I had no real plan for how I would take my product photos for Etsy. The very first product photo I took was SO BAD. I’m sure lots of you will agree. Here it is:
Holy tunafish sandwich. At least it isn’t blurry – that is the only thing that is decent about it.
Here is a recent product photo that I took the way I outline below:
Small suggestions go a long way
Pretty early on – shortly after my first few sales – I was advised that because my work was so colorful, white backgrounds would be best and I’ve stuck with that ever since.
In the past few years I’ve realized you really do not need anything fancy to take a nice product photo. Having a nice camera doesn’t hurt, of course. But if you feel too intimidated to use it, or feel frustrated by the results so far, then it isn’t doing you any favors either.
I’ve never used a light box, a light kit, or a photo studio. There are photos in my shop, on my blogs and in my newsletters that I took with my phone and edited with free apps. In fact, besides my camera, I would say that my photo taking expenses are under $50 – and that includes paid editing software.
iphone 5, nikon d50, canon t3i
*I primarily use PicMonkey for collages, but you can edit images within PM. I use Pixelmator to edit images 90% of the time.
Pixelmator is available in the app store for $29.99. PicMonkey is $33/ year for the pro account but you can edit for free. Vsco is free and so is Aviary. There are TONS of free apps that can handle basic photo editing.
White board (I have a few in different sizes)
Any applicable props
THAT IS IT
Because my set up is so simple, you might be thinking I must be some sort of photography expert. Quite the opposite! I have no formal training in digital photography beyond a basic intro class I took in college. I have a few settings I like to use that require very little finagling for me if I am shooting in daylight which I consider a must – “mountain mode” “flower mode” and “manual” modes. See, I don’t even call them the correct thing.
A note about the board: Because my items are small, this size board works fine for me, but boards are available in many sizes at art supply stores. I use illustration board with a flat surface but there are textured options as well. You might prefer to use paper if you like texture and simply lay it on a board or table. This size board is generally under $5 but even larger ones are under $10. If you have larger items, you might consider two boards to create a corner or larger surface.
I set up my board – which measures about 12 inches by 18 inches – right near the window. Because our windows are sectioned, I sometimes have to move the board around to avoid the shadows. I used to shoot near a window with a thin white curtain pulled closed to diffuse the light a bit – bright sunlight is usually not the best, diffused works better so as to avoid long or dark shadows. This is why many times people will wait until it’s a bit overcast to take photos. Depending on the season and your home or studio’s exposure / orientation, certain times of the day might work better for you. You can try a few different locations and see what works best in your situation.
I usually shoot auto focus with manual light settings. If i’m shooting something small or wanting to get a very close detail shot, I use “flower” or “micro” setting. In the past, I’ve found that whatever “mountain” or “landscape” mode does, works pretty well in the light conditions I have, though I realize it is not specifically for this purpose.
Quick tip: on a dslr, the wheel gauge should be turned to the left for more light, and to the right for less light. If you are so inclined you are encouraged to learn all the ins and outs of your camera, but to make it clear that you don’t have to be a professional to take decent photos of your work yourself, I’m keeping it simple on the vocab.
The truth is that if you have decent natural light (not too bright, diffused a little bit) you should have a fairly easy time finding some auto setting that will work for you and need minimal edits in “post production.”
To me, it is unrealistic for the average person to have no need for post shooting edits. It takes a few minutes to edit a photo, and there are plenty of free services to do basic editing with. So, don’t feel bad if your photos look a little dark or low contrast on the camera. Most important things to get right in-camera would be sharpness and proper lighting.
All of this is to say: don’t make it harder than it needs to be! Play around with what you have and don’t feel you need to spend crazy money! I’ve written about this before, a number of years ago, much of it still holds true.
Here are some photography links + resources from Pinterest!
I hope this was helpful! Leave any questions and I’ll get back to you asap.