Product photography can feel like a huge obstacle to opening an online shop. It can be overwhelming trying to figure it all out on your own. And when you’re just starting out, you don’t have extra cash to spend on fancy equipment or courses. Trust me, I’ve been there. There at the starting line, wondering why my photos didn’t look as pretty as everyone else’s. Knowing I had a great product and feeling so frustrated that my photos weren’t doing it justice. Is that how you’re feeling? I don’t want that for you. So I’m going to share my top 10 tips for how to take product photos for your online shop!
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Let me start by saying that no, you don’t need to invest in expensive tools or equipment. I take all my product photos using my smartphone and a few inexpensive props. It doesn’t have to be complicated to work. If your phone has a decent camera, and you can spend $20 on extras, then you’re off to the races!
It has taken me years to be able to get my photos where I wanted them to be. I figured it all out on my own with a lot of trial and error and I shed a lot of frustrated tears. But It doesn’t have to be that way for you!
If you’re interested in the nitty gritty, extremely detailed description of EXACTLY how I photograph my products, then you’re going to want to check out the e-book I wrote. It has it all! It’s almost 50 pages of info, way more than I could include in a single blog post.
For now, you can start with these tips for for how to take product photos, and grab a free chapter from the e-book. 🙂
How to Take Product Photos
1. Use Natural Light
I know you’ve heard it before. And you’ll hear it lots more times. And you’ll be annoyed that ‘use natural light’ is always on the list of this type of product photography post.
But that’s because natural light is VITAL to product photography success.
Here’s the thing though, not all natural light is created equal. You need to wait for the perfect weather. You want to avoid really bright sunny days and really dreary rainy days. You need middle-of-the-road overcast weather. Slightly clouded over, but still bright.
When that type of weather strikes, go through your home and find the window that lets in the most light. That’s your new photography locale.
And don’t go outside to take product photos, always stay indoors.
2. Don’t Use Dark Backgrounds
Just don’t. Black backgrounds tend to make products look tired and dated. Unless you’re selling vintage jewellery, it’s just not a look you want.
Stick with light backgrounds. They don’t have to be pure white, but some variation of white is a safer bet. White is a little simpler to edit too.
For that matter, don’t use super busy or patterned backgrounds either. It will distract from your product.
Remember, the point of product photography is to showcase your product, not create art-gallery photos.
Once you find a background that really compliments your products, stick with it. You’re gonna want your shop to have a nice cohesive aesthetic, using the same background for all your products will help with that.
3. Don’t Underestimate Props
Props help tell the story of your product.
Historically, online shoppers don’t read anything you write. It’s a frustrating truth of having an Etsy shop.
So you need to provide as much information as possible through your product photos. Because shoppers DO love to flip through all the photos!
Use props to your advantage, to help shoppers understand how to use your product or what occasion it is suited for.
Do you make baby bibs? Use a baby shower invite as a prop.
Do you sell dog leashes? Use an unchewed dog toy as a prop.
That way, at a glance, shoppers understand who or what your product is intended for.
4. Leave White Space
Always make sure one or two of your product photos has some white/blank space left at the top and bottom of the shot.
This will give you options during editing to add branding or text. This is beneficial for posting pics to social media and Pinterest.
Sharing your products on social media is an absolute must for online shop owners. Don’t forget this step!
I wrote a super in-depth post on how to create pins for your Etsy listings. You’re gonna want to check that out too!
I use Picmonkey for all my pins and graphics. It’s super user-friendly and worth every penny. 🙂
Always batch your photos. It’s a better use of your time yes, but also light is impossible to duplicate on another day.
This will help you create a consistent look to your shop.
Even after editing, photos taken on different days will always look just slightly different.
For example, if I want to add a bow tie to my shop, I wait till I’ve made the whole line of bow ties then photograph them all during the same session. That way all the bow ties will have a really consistent look.
Obviously it’s not the end of the world if you photograph every product on a different day. You gotta do what works for you. I’m just suggesting that batching your photos on the same day will help with shop cohesiveness.
6. Take a TON of Photos
You need to go full paparazzi on your products.
Take a bajillion pictures. Zoom in, zoom out, from the side, from the back and upside down. (lol not really)
Then move your props around and take a few more.
Inevitably, some pictures will be blurry, or badly composed or have a piece of fuzz in one corner.
Again, since you can’t duplicate the light another day, you want to make sure you have lots of photos to choose from.
Don’t just take one shot and call it done. That’s the road to heartache and frustration.
Etsy allows you to have 10 product photos, and it’s a good idea to use up all 10 if you can.
7. Blurry Photos are Garbage
On that note, you CAN’T salvage a blurry photo.
Blurriness can not be edited out, so don’t bother. If it’s blurry, just delete it. If they’re all blurry, you’ll have to try again tomorrow. I know it’s a bummer, but it’s worth it in the end.
Trust me on this. DO NOT USE BLURRY PHOTOS. It’s in all caps, so you know I’m serious.
8. Name Your Photos
When you upload your photos to your desktop, name them properly.
Don’t leave them named something like PSX9284579. That’s no good. Try ‘Pink Felt Flower Headband’ instead.
Naming your pics helps with SEO. Also, if someone pins your listing from Etsy, you’re gonna want that photo to look it’s best and work hard for you. Nobody is searching for PSX9284579. But they might be searching for ‘Pink Felt Flower Headband’.
It’s always beneficial to have properly named photos even though it’s a bit of a bother to spend the time doing it. 😛
9. Know Your Limitations
There’s a lot you can accomplish with just your smartphone and a few decent props.
But there’s a lot you can’t.
Be realistic about your photography needs and what you can reasonably accomplish yourself.
For example, I’m really confident in my system for how to take product photos. But I know that I’m not capable of taking photos of my products being modeled by real people in a garden. That needs to be outsourced to a pro. It’s just a fact.
You can totally open shop without those kinds of photos. If you have no means to acquire professional photos, then don’t worry about it for now. But also don’t drive yourself crazy trying to DIY them. Be aware of your limits and work within them.
10. Keep it Simple
The best strategy is a simple strategy.
Find what works for you and stick with it.
Keep your backgrounds and your props simple.
Keep your editing process simple.
Keep your set up simple. Don’t over-burden yourself with lots of tools and equipment. It’s just not necessary.
Ok, That’s enough for one post. Hopefully some of these tips resonated with you and you’ll be able to implement them. If you’re ready to really dive into the details of composition, lighting, editing and a ton more tips, go check out the e-book!