Thursday , 17 August 2017
I’m calling myself out and pulling from the Energy Shop listing archives, as I highlight the do’s and don’ts of product photography.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Product Photography For Etsy Sellers

Large Bead Aquamarine Bracelet with Om Charm for Inner Peace

The Do’s and Don’ts of Product Photography For Etsy Sellers

One of my favorite things about doing successful seller interviews is going back to their very first sale. For most sellers, that first sale says a lot about how far they have come in product photography. I’m calling myself out and pulling from the Energy Shop listing archives, as I highlight the do’s and don’ts of product photography. I like to think that my shop is ever-evolving, so I sincerely hope that in two years, my pictures of today will look amateurish and outdated!

I take all of my photos on a Canon EOS Rebel, and I highly recommend a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera to anybody who is serious about photographing and selling their wares. I had the camera before I opened my Etsy shop, so everything seen here has been shot with a DSLR–which goes to show that you can shoot awful pictures on an excellent camera. I use the 18-55 lens that comes with the camera and the green box setting, which goes to show that you don’t need to be an expert because the camera is smart enough for the both of you. :) Some of the product photos in my archives were shot with a 50mm lens (I’m including examples).

I opened the Energy Shop for business in May 2010, and here is a picture of my first sale:

My first sale

DON’T: List the first picture you take of your product. Take your time with it and sample different lighting and backgrounds.

I just love the person who bought this, wherever she may be! This set of bracelets was taken on a white tea towel in my kitchen, with no flash. There were lights on in the kitchen, and sunlight coming through the windows. This shot screams “beginner.” In the listing, there is actually a picture of the bracelets laying on top of a cell phone. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I do know that portraying scale was important to me back then (I also used to photograph the bracelets with a dime or safety-pin :) ). For my product, scale is unnecessary and just cluttered the pictures.

Creative Backgrounds

DON’T: Over-do the background. Avoid over-the-top props unless they directly relate to your product.

As soon as I started making my first sales, I started getting creative with the backgrounds. This Carnelian bracelet is situated on a green tea towel, still in my kitchen, and now there are artificial hydrangeas in the background. This is over the top, and looks completely silly to me. Reminds me of the saying, “Those who know better, do better.” It was clear that I was learning and searching to find the right look.

The next six pages of my sales show gradual improvement, and I love this about a shop’s history, you can literally watch the owner’s skill evolve. Seven pages in, my items started to look like this:

Shot outdoors in high sun

DO: Shoot in bright lighting with simple backgrounds.

Same camera, very different approach. I’m shooting on plain white paper and a wooden display circle (I use hand-carved wooden coasters I purchased in Zambia). I was in my backyard in mid-day, full sun (early or late sun casts distracting shadows). I love this shot, because in a pinch I could still use it to show off the Mookaite gemstone today. It’s bright, easy to see detail, and timeless.

Shot outdoors with a 50mm lens

DO: Buy one great lens.

Here is a great example of what a 50mm lens can do for your product. When people comment on a great photograph, it’s usually because it was shot with the 50mm lens. In switching to this lens on your DSLR, the subject pops, and the background blurs which gives the photograph dimension. Here you can see what it does to a product photograph. Again, this shot was taken on a white piece of paper outside in mid-day, full sun. This Amethyst is sharp in the front and then blurs toward the back. It still gives you a great idea of what the bracelet looks like, but it adds a little dimension and that makes it stand out.

Another example of the 50mm lens

I’m a huge fan of this lens, and here’s another example of why. You see the Chrysanthemum bracelet pop and stand out in the picture, and it looks gorgeous against the blurred greenery of my back yard. The 50mm is my go-to lens for great professional and personal photographs.

Off-center with short back-drop

DON’T: Let the backdrop drop off.

While the lighting and backgrounds were improving, I was still making rookie mistakes. Here’s a great example of something that might look obvious to everybody else, but I only corrected it recently. This photograph is off-center, and that could have been easily corrected in crop. More importantly, the back-drop ends very early on in the picture. This is a highly unnecessary mistake, I had plenty of room to shoot within the back-drop, I just didn’t think it made that much of a difference.

Exception to the creative background rule

DO: Make it seasonal.

Just say no to creative backgrounds, unless they can be done to bring nostalgia for a season. In this photo, I used fake autumn foliage and morning light. I love the image I captured for this Blue Jade bracelet so much, that I bring it back to the shop every fall.

Models are a definite Do!

DO: Use a model.

How cute is this picture?! My children model the children’s jewelry for me, and I prefer not to show their faces. They are sprinkled through the archives holding up peace and love signs with their backs to the camera. These chip bracelets don’t look like much lying on their own in a picture, but stacked on the arms of my children, they are practically irresistible. When you have a great product but it’s hard to do it justice on its own in a photograph, get a model! In a crowded marketplace, models grab the viewer’s attention before a lifeless product photograph does.

Creation Shots

DO: Show your hands creating.

I loved having this shot in my shop listings when I was making gemstone trees. There’s something interesting about the stones and being able to see the hands working. Where can you incorporate photos of you actually making your product? People will love to see them.

A message within

DO: Incorporate the message.

This is probably my best-selling, most viewed listing. I created this Sunstone appreciation bracelet when I reached 1,000 sales through my Etsy shop, and I think it radiates the gratitude I feel for my customers. I made a lot of these, so I took special care when photographing to make sure I was going to have 5 excellent pictures. The words grabbed people’s attention and drew them to the listing. I could have typed the words or printed them very neatly, as I’ve tried different variations in my listings. The handwritten “Thank You” was the best performer.

Currently, I try to keep things simple, clean, and bright:

Love a photo that sells the bracelet for me

DO: Love the money shot.

My jewelry looks best when I shoot on a clean background, outdoors in natural light. Keep it simple and you’ll know when you’ve achieved the perfect look for your product. Wishing you the money shot and all the best! Until next time.

Original post: by Lisa Jacobs

  

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36 comments

  1. This is a wonderful article. Thank you for the very specific Dos and Don’ts. Product photography is my biggest challenge – both in photographing my products and in shop consistency. Some I’m happy with and others I know I need to do more. It’s particularly challenging to photograph large things, like my T Shirt quilts. I’d love any advice!

  2. This is a wonderful article. I have done the same rookie mistakes with my own photography. I have a different product, pottery, but the main concepts are the same.

    thanks,

    Karen

  3. Great article, and some really useful tips. It’s also nice to see how your photos have ‘evolved’ over time. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Thanks for the advice, I have been taking photos of my jewellery for just under a year now and I have seen a dramatic difference in my product photos over time. I think I have been through most of the stages that you have lol. I quite like my photos now but I know I will continue to change and develop them. :) Great post! I enjoyed reading it and have learned from it!

  5. This is excellent advice and funny timing as well! I was doing and thinking the same things while looking at my feedback yesterday. The pictures on page 1 are horrendous compared to what’s up now!

    Pg 11: OUCH! ( http://www.etsy.com/shop/lovelandshadetree/sold?page=11 )

    Pg 1: Not tooooo shabby, right? ( http://www.etsy.com/shop/lovelandshadetree/sold?page=1 )

  6. Ahhh, all photographers differ don’t they? I do not believe you need a DSLR to make great photographs, and the number of pixels your camera claims is almost a moot point. It is the photographer, not the camera! I use a pretty old point and shoot and the most important tool on it is the macro and super macro setting (all PAS cameras allow you to adjust the aperture and shutter speed.) That being said, I disagree with two points here. 1- Shooting in bright, direct sunlight is extremely problematic. Wait for an overcast day where the light is naturally diffused and shadows are minimal. Also time of day is extremely important. Light is cooler in the morning, warmer after noon. You can’t see it, but your camera can! Thank the gods for Photoshop. And 2- Perhaps it is just me, but if I see a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry on a model and fingers in all their detail, I am totally grossed out. I have seen some otherwise great product photographs but the hand, skin, etc is too…organic (?) It would have to be clear that this is part of a line of jewelry or clothing, but then that takes away some of the specialness of ooak handmade, doesn’t it? Just my two bits. All I can say is that this article is not the last word on product photography. Good ideas, though!

    • Yes, all photography is different! Next time, link your shop so we can learn from yours! I’m still perfecting my product photography, like I said, I hope today’s photographs look totally outdated in another two years–you had some interesting points. All the best!

  7. Wonderful article with some great tips… Thank you!!

  8. Oh my God, you should have seen my first photographs! The backgrounds were so busy, it looked like I was trying to sell tapestries! I certainly have evolved, and still am, and actually have it on my To Do list next week to re-take more pictures. (I think that will never get crossed off the list; it seems to be a perpetual “To Do”!)

    What is interesting to me though, is it seems almost every article I read about jewelry photography, here being the exception, says to always have a white background. I disagree. My backgrounds have almost been what has branded me and my line, with a dark background. I’ve just recently begun to add small shale pieces as props, and I think my backgrounds are really great. I get feedback saying as such. I do struggle with the pictures still, but I really like the outcome.

    I also don’t use models, since everything (with a few exceptions) are one of a kind pieces. I completely agree with Ribasus above me; I can’t stand the thought of a one-of piece being worn and modeled by another person. Just gross. A necklace or bracelet, maybe. Earrings? Absolutely not! I understand the use of models, but I incorporate customer pictures on my FB page and leave it at that.

    So nice to see we’re all in the same boat! Great article!

  9. I read your article today and thought I’d give another try to the outside natural light suggestion. I took out a card table with a white sheet for a cover. It was just after midday. The sun cast such a harsh shadow directly behind my item there was no way that would have made a good photo. My items are not low and flat like your jewelry pieces. There are always large shadows. No matter where I stand to take the shot, it seems my shadow is cast right over the item. I guess I’ll have to stick to my photo cube for now. Thanks for the article. Your photos do look great!

  10. I really enjoyed & appreciate this article. Thanks!

  11. What a fabulous article.
    Such a good way to show what you mean through your own journey. I absorbed much more than if you had just said do it like this.

  12. Great, great, great post! I’m on my third set of photos now. I don’t even want to talk about how embarrassing those first photos were.

    I’ve made that rookie mistake of busy backgrounds in the products I have now- do you think I should change all existing photos or just start implementing new products and changing old photos slowly and as necessary?

  13. This article was extremely helpful! I’m going to attempt some new product photos today and I’m so happy to have found these tips.

  14. I am so happy that I came across this today! Just learning about how to properly size the photos was a life saver. I reshot everything in my shop (luckily I am down to 8 things right now) and added a book and flower to accessorize the look a bit and warm it up. I figured that since I was selling lamps, it would be okay to put things around it as we would on an end table and such. I think it all turned out great!

    Thank you so much!

    Adam

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/ShabbyLamps

  15. I just love your article! It really gave me good advice! Thank you for sharing! :)

  16. Great article with excellent examples. I can look back at my photos from 2009 when I first opened my shop and see such a difference. I have a new camera and have yet to explore all the possibilities. I’m still learning, and it’s good to see you are too. Thank you for sharing, Lisa!!

  17. I have been using a Sony point and shoot and couldn’t understand why a camera that usually takes such good pictures can totally crap out on me in some of my Etsy photos. I will definitely be saving some money and watching the sales for a good DSLR camera..(with a 50 mm lens, of course!)

  18. How do you photograph something with a shiny cover, for example, mylar. I can’t seem to get rid of the reflection.

  19. I look at my early photos and wonder how I ever sold anything!!

  20. Yeah, just opened my shop and my pictures are not too hot. I have a nice DSLR camera, but lighting in my house is an issue. Thanks for the tip to photograph outside! Would have thought it’d be TOO bright.

    https://www.etsy.com/shop/LittlePeekABoutique?ref=hdr_shop_menu

    Pretty bad right?

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