If you sell products online (particularly on sites like Etsy) but find that hiring a professional photographer is out of the question, read on. If you have the budget to hire a professional photographer…call me!
You’ve undoubtedly seen some bad product photography out there and it most likely left you with negative feelings. Often a bad picture can go beyond not doing justice to the item you’re selling, it can turn away potential buyers. The entire purpose of this blog is to offer some tips on product photography, specifically using a point-n-shoot camera in a studio/office. For those using dSLR cameras, all the tips and tricks apply. Every image shown in this post was created with a 3-4 year old point-n-shoot camera with limited capabilities. The only lighting used was the on-camera flash and the offices lights. Furthermore, there weren’t any reflectors, gels, or diffusers used. Also, a very special thanks to Elements Refined for allowing me to work in their studio and photograph a few of their beautiful tote bags.
What not to do in product photography
Let’s get started. In the first two images above you’ll notice that the background is a mess and no time was taken to stuff the bag to give structure or show the size. Even when using the model, the background is distracting and the pose unattractive. If you’re going to use a model, decide on some flattering positions that ‘sell’ your item! The model should be a prop, nothing more. This means that using a supermodel or “It’s Pat” (Saturday Night Live reference) are both bad ideas because they become a distraction. If the first comment people make is about the model, you’ve missed the mark.
Good example of product photography with a point-n-shoot camera
Notice the next two images above. The model is now set against a white backdrop, eliminating the distractions in the background, and the crop is tight so that the focus is on the tote bag itself. Also, her hands are relaxed, not strained. It sounds like a silly point but when hands are pulling on a strap or pushing a binder into a bag it looks really bad! Remember, keep focus on the bag and keep the pose relaxed.
The set-up for your in-home, in-studio product shoot
Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of making your own studio. Here’s what I used for this shoot:
• White foam board
• Clear sheet of plastic to sit on top of the foam board and provide a subtle reflection
• White fabric to hang against the wall
• Wood stick (seen in images below) and thread that will allow me to ‘magically’ prop the handles of the bag up and keep it from sagging
Notice the bottom left image is slightly better than the first two images at the beginning of the blog. I have my base and backdrop set-up but the bag looks saggy. To give it shape but keep it light and easy to work with, I stuffed newspaper in a plastic sack and placed the sack inside the bag. Note that you can see it though; not good. Be sure to tuck that stuffing inside, out of sight!
Look at the image to the bottom right and see how different the bag looks now. The stuffing has filled out the base and the handles are tied to the wood stick with a light-colored thread.
From bad to good; how to give your bag shape
How to set-up your bag for an interior image
What else do you notice in the top right image? If you said props, you’re right. What a difference it makes to show how the bag is used! Props are also a great way to show size. This handy tote bag not only is wide enough to hold a binder, but the side pockets can also hold a large water bottle. Never forget how powerful visual aids can be when selling products. Sure you can list the dimensions in the description, but how many people can accurately and quickly comprehend the size of the product from a bunch of numbers.
On a product like this the interior is every bit as important as the exterior, but interior shots can be difficult to say the least.
Look at the next image to your right. This shows how one handle is tied overhead to help open the space. I also placed a piece of plexiglass in the base of the bag so it would stay up. You can get very creative here. I’ve used everything from Kleenex boxes, to cooking tongs in product photography!
Now we move in tighter to show the final image below. Because it is quite deep I had to use the flash to get enough light into the bag. Unfortunately my point-n-shoot is so old that I cannot control the flash output. I knew that if I stood too close to the bag that my image would have a very washed out look to it, which is terrible for product photography. To compensate for this I simply stood farther back and used the zoom function.
Great example of photographing a bag’s interior
Again, be sure to show the interior in use. Look for objects that people can relate to like mobile phones, glasses, wallet, etc. I can’t stress this enough, especially for companies like Elements Refined that put a lot of great features in its products. Differentiating is critical when selling items, particularly online when all people have to go off of are the images you supply.
Final image, product photography with a point-n-shoot camera
Now that you’ve seen the studio set-up, let’s check out the final images:
Final Images, Ready to go on Etsy or Any Other Online Craft Site
If you have any additional questions, be sure to comment here or leave a comment on facebook and I’ll try to answer all of them. I know the process can feel overwhelming, but just take it one step and one picture at a time. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment and try various angles. Get low, get high, get close. If they don’t turn out you can always delete, no one has to know .
My final point is that you don’t need fancy cameras and editing software to get attractive images. Keep the shot simple and clean and always remember that the product is the most important!
For more of Elements Refined visit them on Etsy. You can also check out my Etsy store here.
Happy Shooting and Happy Selling!