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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.