10 Tips for Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy (or Anywhere!)

Updated on April 12, 2018
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This article is written by Ioana Grecu, a professional writer and photographer at Dreamstime.

Ever since you can remember you liked creating things with your hands. As a child, your dolls had handmade clothes and beautiful jewelry made from bits and pieces you’d find around the house. Or maybe you made little houses out of the most unlikely materials. In one word you were creative and now this creativeness is your way of earning extra cash, or maybe it’s even becoming your normal day job.

Online e-commerce website Etsy focuses on giving people with creative minds and hands, such as yourself, a space to present and sell their arts and crafts, and the best way to a buyer’s heart (and wallet) is to make sure your products are as appealing as possible.

When in an online store the best way you can achieve this is to have good clean images and outstanding descriptions.

Because descriptions are your thing and you know best how to present your product in words I will help you with creating the best, most appealing images.

Added bonus: These photography tips don't just work for Etsy, but any online store you might operate!

1. Remember the Products You’re Selling

Depending on what you handcraft you will choose your backgrounds, your static props or models and your lighting. Always keep in mind that what works for a clothing store will not work for a jewelry one and vice versa. So, before you start doing anything, think about what works best for your craft and always emphasize the subject

2. Choose Good Props

You might have seen those great images with antique wooden panels on which rests a beautiful handbag, or crushed velvet enveloping a sparkly necklace, dreamy afternoon light flowing around a bohemian woman wearing a long summer dress resting by a vintage bicycle or maybe sitting in a old dusty attic with a filtered ray of sunlight coming through.

They are all made starting with good props, so don’t be afraid to go digging in your backyard, your attic, the thrift store, the car cemetery. Experiment with combinations until you feel that your product is emphasized by the background and not the other way around. Make sure the props don’t become overwhelming and steal the eyes away from what you are actually trying to sell.

Image © Andrey Armyagov
Image © Andrey Armyagov

3. Good Aesthetics

Sometimes the best way to sell something is by showing it being worn by someone or adorning the ears, neck, fingers and wrists of a person. Your chosen model doesn’t have to be a supermodel, he or she just need to fit a few criteria. For example, if you will shoot their hands their nails and skin should look good. A simple manicure is preferred to an elaborate one as simplicity doesn’t divert the eye from the actual product. The skin can be repaired with a bit of hand cream and try to disguise imperfection with a little makeup to avoid having to learn Photoshop to post process your images.

If you’ll shoot earrings, make sure the ears are clean and that the model has an updo to show off the earring. If you’re shooting necklaces, make sure the skin on the neck looks good.

If you will shoot clothing the way the model is made up also should be understated and in tone with the clothes you’re creating the images for.

Image © Oleg Gekman
Image © Oleg Gekman

Your objects must be sparkling clean, anything with a glass must be devoid of scuff marks, fingerprint or dust particles. Jewelry, unless made too look antique has to be cleaned and have a sheen. Leather products should be well buffed as well, and clothing pressed and brushed. Your cat’s hair does not belong on the beautiful velvet skirt you’re trying to sell.

4. Good Lighting

This one will be harder to get, at least in the beginning. If you don’t have a professional lighting setup (in which case, there isn’t much I can teach you) and don’t wish to invest in one right now you can experiment with lamps that emit natural looking light (white light bulbs) and with the sunlight (but avoid direct sunlight for still subjects as it can harshen the shadows too much). You can even use Christmas lights if they fit your project. Never use the camera’s or phone’s flash as the only source of light in your images as they will end up looking washed out and shadows will be too dark. Do use the flash as a fill in light in full sunshine.

Sunlight filtered through a curtain can give interesting shades and shadows. Improvise a light reflector with a bit of aluminum foil and a piece of cardboard to indirectly light parts of your subject and fill in harsher shadows.

Image © Diana Eller
Image © Diana Eller

5. Good Composition

Besides good lighting, the other big key to a beautiful image is good composition. You don’t need to go to art school to learn the golden rule for example (not placing the subject dead center), but you also need to remember that rules are made to be broken so always photograph the same scene in multiple compositions and orientations so that you can choose the best one to present to your potential clients.

6. Multiple Angles

Some products will only need one image to say it all while most of them will need at least two, but three, four or more is advisable. Buyers want a detailed look before buying anything and showing them as many angles and as much details as possible is a good idea. Show the craftsmanship in your product by shooting close-ups and macros. Be patient with the angles and shoot multiple images to have a good choice of imagery.

7. Show the Size of Your Product

For some products this is a no-brainer, but nobody wants to walk around in a too short skirt, wearing a too small watch and so on. So be sure to show the size of your products in your images either by comparison or mentioning the dimensions. This way you will avoid disgruntled customers.

Image © Pavel Losevsky
Image © Pavel Losevsky

8. The Camera

If you own one, that’s great, but even if you don’t ,your smartphone will certainly do the trick. If you do own a camera play around in manual mode and avoid the completely automatic settings (when possible). If you only own a smartphone, then install a good photography app that allows you to have some control over exposure and focus.

For iPhone I wholeheartedly recommend Camera+, it will let you shoot with manual commands and even does raw files for a better control over the image.

For Android, Camera MX is one of the oldest and most popular apps with a wide range of features including making your own GIF from your photos. Camera FV-5 is another photo app that emulates a lot of the features found in DSLR cameras.

Spend time learning a bit about exposure, focus and composition and you’re good to go.

9. The Filters

Once upon a time we advised photographers to filter their images as little as possible but oh, how times have changed. So, filter away, but make sure you don’t take away from the actual colors and meaning of your images. After all, you’re selling a product and not an image, but then again, the image sells the product.

10. The End Result

Now that you have your finished images it’s time to get them online in an orderly fashion. They should tell the story of your product in the way you wanted to tell it but never had the proper words to do it.

Remember, a good combination of wit, thorough descriptions and awesome images is the path to your entrepreneurial success.

All images via Dreamstime.

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    • Deborah Minter profile image

      Deborah Minter 

      8 months ago from U.S, California

      Good tips!

    working

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