16 Nov 09

The Anatomy of a Great Product Shot

Imagine walking into a store and the lights are off. Everything is dark and you can barely see anything around you. How would you find what you want? How about a similar scenario in an online store? What if you went to a website to purchase items and the photos were too dark or confusing? Would you purchase something if you couldn’t really see it?

Product shots are a crucial part of online craft selling. Since buyers are unable to see our crafted items in person to experience them fully – holding them, feeling them, smelling them, and so on – it is our job to try to communicate these important aspects in visual terms. Although the task of taking product shots can seem quite daunting, it’s important to remember that with practice and perseverance, we can surprise ourselves with great results and earn more business.

The quality of some craft product shots might lead us to believe that fancy equipment was used, or that a trained professional was behind the camera. Usually this is not the case. Often, the person taking the photo is just like us, without an impressive degree or years of product photography experience. Often, they use a simple camera. So what supplies are needed for a great product shot? The only supplies you really need are a basic digital camera, a simple background, and some natural light. Sounds simple enough but, as we’ve discussed, seeing is believing. Here are six elements of a great product shot.

1. Camera Mode

Your camera should be in automatic mode. The macro setting (represented by a flower icon on most cameras) helps to capture details such as that of the silver earring hook seen here.

2. Lighting/Flash

Natural lighting (which does not require a flash) works best, as artificial lighting can create a yellowing effect and a flash can create a harsh look. A window is a great place to get natural light. Try to avoid windows where direct sunlight is present.

3. Camera Angle

Angling the camera in different directions will produce different photographic results. Initially, it would be best to practice taking photos of your products head on (as in this photo). Once you feel comfortable with that, you can experiment with other angles and directions.

4. Background

White is definitely an all-purpose background color. In this case, I used a white mug, but you could use paper, a wall, a table, or tiles. The main point is to use a background color that enhances the beauty of the product, rather than one that overwhelms it. Soft, mellow shades of most colors work effectively for this purpose.

5. Props

Props can be a fun way to accentuate a product by enhancing its appearance. In this case, the colored pencils are used to bring out the creative design of the earrings. If you’re going to use props for interesting effects, try to think in terms of your product. Is it earthy or natural? Is it modern? Is it retro? Is it playful and fun? What sort of props could be used to demonstrate this and display your product effectively?

6. Product Function

If your product has a function potential customers will want to see that function illustrated in the images you use. In the case of the earrings, I’ve positioned them so that people can get a sense of how they look when hanging.

Keep practicing and remember to think like a customer. They want to see what makes your product special. Tell us about your product photography experiences. What lessons have you learned along the way?

Kelly Hall, who sells jewelry from her Etsy shop, and blogs about her creative and photographic adventures at the Lost Earring, caught Meylah's eye because of her super product shots. So we asked her to write about them!


Posted by: Kelly Hall

Posted in: business management , selling

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1 Lindsay commented on 11/16/2009

What a great article. Thanks for the tips.

2 Dionne_C commented on 11/16/2009

Great advice, Kelly! It’‘s so true. A picture tells 1000 words. Picture quality is soooo important!

3 Jenni commented on 11/16/2009

Awesome article! Thank you for sharing such great tips; off to go improve some of my photos!

4 dale commented on 11/16/2009

Your photos really are the best. Thank you, so much, for sharing your know-how with the rest of us.

5 Kelly commented on 11/16/2009

Glad to hear the article is helpful to all of you. Please feel free to ask specific questions here. I’‘ll be around to help if I can :)

6 31everything commented on 11/17/2009

Wonderful! Helpful info :) Thanks for sharing.

7 Jane commented on 11/17/2009

Some great tips here – thanks for this.

8 Jason commented on 11/19/2009

This article is fantastic Kelly! I’‘ll be sure and use your tips on my next product shots.

9 Erin commented on 11/20/2009

Gorgeous photo! And some great tips!

10 Erin commented on 11/20/2009

Gorgeous photo and great tips!

11 Alex commented on 01/17/2010

GREAT info!!! This couldn’t have come at a better time for me :) Thank you, thank you!

12 Deborah commented on 04/23/2010

Great article as always. The photos of my fused glass jewelry are so not working. I have not even been able to post them online yet. I am going to try again today using your tips. I so appreciate your tips, I look forward to your newsletter every day and never delete any of them. There are so many wonderful tips in everyone of them and I often go back to reread something from past newsletters. Thank you so much for taking the time to help others.
Stuff From the Bunker Art Studio

13 Courtney commented on 04/23/2010

Deborah – you should look at Marja’s fused glass from Glass Elements, http://bit.ly/4s1nd5 her photography is amazing, I promise it will inspire you and help alleviate any of your frustrations! :)

14 Jack commented on 05/07/2010

It’s very hard to take pictures of silver. Usually, for us, we get too much of a reflection. Good job.

15 Deborah commented on 05/11/2010

Thanks Courtney I will check it out.

16 Meg commented on 10/25/2010

You have some fantastic tips and suggestions here, but I'm a rather surprised at number 1:

"1. Camera Mode. Your camera should be in automatic mode."

Wait...wha?! Are you sure you don't mean "manual"? I'm not a professional photographer, but in my experience, and from every other piece of photo advice I've seen or heard, using your camera in automatic mode is just as taboo as using a flash as the only source of light. The automatic mode offers very little control over your photos, and good photos come from allowing yourself as much control over your camera settings as possible, i.e. setting your shutter speed/exposure, aperture, white balance...even focus, when possible. Just as a good pilot will have mastered the manual controls of his aircraft, a good photographer will have mastered the manual controls of her camera.

17 Jenna commented on 10/26/2010

Great article! I'll pass this along to my niece who just opened an online shop :)

Meg--I'm pretty sure she's addressing the average, beginner crowd. Most consumer cameras make it nearly impossible to fully and efficiently utilize all of those settings you mentioned. For example, you have to dig through screen after screen simply to adjust the aperture. Imagine the frustration involved--it could be quite daunting for people just starting out. For most, using the automatic setting is the simplest (most straightforward) place to begin. This is after all an article on getting started with the basics--not mastering advanced photography.

18 Pyromancer commented on 01/18/2011

I think these simple directions are a great place to start. I think one thing we often forget as crafters is that people want to see the item in action. I am thinking about getting a model to showcase some of my jewelry for a new set of shots. I wouldn't buy a necklace unless I could see where it would hang or how big it really is.

19 Donna commented on 07/03/2012

Love this article. I usually don't comment but in this case I say "I'm glad I did!! D.Journey

20 Nikki - Mom Product Reviews commented on 11/04/2012

Thank you for sharing! I do a lot of product photo shots for various articles on my blog, product reviews, and my etsy shop and these really are the biggest things to remember. The photo can make a big difference in the customer/viewer's interest.

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