Thursday , 24 April 2014
Honestly, you don’t have to have a super-expensive camera to get some really great photos for your blog or Etsy shop.

Seven Tips on Better Picture-Taking For Your Blog and Etsy Shop

1.        Use the best quality camera you can afford.

Honestly, you don’t have to have a super-expensive camera to get some really great photos for your blog or Etsy shop.  When I first opened my shop, I used a Kodak EasyShare point-and-shoot camera with great success.  For a long time, I used a Fuji FinePix camera I bought at Walmart.  With the proper lighting and settings, that camera took excellent pictures.  I’ve since graduated to a Nikon D3000 digital camera.  I am totally in love with it.  Bottom line:  a digital camera at any price point will take good pictures.  The key is learning how to use the settings.  All of the images on my blog, CraftyDad.com, were taken with the Nikon.

2.       Use your camera’s ‘macro’ setting for close-up shots.

Lots of items sold on Etsy are small enough that using the ‘macro’ setting on your camera is the best option.  On many cameras, that’s the setting depicted by the flower/tulip icon.  Do yourself a favor and experiment with the various settings until you find the combination that works best for you.  Do yourself another favor and turn OFF the flash.  The flash creates a strong light that bounces off your subject and (usually) makes it look bad.  Find a spot with bright, but diffused light.  Outdoors is ideal.

3.        Natural light is your best bet.

If possible, grab your items, background material(s), props and handmade items and head outside on a nice day.  Direct sunlight is not the best; indirect light will give you great results.  My best photo studio is the top of our hot tub on the patio.  In the afternoon there is great light and the hot tub cover makes for a perfect surface to hold all my stuff.  A TV tray or card table are other possible options.

4.       Use props to accompany your items.

Check out various Etsy shops and you’re sure to find that many times, sellers use props in their photos.  It’s a professional touch and as long as they don’t overwhelm your item (or the photo in the general) they are a good thing.  Live herbs make great props for handmade soap.  A pin cushion or spools of thread look good next to fabric.  A hand-knit scarf looks better wrapped around the neck of a real person or mannequin.  Let’s say you make the coolest aprons.  Taking a picture of an apron folded up on a white background is, well, not too exciting.  Give your buyers a good idea of what an apron will look like when it’s tied around his/her waist.  Put it on, have someone take your picture.  Or…enlist the help of your boyfriend, girlfriend of kids.  Be creative!

5.       Use a background that makes your item stand out.

A great photo has a great background.  I’ve had excellent luck by using a white tri-fold science fair   board.  It’s made from heavy poster board.  It was cheap, folds flat for storage and (since it folds) I can have the short flap propped up to create a nice backdrop.  I found it a teacher’s supply store.  They come in two sizes (I use the smaller one) and several different colors.  White is best for me and will probably work just fine for you too.

6.       Take several shots from various angles.

Taking photos from different angles will give your customers a better idea of what your item looks like.  Since Etsy allows you five photos per listing, you will want to take advantage of all your available spots.  Some of your photos should be full-size images of your item; but you might also want to include a close up shot or two.  Showing the details of your item is important to prospective buyers.  Mix things up a bit by having a straight-on shot as well as photos taken from the side or at a forty-five degree angle.  I do this with my tissue holders and it works well.  I also will sometimes include a photo of multiple tissue holders in a stack, or in a wicker basket, to give my customers an idea of the other items for sale.  Again:  be creative.

7.       Use a photo editor to improve your images.

After you’ve taken several shots of your items, run them through a photo editor to make them as professional-looking as possible.  You’ll want to crop out unwanted background ‘noise’ and perhaps adjust the contrast.  Be careful not to change the image so much that it no longer looks like the actual item.  You might also want to add a copyright watermark to your image.   My favorite photo editor is Picnik ( no longer available).  I’ve used GIMP and Pixlr, but always return to Picnik and have great success with it.

Have a specific question?  Feel free to drop me a line at mike@craftydad.com.  I’ll be happy to help!

 

Tim here.. I just wanted to let you know about an AMAZING online product photography class over on Craftsy.   It is taught by Knitter and photographer Caro Sheridan. She  explains it all – from planning before the shoot to editing afterwards, and all the details in between. Whether you’re looking to shoot product pics, or just want to learn more about photography, you will benefit from Caro’s upbeat, irreverent and detailed instruction. You can enroll today just click the banner below.

Product Photography Class

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41 comments

  1. For most of my product photography, I used my husband’s two year old Blackberry. It is definitely more about setup than it is about camera quality. Looking forward to reading more from you, you crafty dad you. ;)

  2. Thanks for these useful tips – in particular I will definitely try adding props to some of my photos :)

    • Julia – Thanks for the comment!

      You can find lots of great props around your house.

      Or…check out your local thrift shops for some low-cost options. You never know what you’ll find!

      Thanks again for the comment!

  3. Thanks for this. It was very helpful.

  4. Thank you for the tips…I have been struggling with my pictures for a long time and am trying to find the best location in my house…still searching and experimenting.

    • Gabriela -

      Happy to help you! And thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. :-)

    • Colleen -

      Yes…it’s all about experimenting. Different spots in the house are going to give you different results. And..a sunny day vs. a cloudy day will make a big difference in your photos too.

      Good luck. I’m sure you’ll find the right combination!

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Always looking for great photo tips…although my photos are much improved from what they were, I still have a long way to go. Thanks for sharing!

    • Karen -

      You have a great-looking Etsy shop.

      May I make two suggestions? (1) make sure all your listings have at least one full-size photo and; (2) more light in your photo sessions will make your colorful creations ‘pop’.

      Thanks for the comment….I appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback.

  6. Thanks for the great photo tips. I plan to incorporate them into my photography ASAP!!

    • Karen -

      Thanks very much for the comment.

      Your bibs are great. Perhaps a white background will make them stand out a bit more. And more light (no flash please) will help your photos too.

      I found a really inexpensive kid-sized mannequin on eBay awhile back. E-mail me if you’re interested in the details. It would work perfectly with your bibs. And…they will make your shop look even more professional.

      Thanks again for the feedback. Hope you don’t mind the suggestions. I like helping people!! :-)

  7. Thank you for this, I struggle with photos, my work is of varied sizes, themes, some large pieces and I find it so hard to get cohesive shots. I purchased a used Olympus 500 DSLR camera, tripod and a macro lens,[plus a digital photography book] just painted a spare room with west-north light a neutral grey to dedicate to photo shoots.
    Thanks for the tips and if you ever do a post for bigger pieces and props I will read for sure.

    • Brenda – Thanks for the comment!

      Larger pieces can be tougher to photograph, most because of the space needed to stage them. But…it sounds like you have that handled with your new photo-shoot room (I’m jealous!)

      You might consider building a sturdy frame and hanging a white queen- or king-sized bed sheet from it. That might be an option for the background of you photos. Of course…you can simply change the background by changing the sheet.

      Thrift shops are a great place to pick up used linens for next to nothing. And…they are also great places to find props to include with your items.

      Best of luck to you!

  8. As an editor of 18 years and someone who has seen plenty of products with passionate people behind them fail and other so-so services get all of the attention, I can attest that the difference is usually as simple as the picture they present editors. Nice article. Check out my new book, Recipe for Press, where I devote an entire chapter on the Power of the Picture, with a long Q&A with Amy Butler and her husband, longtime photographer, David Butler. recipeforpress.com

    • Amy – Thanks for the comment…and the kind words. I will certainly check out your new book.

      Mr. and Mrs. Butler make a great team don’t they? I love their stuff.

      Thanks again,
      Mike

  9. I would like to know what is meagapixel and optical zoom. WHat one should keep in mind when buying new digital camera .
    Thanks a lot for the detail explanation about each terms related to – what to keep in mind while clicking picture.

  10. HI!
    this is very helpful. i have a question, i have been using VERY busy backgrounds, but i think they work well with the pieces and the over-all look of my shop. i keep wondering if i should change this to solid white however?
    if anyone has a moment to check out my shop and give me feedback on this it would be greatly appreciated…

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/LoloAndFriends

    thanks so much!!

    • Laurel – Thanks for the comment!

      I took a look at your Etsy shop. It’s a great-looking shop! Your items are whimsical in nature and the backgrounds you’ve chosen work will with the items. (And I really like the puffy-cloud backdrop.)

      Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing!

      TIP: Be sure your tablecloths are pressed so we don’t see any wrinkles or bumps.

      Best wishes for a successful year!

  11. divasupermum antoinette

    some very helpful tips, thanks so much for sharing

  12. thank you so much! just set up shop tonight, actually… I am a young entrepreneur, and would greatly apricciate and comments/help with my, well, pretty much entire etsy shop! I will be putting these tips to good use in the near future! Thank you so much!

    • Lindsey -

      Congrats on setting up your Etsy shop. I will be stopping by your store and will send you some comments.

      Best of luck to you as you explore the world of Etsy!

  13. Thank you for such a helpful article. When I look at my first photo’s and compare them to what I’m taking now there is a World of difference.

    Everything I’ve learned is from articles like yours.

    I know I’ve still got a looong way to go yet, but I wanted to give you a big thank you for spending time to help us all out.

    Sue

    • Sue – A big “Thank You” to you for your comment. I really enjoy helping people and I’m glad to hear that my article helped you in some way.

      It all takes time. Each time we take a photograph we should be learning. Learn what worked and didn’t work last time. And change things up a bit.

      Lighting, background and focus are the three biggies.

      Best of luck!

  14. I like the tip about taking shots from different angles – I forget sometimes.

    What do you think of my photos?

  15. Great article! I have found my ‘sweet spot’ in front of a window and I’m pleased with how my photos are turning out but I find that when I look at my shop they are starting to look too similar. Would changing the props be enough or am I over analyzing? Also how do you incorporate props without making it obvious that its a prop?
    Thanks Again!

  16. I always use natural light for my photos. My house is kind of dark so I have learned the best times (between 10am – 12pm) to get my photos done.
    It’s tricky but that is what I have to work with. False light does not look great at all. It gives the photos a yellowish glow that you can not alter…

  17. Great tips and comments! The one thing that I didn’t see and would suggest is to crop all of your images to a square, leaving enough room around the object so that if it gets cropped by Etsy or another site, the center is still intact. I see a lot of dolls with their heads chopped off on Etsy or images that are not identifiable until you click on them. Square images are also easier to share on Facebook and other places.

    Etsy has two sizes for their thumbnails and gallery images so if you go for a square, your image will look good in both.

    I use Photoshop Elements 9 to edit my photos and love it. I also like using PicMonkey to create collages.

  18. You recommended Nikon D3000 for camera.
    Any recommendations for macro lense for shooting jewelry? Do you use one?

    Regards and Happy New Year – great blog!

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