Sunday , 20 June 2021
Are YOU Making These 10 Common Product Photography Mistakes and Losing Sales?

Are YOU Making These 10 Common Product Photography Mistakes and Losing Sales?

Are YOU Making These 10 Common Product Photography Mistakes and Losing Sales?

Taking truly stellar product photos really is absolutely vital to having a successful online handmade business.

It’s something many of us struggle with, because we’re not photographers… we’re knitters, or jewelers, or artists.

The product photography learning curve can be a steep one, and it can take us many years until we reach a point where we’re truly happy with our photos.

We all photograph different things, and we have different aesthetics for our photos that mesh with our brand.

However, no matter what our style or aesthetic, there are a number of common mistakes that I see people make with their product photos that prevent them from truly standing out from the crowd.

 Are you making any of these 10 mistakes with your photos?

1. Poor lighting

Is your lighting letting you down? Maybe it’s too flat and dull – or, conversely – too harsh and contrasty. Make sure to use natural light wherever possible, and if you do have to use artificial light, make sure it’s white light, not yellow.

2. Color cast

Are you getting strange colors washing in from a window or a light? I’ve had this problem before when photographing my silver jewellery – sometimes it can end up with a golden cast if the lighting isn’t right, and I have to re-take all my photos.

3. Item too small in the image

This can be tricky to gauge when we’re editing our photos full-screen. We think we’ve cropped them enough… but then when we upload them and look at them at thumbnail size, we realize our product isn’t ‘big enough’ in the picture. Make sure that the product a large portion of the image – especially the main image. Secondary images can be pulled back to show more.

4. Not representative of the product

Strange angles, over-editing, and shots that don’t show the whole product can cause the photo to end up producing a skewed representation of the product. You must make sure colors are accurate and the scale understandable. Remember, these photos, while needing to be awesome, also need to be honest. You don’t want a disgruntled customer who ends up complaining that the colors in the real thing were vastly different to the photos of it. We often cause this issue when we edit, which brings me to the next point…

5. Under or Overexposed

If you have good lighting to start with, this problem shouldn’t end up happening… unless you go too far in your image editing. Don’t brighten up your image so much that there’s no detail in the highlights!

6. Models with bad poses or poor expressions

Digital cameras our our friend when it comes to photographing models – take as MANY shots as you can to ensure you end up with flattering ones. Your model should look natural and comfortable, not awkward or pulling a strange face.

7. Distracting backdrop

Make sure the backdrop does not compete with the subject. Sometimes people get a bit carried away with their styling, and the props end up obscuring the actual product. Or, they use a ‘busy’ background that does the same thing. Remember – your product needs to be the star of the shot. Any props or styling should subtly enhance it, not confuse the customer as to what is actually for sale.

8. Grainy images

If your lighting isn’t sufficient, you’ll end up with grainy images. Often, you can’t tell until you get your photo onto the computer and full-screen. And then… you have to take them all over again. Light is a photographers best friend, so make sure you have enough!

9. Dirty products

Dust is everywhere. Again, often you can’t see it until you’ve blown up the images… but once you see it you can’t un-see it, and editing often makes it more obvious. Make sure to clean before a photo shoot so that any dust is removed, because no-one wants to buy something that looks dirty and icky in it’s product photos. Same goes for the background.

10. Strong hard shadows

You need to avoid strong shadows that distract from the subject of the photo. Sometimes shadows can be used to effect, but most of the time they just end up making the image look harsh and uninviting. Of course, the worst possible thing you can do that results in hard shadows is to use a flash with your product photos. Don’t ever use flash, unless you have a whiz-bang professional setup that has multiple fill flashes… but I’m guessing 99.8% of you don’t.


Case Study

Now, it’s time for a little practice! Have a close look at the following product photos, and see if you can spot any of the mistakes listed above. I’ve numbered the images for easy reference.

These are all actually my old, old (read – terrible) product photos from when I was *just* starting out back in 2008. You can see I’ve come a loooong way since then!


Tell us what you see in the comments….

Do you want to learn how to take truly stellar product photos? Then you need the Create & Thrive Guide to Product Photography, written by professional photographer Jeffrey Opp. It’s a plain-English, easy-to-understand guide for the beginning to intermediate product photographer. You can also grab a FREE copy of Jeffrey’s step-by-step guide to crafting your own ‘studio-in-a-box’ by subscribing to the Create & Thrive email updates

productThis is a guest post by Jess Van Den, the maker of Epheriell jewellery & the founder and editor of Create & Thrive, the site where you can learn how to turn your handmade hobby into a thriving business from those who’ve done so.

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  1. Thank you for this post! I’ve struggled with product photography, particularly getting an item’s true color to show in the photograph. The solution seems to be to photograph outdoors in more natural light. Finding a model is another great suggestion; I’d never considered that! I usually just photograph the items on my desk.

  2. I use a white canvas as my backdrop when taking pictures of products.

  3. Could you take a look at my photos? thank you very much.
    I feel pretty confident when taking them but I am open to
    your thoughts.


  4. Nearly all of these photos look out of focus to me. #1 has a blue color cast. #2 has a distracting background and doesn’t show the interesting wirework at all. #3 has a beautiful background but its color competes with the product color. #4 is off center. #5 has is very bright along the top of the image and very dark along the bottom. #6 has the earwires at different angles but isn’t too bad otherwise. #7 has very hard shadows.

  5. Here’s what I saw.
    1 – Coloring looks faded
    2 and 3 – Busy background takes away from the image
    4 – out of focus and is not centered on model
    5 – Lighting is odd (but omg I’d still so buy those!)
    6 – This was tough – a bit out of focus and there’s a smudge on the right earring?
    7 – Overexposed

    It helps me when someone else looks at my photos, sometimes I miss the most obvious things.

  6. It would have been a better article if you actually pointed out the problems with ea. pic.

    Most of us don’t have time to play games to see the mistakes in ea. shot, if we have an online business we are trying to keep running.

    Helpful info, no doubt; but I think specific examples of what is wrong would have been more effective.

    Thanks for the article

  7. I’m assuming that #6 is on a white background. I see what you mean about the silver having a golden hue on it. Would you just fix the white balance in editing or scrap it and retake the picture?

    • April – it all depends on whether you can fix it or not. Sometimes you can… but if you can’t fix it to the point it looks natural, I always re-take.

  8. This is a very interesting and helpful article; thanks! But I’m not sure which photos are the old and new. The article says

    “These are all actually my old, old (read – terrible) product photos from when I was *just* starting out back in 2008. You can see I’ve come a loooong way since then!”

    Which ones are the new ones? The last two ending with the earrings on concrete? I really can’t tell. HELP please… CT

    • Sorry! When I say ‘new’ I’m referring to the ones currently in my Epheriell shop (which aren’t here) :D The ones on this post are ALL old.

  9. Ah, I am guessing that ALL of the photos have problems with them, as none of them look good to me. Sara Jordan gave an excellent, numbered rundown. Where are “good” photographs that we can compare with?

  10. Since I work with textiles I struggle with getting the beautiful textures and 3D appearance to show. I take 99% of my photos outside in my garden. My neighbors keep cutting trees which plays havoc with my lighting. Overcast days don’t really work for me like many suggest. I find early morning in bright shade creates the greatest photos.

  11. Pretty good tips. You left one out: no flash without bounce! The flash, especially used in dim light with no bounce is making the product look poor and ugly because the flash reflects on the product and it’s distracting the attention from the form to that shiny spot where the flash is reflected.
    Natural light works best, a single focus point if you have a dSLR and you’re photographing a pair of earrings, for example.
    And most of it all: be creative.

  12. i hope you are coming back and telling us what exactly is wrong with these photo’s cuz some of us (ME) are clueless!

  13. I think my photos are decent but not stunning…….Wish I knew how to go to the next level

  14. The photos don’t ping off the page, I use fotofuze in the winter when the light is poor. I take my pictures and then use Fotofuze (which is a free online app) which clears a white backdrop of imperfections and really lifts pictures. I also just take my own pictures using an un-fussy backdrop, normally wood as this is natural and suits my products.

  15. Wow, that is a big difference. My pictures are evolving as well — better now than in the beginning. I still struggle and I still have some of the original pictures up — I call them “Early Audreys”

  16. Taking good images is the difference between making the sale and almost making the sale – if you rely on old stale images you will notice your sales shrink to a dribble – I always advise refreshing your images every year at least – even with your bestsellers.

  17. This is a great post and wonderful reminders!! Sharing… because I know others will appreciate the suggestions.

  18. Thank you for all of the advice, I am really struggling with my photos at the moment!

  19. I would like to take a shot at criticizing your “old, Old” photos, heehe!

    Photo 1: Too much brightening, maybe a bad angle (?)
    Photo 2: Bad angle (looks like they are connected), a bit blurry.
    Photo 3: My favorite of all but too much shadow, probably doesn’t show true color.
    Photo 4: Too blurry, but I actually like the flash on this but if you zoomed out a bit it might have been more flattering.
    Photo 5: Too much brightening along with too much shadowing, probably not the true color of glass.
    Photo 6: weird angle, bit blurry, a bit on the bright side.
    Photo 7: Too much flash/light, not true color of earrings.

    Well, I hope I got some right. Thanks for sharing these tips!

    - Brittany
    Dirty Hempies

  20. what seems to be my biggest problem is that the walls inside AND out are painted the same disgusting mustard yellow! I’m thinking this is a part of my problem, but we’re renting for now. If I adjust my camera settings and use window light I’m fine, but once I lose my light ANY artificial lighting seems to yellow or make my shots look dingy. I’ve tried a lightbox but my disability makes it near impossible to use. Do you think it’s the walls? Or am I missing something… Help me please this is why I haven’t launched my shop yet.

  21. This is so true! Poor photography, especially in such an image-based culture, can completely ruin confidence in a product and a designer…which is unfortunate as the product itself might be wonderful and the designer very talented. The details are so incredibly important.

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