the fine print before you submit to make sure. Also keep in mind that there are loads of websites, publications, social media influencers, bloggers, etc that will want to feature you even without a white background. Maybe especially because you didn’t use a white background, and your photos have more interest and are more editorial.
Okay, so now that you know you don’t have to use a white background - what should you use?
- Choose a background that is neutral.
There are many great options out there for background that are simple, neutral and won’t take away from your product. A brightly coloured background can distract from your product and make the photo more about the background than your actual product. The background should be a supporting character, not the star of the show.
- Textures are awesome.
Marble, slate, white washed wood, dark wood, beadboard, shiplap, linen, and so on are all great neutral textures for your products. It’s important to pick one that is a fit your for products, otherwise it’ll feel odd and out-of-place
- Avoid fabric.
Fabric almost always appear wrinkled, messy, and unprofessional. Use thick cut paper or poster board, vinyl, foam board, or specially made photo boards instead.
- Don’t go seamless with a texture background.
Textured backgrounds are meant to emulate things like table and counter top, floors, and the like, so setting them up as a seamless background looks unnatural and unprofessional. The line in the textures don’t curve well and it looks awkward. Use the texture for the bottom only, and use something separate like a white or black foam board for the “wall” behind your product (or an actual wall - that works too).
There you have it! You are now free to drop the white background.
Got a question or comment? Drop it below!
Taking a handmade product photo can be challenging - there’s lighting, styling, composition, how to use your camera, etc - surely you can just skip the editing part, right?
Sorry, friends. Editing is not optional.
Here’s the thing. Back in the day of film photography, when the negatives were developed they went through a process of things like dodging and burning, colour adjustments, and so on. That was the editing process.
Digital photography has eliminated that process, but adjustments still need to be made. Many cameras will make some adjustments for you without you even knowing, but do you really want a machine making these decisions for you? The voice in your head might be saying, heck yeah! Robot photo editing for the win!
But consider this - your camera doesn’t know if you’re taking that photo for products, vacation, your dog, the sunset, whatever. It doesn’t know what adjustments need to be, it doesn’t know not to mess with the colour. It just takes a stab in the dark of what someone might typically want to see. Consider this - would you let your washing machine pick out your outfit? I didn’t think so. Some things you need to do yourself. And editing your photos is one of them.
When it comes to product photos, the editing process is extremely important. Here are 5 reasons you need to be editing your product photos:
Image size is super important when it comes to product photos. When shoppers are browsing online product listings, there’s this handy little zoom function that allows them to see details close up. Without large enough photos, this zoom tool will not only be a waste, but can make your image look low quality - which communicates that your product is also low quality (even if it’s not).
Additionally, cropping them at the correct ratio is also super important (especially if you sell on Etsy). On Etsy, the thumbnails that appear in the search listings are 5:4. If your photo isn’t 5:4, you run the risk of part of your image and your product being cut off. When customers are quickly scrolling search listings, that’s the kind of thing that absolutely can get your product passed over for one with the correct ratio.
You need to adjust the tones of your image (the exposure, highlights, shadows, etc) so that it appears realistic, bright, and without distracting shadows.
Cameras are limited in how well they can captured bright whites and dark darks due and sometimes they’re unable to capture a scene the way we see it with our own eyes.
An example of this is when you use a white background that comes out looking more grey. A quick tonal adjustment can make a world of difference in a product photo.
Your colours need to be portrayed as true to form as possible so that when someone buys your product, they aren’t mislead into thinking they’re getting a blue shirt when the shirt is actually purple in real life.
You can take steps when actually photographing your product to encourage colour accuracy, but ultimately you may very well need to make adjustments when editing as well. Using the colour balance tool will allow you to balance colours in the image so that they are rendered as accurately as possible.
Related to reason #3, editing your photos in a proper editing program will allow you to embed a colour profile with your image.
If you’ve ever uploaded a photo to Etsy and noticed the colours are all out of whack, this is an example of what happens when a photo does not have a colour profile embedded. It can be a huge source of frustration for you and misrepresents your products to your customers.
Embedding a colour profile is very important. You can read more about that in this blog post.
When push comes to shove, it all comes down to looking professional and high quality. Professional product photos are edited. Yours should be too.
You want photos that are communicate quality so that customers see your products as high quality, and editing your photos a big part of having high quality product photos.
I know you might be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. That is A LOT of stuff and half of it you may have never even heard of. Don’t fear - I’m here to help! This is just the beginning of what I’m going to be discussing on my blog and my YouTube channel about photo editing. You’re in good hands. Stayed tuned.
Got a question? Pop it in the comments!
Until next time,
Hey there handmade seller!
If you’re just joining us for the first time, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amy and I’m a product photographer and educator teaching handmade sellers just like you how to rock their own product photos for their online shops.
‘Cause here’s the thing - I’m about to break some serious news here - without great product photos, your online shop probably won’t succeed. I know, that’s some tough love right there. But I said it because I want you to succeed and because I believe in you. (read all about why product photography is so important in this post)
The good news is that you are not doomed to a life of dreadful DIY product photos and no sales. I’m here to help you transform those “meh” product photos into photos that’ll have shoppers hitting the add-to-cart button faster than you can say “cha-ching”.
The topic of product photography is vast, overwhelming, and often confusing. There’s sooooo much information out there and, let’s be honest, it’s really not directed to you as a handmade seller. That’s why it’s full of technical jargon you don’t understand.
Every resource you’ll find here on my blog and on my YouTube channel was developed with you in mind. It’s the nitty gritty - no muss, no fuss, just exactly what you need to know to start taking great DIY product photos, and quickly.
Because, guess what? Product photography doesn’t have to be super complicated. Once you learn a streamlined and simplified photography process, you’ll be amazed at how your photos will transform.
So let’s get started!
When it comes to photography, lighting is everything. Literally. The word photography is derived from the greek “photo” meaning light and “graphy” meaning drawing - so, drawing with light. Hence its importance.
But it’s not just words. A photograph is made from the light that comes through the shutter of a camera to hit the sensor. So, great light = great photo.
Light should be soft and even, plenty bright (but not too bright), and the right colour (ie, daylight). Try photographing your product next to a bright window with white foam boards bouncing the light back towards your product. (pictured below)
News flash: Your background doesn’t have to be white.
So many makers think that their backgrounds have to be white, and it’s simply not true. Neutral? Yes. White? No.
If you like a white background, and you’re able to capture it well on camera, that’s great! Don’t change a thing. But so many handmade sellers struggle to take a great photo on a white background and if they’d just let it go, life would be so much easier. So I’m giving you permission. Let it go.
When choosing a background, pick something that is neutral and subtle. Textures are also a nice. Backgrounds like dark wood, white washed wood, marble, slate, beadboard, etc are all great option.
When determining which is right for you, think about your products, your branding, and your ideal customer. Your background should be a fit for all those things. (read more about how your branding play into your product photo in this post)
When it comes to props, you need to keep it really simple. One or two props are plenty. When it comes to social media and brand photos, you can incorporate more props, but for product listing photos it’s important no to do too much. Too many props confuse buyers, clutters up your shot, and will have people moving on pretty fast. You want your props to be “supporting characters” to your product, not steal the show.
When it comes to choosing props, the same rules apply as they did for the background. They should be a fit for your product, brand, and speak to your ideal customer.
Take care to photograph your products at the correct angle. If not composed properly, the angle can distort the image and make your product look strange or misrepresent it. Photographing your product as a flat lay (“bird’s eye view”) or straight on (“eye level”) is a good place to start.
When arranging props, keep them off to the side and/or in the background. It should be very clear what is for sale in the image and your props shouldn’t take attention away from your product.
Yes, you must edit your photos. A photo isn’t truly complete until it’s edited. Back in the film days, the development process was when images were fine-tuned. In these digital days, the editing process is the same idea. Sure, your digital camera does a bit of this work for you. But it’s just a piece of equipment and its abilities are limited. You don’t let your washing machine pick out your outfits do you? I didn’t think so.
So edit those photos! One of my most commonly asked question is what editing programs and apps I recommend. I recommend Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, available for $9.99 USD a month through the Adobe Photography CC subscription. They are the industry standard when it comes to photo editing and they allow you to embed a colour profile, which is extremely important when it comes to product photos.
Edit your photos for correct tones, size and ratio, and white balance while avoiding faux pas like oversaturation and harsh contrast (read about other editing mistakes in this blog post).
And there you have it! You’re already on your way to better DIY product photos.
Got a question? Pop it in the comments!
Until next time,
Having great product photos for Etsy and your handmade shop is really important. Like, really.
If you want to run a sustainable, legit handmade business, good product photos are one of the major keys to your Etsy success. Other things are important, like SEO, customer service, and actually having a great product, but without good photos none of those things will matter much.
Here are 6 reasons why having awesome product photos is so important for your Etsy shop:
When someone walks into a store and finds something they want to buy, think about what they do. They pick it. They feel it. They turn it over and look at it from different angles. They might smell it. If it opens, they’ll look inside.
Your photos should cover all of those different things that you think a person would do if they were buying your products in person. Help them imagine the feel of your product by capturing the texture of it in a close-up shot. Take photos of it from a variety of different angles. If it has a sense, style one of the photos with something that brings to mind that scent.
Your product photos are subconsciously (if not consciously) telling your customers what they can expect from the quality of your products. You may have the best quality product out there, but without high quality product photos no one will ever know.
When shoppers see a beautiful, well-lit, tastefully styled, and properly edited product photo, that screams “HIGH QUALITY, BUY ME, I’M AWESOME!” Poorly light, strangely styled, and improperly edited (or not edited at all) photos say “I’m not even worth a decent product photo. If you buy me at all, don’t pay more than a few bucks.” That could be farthest thing from the truth, but in the online space, people really do judge a book by it’s cover. In a sea of shops on Etsy, you want to be sure your product stands out.
So essentially, for better or worse, your product photos are speaking to quality of your product. What are you photos saying about your products?
In the vastness of the worldwide web, people are inundated with images non-stop. You can’t even scroll Facebook without having an ad pushed in your face every sixth post. Mediocre photos will quickly get lost amongst the noise of the internet, causing your photos, your products, and your shop to be overlooked. Your images need to stand out and make you recognizable - in a good way!
Some of the biggest breakthroughs for small businesses come from being featured, whether it’s by Etsy, a blogger, or an influencer. Some of my own students have had massive success being featured by bloggers with millions of followers. Those kinds of opportunity can be real game changers for your handmade business - but good photos are a must.
Just like customers are attracted to good product photos, so are those who looks for products to feature. Having good photos makes is easy for influencers to feature you. They can simply share your already awesome photo.
Not only do great product photos attract customers in general, they attract the right ones. Properly styled photos, high quality photos will exude the vibe of your brand and call out to customers who will want to buy your stuff. From the props use you, to your background, to your lifestyle photos - if all of your photos are consistent in their brand messaging, you will consistently attract your ideal customer.
For example, if you ideal customer is adventurous, outdoorsy, and environmentally conscious your photos should include environmentally-friendly props, lifestyle photos outside, and other tools that outdoorsy folks are into to compliment your product. Then, the next time your ideal customer is browsing Etsy (or Pinterest, or Instagram, etc), your photo (and product) will jump out at them.
Having photos that are clear, well-lit, properly edited, and portraying the colours of your product accurately makes it easy for customers to get a accurate sense of your product. Without those qualities in your product photos, customers can easily be mislead into thinking your product is different than how it really is.
For example, if the colours in your photo are off due to incorrect white or a lack of embedded colour profile, your customer may think they’re ordering a purple shirt when it’s really a blue shirt. Before you know it you’ll be facing a return and/or a bad review.
Colour is only one way you need to properly showcase your product. You also need to demonstrate qualities like texture, additional details or features, and the size of your product. You can do all this with different camera angles, special techniques, and by styling your product photos with a prop whose size is commonly known.
If you’re feeling a bit panicky about your product photos right now and the thoughts “I’m doomed” is running through your head - don’t worry! I’ve got your back.
Let's talk about how to make sure that the colours in your Etsy product photos look right. It's not a super sexy topic, but I'm here to tell ya, it's an important one!
Have you ever uploaded an Etsy product photo only to find the colours way out of whack? Your product's colours don't look right on Etsy at all! What gives?
Here's the truth - it's those free photo editing programs! You know the ones I'm talking about. Pixlr, Picmonkey, Snapseed. Those ones.
They edit a decent vacation photos of your family, but your product photos? Heck no. Those colours are going to totally misrepresent your product and you can expect some unhappy messages from customers coming your way.
So here's the thing. The best photo editing programs out there are Photoshop and Lightroom and they're only $9.99 a month. They're sooo worth it. You can do this little thing called embedding a color profile with your image and that's what tells Etsy and other websites how to convey the colors of your image (and thus, your product). Otherwise Etsy tries to do it on its own and it's less than pretty.
I explain all about it in this video and I show you how to use Photoshop or Lightroom to embed a colour profile so your product's colors look perfect on Etsy. Check it out here >>
To summarize, if your images are showing weird coloring in your Etsy shop or on your own handmade shop's website, it's most likely because there's no color profile embedded in the image.
As handmade sellers selling online, having the colors of your products portrayed accurately is SUPER important to avoid your customers being unhappy with products arriving a different color than they look online, and in reducing your rate of returns.
Unfortunately, most free editing programs don't embed a color profile. In fact, they strip your images of any pre-established color profile. But, I know you're a handmade seller trying to make a go of it so everyone dollar counts - so I have dug up a free option for you. More on that in an upcoming post!
Don't have Photoshop or Lightroom? Grab it here for $9.99/month >> https://amytakespictures.com/photoshop-lightroom
Just to really drive my point home, here are some examples of the same photo - one saved in Lightroom with an embedded profile, and one saved in Pixlr without a colour profile.
With colour profile embedded
The colour of the card is correct, as are the rest of the colours in the photo.
No embedded colour profile
The colour looks blah, the red is off, and the photos has a cool, greenish tinge.
And that, my friends, is the story of the embedded colour profile.
Go. Embed. Sell your stuff with kick ass Etsy product photos.
Today we're talking about how to correctly size your Etsy photos using your smartphone.
The ideal ratio and size for your Etsy photos is 5:4 and 3000 x 2400 px. That allows your photo to be the correct ratio for the thumbnail images that appear in the Etsy search and ensure your images is large enough to look fantastic when moused over with the zoom tool.
But just how do you correctly size your Etsy photos?
First, it's super important to ensure that your images are already larger than 3000 x 2400 px when you take them. Images cannot be enlarge without losing quality once they've been taking. Consult your camera manual to find out how to ensure your images are being captured at a large enough size.
Once the image is taken, it's time to give it an edit. There's a full editing process involved, but today we're just going to focus on the crop, where you'll adjust your ratio and resolution.
The editing app I recommend for photo editing on your smartphone is the Photoshop Express app. It has a great selection of tools without too many confusing bells and whistles. And, it's one of the very few editing apps that allows you to set a custom size crop.
So go ahead. Download that free app. It's okay, I'll wait.
Okay! So now that you have the app, open an unedited photo. Select the "crop" tool, then the "free size" option.
Next, swipe through the crop options all the way to the right where you'll see "custom" and select that.
Next, a dialog box will pop up and show your existing image sizes. Note: If your original size not at least 3000 px wide and 2400 px tall, you will not be able to to enlarge it to that size.
Deselect then "link" in between the two numbers (this will allow the ratio to change when you input the pixels), and type in 3000 for the width and 2400 for the height.
Once that's done, hit "apply."
Then, hit the back button on the top left. This will allow you to save your image.
When prompted, hit "save,"
And just like that, your image will be saved with the correct ratio and resolution.
You can find your finished image in your "Photoshop Express" folder.