6 Tips For Great Product Photography for Etsy Shops and Beyond

For this post, I focus on product photography using a digital SLR or other camera with manually adjustable settings. Every resource I've come across for getting the most rich, vivid and buyer-attracting photos states you really need to move beyond your phone's camera.  However, don't stop reading if you are still going to shoot with your phone - there are tips here you can use!

When I started my Etsy shop, I took product photos with my phone. Click! Using my Etsy's mobile app, I loaded the photos directly to my shop. Life could not be easier.  I never had to log into my computer, but when I finally did, I realized how crappy my products looked to anyone shopping from their computer. Help!

I own a digital SLR camera but hadn't the first clue on how to use it.  I also have Photoshop, but even though I am a tech-savvy girl, Photoshop isn't a load-and-go program.  I didn't have time for all that learning, I needed a cheat sheet for my camera and a simple editing tool so I could get better photos up. Stat!

In sewing emergencies, I call my fellow veteran sewists (my sister-in-law or my good friend Bonnie). For a photography emergency, you got it, I call my veteran photographer friend Laura from Laura Ann Photography. Now, Laura is a lifestyle photographer (capturing your kids in a pillow fight, that kind of thing), but she knows here way around a camera.

So straight from Laura, with a few lessons learned from me...

Tips for Great Product Photography


1. Use natural light.  Turn your flash off and set your item and props up near a window that has good natural light coming.  Not glaring direct sunlight. If you need help getting light onto your object, consider setting white foam boards up on either side of your object to help corral the light (see Resources below).

2. Consider your backdrop.  An ironed white sheet is a nice start.  If your item is white, choose another solid back ground {I went for a charcoal gray}. Don't be afraid of a textured background.  I frequently use an unfinished wooden hall tree to stage my photos.  The grain of the wood adds a nice texture to my photos.

3. Prop the item up. Don't lean it on the wall or backdrop, propping adds dimension.  I like to use a mason jar, filling it up to add weight so it won't slide around. I choose a mason jar size that won't show in the picture.  For clothing, consider a hook that will stand out from the back of the door or a dress form.

4. Get your camera settings configured correctly for each session. Depending on your shot location and time of day, you are going to need to change your setting to accommodate for changes in lighting (the sun's not in the same place all day long!). Bad news - you are going to read your manual to find out how to adjust these settings on your particular camera.

 Here are some of the settings we tweaked once we set the camera to Manual so we could shut off the flash:

   ISO

  • on sunny days/times = 100
  • on darker days/times set higher to let more light in

   AV+/-

  • toward +#s overexposes or brightens
  • toward -#s darkens it up

 Shutter Speed

  • Because your product won't be moving you'll can go with a lower shutter speed.  This is great because you are going to need let in more light since we aren't using the flash to avoid washing out our product.  However, you will want to use a tripod once you get below 1/60. Take a few shots a different speeds to find out what will work for today's shot.  
  • (FYI, Fast is when the bottom number of that fraction gets bigger, Slow the bottom number gets smaller)

5. Use a tripod. As a newbie, my hand wasn't so steady and if you move to another angle you may impact the amount of light coming in and therefore have to tweak your settings.  Instead, set your camera on a tripod and, if possible, reposition your product.

6. Read you camera's manual and learn more about your camera's features. I already knew the "depress the button part way to lock in your camera's focus locked in" trick.  But if you don't know any, start with your camera's manual, or at least print out some of the cheat sheets below.

Okay, this was a get-you-started, don't be afraid of your camera kind of post.  But once you pass that faze you'll want to read through some of the resources below.  Also as far as editting, I didn't learn Photoshop, I used PicMonkey.com, but that's a post for another day (hint: you need to edit at least to get the photo the right size for your shop, think pixels!).

Ready for the Master Course? Read Honey We're Home's Better Blog Photos.

Happy Shooting!!

Belinda

More Product Photography Resources:

Most of the resources here can be found on my Product and Web Photography Tips Board on Pinterest.  If you have a Pinterest account {get one it's free!}, you can just follow the board and get all the resources and any future additions in one click!

WikiHow: How to Take Better Product Photographs for Free
For Dummies: dSLR Settings & Shortcuts For Dummies
Living In The Stills: Manual Photography Cheat Sheet
The Photo Argus: Helpful Photography Cheat Sheets to Make Your Life Easier
Totally Rad: Manual Photography Quick Reference Guide
G. Juans's Simple Guide to Better Photography
How to Social Media Graphics: Facebook Photos Size Dimensions (site also has other social media specifications)
Belinda Lee Designs: 6 Tips For Taking A Good {Great!} Profile Picture
Pretty Hand Girl: Using White Foam Boards to Corral Light
Honey We're Home's Better Blog Photos.