I love photography. Even though I’m not a professional photographer by any stretch, and I couldn’t really define “aperture” for you, I’m constantly looking for ways to take better product pictures for my Etsy shop, blogs, and, of course, Pinterest.
If you’re selling anything online, then getting great product photography is probably always on your to-do list. Here are a few quick tips I’ve learned over the last few years by trial-and-error and countless thousands of pictures taken.
Lighting is the number one key to great shots. I have a few spots in my house where I take most of my pictures and I know exactly what times of day will yield the best results thanks to natural lighting. You’d be surprised how much difference thirty minutes on the clock can make.
Experiment with different spots in your house near windows or doors. Look for places that get light from more than one direction but aren’t too bright. Outside usually doesn’t work for me because it’s too bright and there are shadows. Shadows are not your friend.
My need for perfect lighting has recently been greatly reduced by using a mirrorless digital camera with a bright lens. If you’re in the market for a new camera try a digital single lense mirrorless (DSLM).
Close-Up Is Good
One of the most important things to remember when taking pictures for online sales is that your picture should answer the buyer’s questions. Think about what you do when you’re about to buy something in “real life” and try and provide for that experience through pictures.
The first thing most people do before they lay down their hard-earned money is to look closely. Jewelry and other small items are usually picked-up and looked at up-close. So make sure that some of your pictures are both close-in and high resolution to allow for zooming.
Be careful not to make the common mistake of resizing your pictures so much before uploading them that they are no longer “zoomable”. Try to upload a large enough size so that the image can fill your computer monitor, but not so big that it takes a lifetime to download. (approx 1000×1000 pixels is a good rule-of-thumb)
If you’re selling online, you always have the opportunity to offer your customers more than one picture of each item. My advice is to provide as many pictures as you can so your customer can spend as much time as possible with eyes on your product. The longer they look, the better your chances of getting the sale.
One of the best ways to both “answer the customer’s questions” and keep them looking at your items longer is by providing shots from multiple perspectives. An upward angle, a little to the left, now move to the right an tilt slightly back, work-it, own-it, yeah baby! Got the idea?
Mind The Background
Backgrounds are important for two totally distinct reasons.
First, the background is key to making the picture look nice while simultaneously putting all the visual attention on your product, not on the background.
Second, and possibly more importantly in some settings (such as on Etsy), the background is a very important part of what your shop will look like and, by extension, what the Etsy browse pages and home page will look like.
The better your background, the better your chances of getting your items featured and the more likely people who find your shop are going to browse a bit. Think of it as the walls, ceiling and flooring in your “real world” shop. It should look good and feel good but not take the focus from your “stuff”!
Use Models or Real Life Examples
If you can, show pictures of your product in action. If you sell something wearable, that means a model or at least a mannequin. If you sell something in the home-decor market then you would want to show some pictures of only your item, then other pictures showing your item in a real-life actual use setting.
I’ve sold lots of jewelry without following this rule, so it’s possible to succeed without models, but I know from watching other sellers that models absolutely make a difference. You can also try the “self-portrait” version of modeling, as in the picture above.
The main goal is to bring your products to life by showing them in their natural environment.
Every Bad Picture is A Step Forward
Each of these tips represents a “problem” to solve, right? How do I get better lighting? Where am I going to find a model? I really need a new camera…
Never give up! First of all realize that you’re never going to be fully satisfied. The better your pictures get, the better you’ll want them to be. Also try to keep in mind that every time you take a bad shot it’s just one more step forward in your journey toward knowing what works, and what doesn’t.
It reminds me of that Thomas Edison quote: “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”
Keep working it and eventually you’ll have the best product pictures on the Internet! Woot.
This post is part of BlogHer’s Pro Photo Tips editorial series, made possible by Panasonic.