Friday , 23 August 2019
The key to selling online is excellent photography. You don't just want decent pictures: you want AMAZING pictures. The more fantastic the better; the better they will reflect in your sales.

It Looked Better in the Picture

Have you ever ordered something online that looked AMAZING on-screen only to be disappointed by how the item appeared in real life? This has happened to me before. Considering the massive quantities that I purchase online, such an incident is a rare occasion, but still worth elaborating.

The key to selling online is excellent photography. You don’t just want decent pictures: you want AMAZING pictures. The more fantastic the better; the better they will reflect in your sales.

The same wire-wrapped necklace displayed in a blurry photograph on someone’s carpet can snatch twice the price if it is displayed artfully on a crisp backdrop with an interesting angle and immaculate visible detail. Artful imagery can really boost the portrayal of the worth of an item, especially if said item is handmade.

Think of clothing ads. The prettier the model the more you are going to want to buy the dress. It’s the same dress regardless, but subconsciously you are going to think that it will make you as pretty as that model appears. If the same dress is only displayed on a headless dress form, you probably won’t feel the urge to purchase it as much. Same dress laid down flat on a bed spread? You’ll feel the urge to buy even less.

Those of us who are trying to make sales online strive to make better and better product photos. The more enticing the photos, the stronger the urge to buy. But what about when it goes too far?

Case in point: I wanted to buy some corset-style fingerless gloves to wear at my wedding. I found some online that looked elegant and beautiful and AMAZING in their gorgeously taken photographs. The price was a bit higher than I was hoping, but they were so perfect looking that I just HAD to buy! I eagerly ordered and waited the 2+ weeks for the gloves to arrive. When they did I was so excited to try on my beautiful wedding gloves! I opened up the package and thought… “Oh, dear. They look like they are made out of recycled pajama material. There is no way I can wear these with my wedding dress!”

The gloves I wore were FABULOUS!

The gloves were no where near as fabulous as I had thought they would be. The pictures didn’t exactly lie… they were just so beautifully portrayed and modeled that my expectations were set too high. I still left the seller positive feedback (everything with accurate in the description, etc.), even though I was disappointed with my purchase. I went on to buy an alternative pair from a different seller. The photographs were not as stunning, but good enough to give me a solid representation of what I was buying. They were also much less expensive. When these new gloves arrived I thought to myself (and explained as much in my feedback), “These are so gorgeous! The pictures did not do these gloves justice!”

As an online seller, I sense a lesson in this experience. Of course I am constantly working towards better photos. When people aren’t able to look at something in real life, pick it up and hold it, try it on, etc., I really have to make up for it with decent enough photos to show what it is they will be getting if they purchase. I try to ensure that the colors on the monitor match the colors of the pieces in real life. However, I would never, EVER Photoshop out a flaw within the product in the photos, or attempt to deceivingly portray proportions. I try not to get too crazy with the sparkle brush (although I love me some sparkles!) I resist even though I feel like my current line-up is pretty plain in appearance.


Dark Blue Swarovski Crystal Teardrop Necklace

It’s a delicate balance, to make good photos without being deceiving or accidentally misleading. It is definitely something to keep in mind when running the latest-and-greatest Photoshop filter on your newest item!

This blog post was originally published in Megan’s Creative Blog on Dec 13, 2011. 

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  1. I have to agree on your points made. Solving the dilemma of best method to ‘display’ our products is one part of the job in selling along with getting a great photo. It is difficult trying to get true colors to show. I use extra lighting and got help with my own ‘model’, lol. It’s always best to take the time to learn by looking at other ‘ads’ and try to capture that same effect along with learning some photography skills.

  2. Good things to think about! I see some shops with piles of stuff in the background or an item photographed like it was a garage sale item. It is so sad in people’s haste to get their shop up that the would so poorly give the image of their carefully handmade items a percirved value of ‘crap’. I think you addressed some key points here for people to look beyond and composition of their photos are key too. Well done!

  3. What a thoughtful post. It is so true that there is a fine line between taking fabulous photos that make your product look great and misleading photos. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  4. Thanks for a great post and taking better photos has been the one thing I needed to work on. I bought a great photo program BUT far to complicated (imo) for me.
    I was on youtube checking out videos and seen where “Photoscape” was a free program. NOW that is one easy program and you would not believe what I accomplished with it. This would be a perfect one for the photo challenged to me. the link if permitted here is:

  5. This is a really good point. I have been working on my pictures for a while now. And I usually get the compliment, it is better than the pictures-when they receive their item. I think with time, I will keep getting better. My first photos were awful! Practice, practice practice!

  6. my pics are still not to my liking, but much better than before. I remember selling on ebay though w/ a black fabric backdrop & I lol, b/c I would NEVER do that w/ etsy photos :) Sorry for all the trouble you went through for someone misrepresenting their products & I like to think I am almost too acurate, lol, I hope I don’t talk people out of a sale b/c I mention the flaws in detail. My descriptions are like a mile long! but my pics are getting better.

    Note to those who do- don’t post blurry photos!!! and take all the unstaged junk out of the frame! lol

  7. You make some good points (particularly about going filter crazy in Photoshop!), but here’s what I’m puzzling over. When you received the first pair of gloves and they weren’t of good quality, why did you still leave positive feedback for the seller?

    I’m relatively new to Etsy, but I’ve gotten the impression there’s an expectation that sellers and buyers will leave only positive feedback for each other. Where does that expectation come from? Does it ultimately hurt or help the Etsy community?

    • I left good feedback because they were exactly as stated in the description. The seller had just done TOO good of a job making a fabulous photo that I was mislead. Sort of like buying lipstick thinking it will make you skinnier because the model wearing it is skinnier. The lipstick is still lipstick, and the gloves were still gloves. Comparing what i received to the photographs int he listings, they were the same thing: just cleverly photographed to look stunning on the monitor.

  8. Its really an amazing point you had made in this blog…. In 99% cases similar thing happens. To resolve this problem and having the actual picture of the product we must consult some experienced photographer who have a good skills and experienced in product photography. Only then we can have the actual image with the actual stunning looks of our products. This idea we generally applies in product photography of jewellery articles or cloth materials and dresses.

  9. I have had this experience many times & not necessarily just with handmade items. There have been many occasions when I have bought something from a manufacturer, that looked amazing in their photos only to have something disappointing arrive in the mail. The other side of the coin is when I’ve seen photos of what is probably a beautifully made item, that just made me kind of sad to look at them. It kind of makes me want to take the seller aside & say ‘I really think your item is probably beautiful, but it’s blurry & the carpet or towel in the background is not putting the item in the best light. If you did retook the shots…you probably couldn’t keep up with all the orders.’ Thanks for the article, I know we’ve all done it, then looked back later & thought ‘what was I thinking?’Many of us, being creative, have gone in the other direction, trying to make the photo itself so amazing, we forget to represent it in the best way. I think the best product photos are somewhere in between, kind of a ‘sweet spot.’ Thanks again for the examples & thoughts!

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