Monday, 25 July 2011

Online Selling: Product Photography Guide

Highlight Product Imagery and instantly impact online sales.

 OOAK set of two 

As the volume of online shopping increases - so does the need to stand out.  I think good photographs can be the key and fastest way to unlocking sales when you are an independent creator - people need to be able to see that you have a super-duper product.  I wanted to share some tips that I have learned along the way, which has helped with the success I have had selling online so far, and in spreading interest in my work through Etsy blog and craft/ lifestyle blogs, retailers and editorial prospectors (and a few immitators too!) 

I hope you will find these points useful in applying it to your online product photography.
NB This is not a technical guide - I am a self-taught photographer with an artists eye and swear-by only using natural lighting along with a digital SLR camera.  It is more about describing and engaging through image - "a picture is worth a thousand words" as the adage goes.   Please feel free to leave your comments and any links to useful sites you have found.  Here is my product photography in 5 shots.

Shot 1 - Love every stitch and knot

Also called the macro - extreme close up shots need decent bright sunlight and a steady or fast hand.  Nobody knows your product and what goes into making it better than you do, so show off the details.  As a buyer, I love a well angled close up shot.

You can always see the love through an image and I am obsessed with our pillows.  I started out taking about 500+ shots for every cushion and sifting through and fine tuning the editing would take ages.  Thankfully, now I have this down with a 5 shot method.

Shot 2 - Signature shots

This may sound abit David Bailey, but it just means play and develop a style - this becomes recognised as part of your USP (Unique Selling Point) and buyer experience.  It simplifies the process too by giving you defined shots you must take, but also means that you fine tune getting those shots right in as few a snaps as possible.  The simplest thing can be the most perfect thing, if it is executed well.  The photo at the very top of this post, was a seminal moment (hold off on the Stendhal syndrome) I mean it sincerely  - it made me realise the power of capturing desirability for a simple thing as a pillow - at the same time as making me think how crisp and sharp that cotton corner looks.

Shot 3 - Be Brave with an idea

Every editorial is based on an idea and the Nomad Trio was what came out of marrying an aesthetic idea with my pillows for a photo.  Whether Man Ray monochromatic or David LaChapelle pop-kitsch, or Avedon monumental - it says something about your vision.  I find light play or shadow casting an inexpensive, creative and atmospheric technique of drawing in the viewer, even though shadows are usually frowned on in product photography.

These photos married the idea of the Moroccan slipper with our little Boho bags - here, finding the right angles to shoot from were key, these were picked up by Living Etc India.

Shot 3 - Don't be Etsy front page obsessed 

A common how-to I see is "Etsy friendly photography".  Better to take photos that you think best show off your product and the rest will follow - so Confucius say.  And the above image of our bright and bold pillows (not exactly Etsy FP) was what got me found by a lovely Etsy blogger who featured us as part of her home decor post on Etsy, which drove lots of relevant traffic to us.   I'm not saying it wouldn't still be nice one day to be on the front page as we go our merry way......(update - I made the Front page just before Christmas and sold out of the Teal Peacock pillow which was featured).

Shots 4 & 5 - Full Frontal

Not as rude as it suggests - it simply means a crisp clear shot of the front (and back if this is relevant).  Or for us, sometimes this would be a zip shot - how tantalising : )

Mostly relax, have fun and play! And thanks for reading!  For photography service ideal for the on-line environment, please contact

NB  This "guide writing" job is much harder than it looks, kudos to those who do it well.  I am off to have a cuppa and read this: Groupon Therapy

And Not all prodcut shoots have to be boring shoot


  1. I love all the bright colors. You do great work.

    I am now following you! Found you thru the Etsy Blog team. You can view my blog at:

  2. what great tips! I hope you don't mind my linking to it on Facebook but I think this is very useful information--thanks for putting it all together so nicely!

  3. thanks for the tips. always trying to improve. i have a long way to go with product shots. i find it easy to take shots outside in natural light, not always what works for product placement though, etsy or elsewhere. not often that you see a framed picture just hanging outside on the grass. know what i mean?

  4. You take beautiful pictures! And your items are just as lovely. Thanks for the tips!

  5. You do take great photos. I am impressed that they are with just a regular camera.

  6. Thank you for the comments. I use a digital SLR and my iphone. The images of the stack of pillows picked up by Etsy and the Nomad Trio were both on my iphone.

    I was inspired by some of my friends who are film grads, needing to shoot cheaply without any lighting apparatus, they create great mood in short films simply using daylight (and even at night)and the video function on a digital photography camera - it shows great resourcefulness and creativity which can be more important than the best equipment in the world sometimes.

  7. Thanks for the insights, I too still struggle with my photos and probably average a few hundred with some of my items. I love your pillows as well as the backgrounds....

  8. Working on this area too and thanks for the useful tips!

  9. Thanks for the tips, reading was difficult because my eyes were so drawn to your designs, colors and patterns. Wow, just stunning.

  10. Great write up, inspiration to us all at Handmade UK (Follow you!). Thanks!

  11. Awesome blog! thanks for sharing beautiful pics here!

    Product Templates

  12. Some cool comments from the Etsy Forums:

    "Marked. Thanks for this. I really need it, I was told last week that my photos are crap and I need to invest in a good camera. Just can't afford a DSLR at the moment.

    This advice is great. I need all the help I can get with photography as I don't have a clue. Thanks. " by

    "I love shot three tip...Shot 3 - Don't be Etsy front page obsessed! I used to be and now have given up hope and concentrate on the photo that will sell the item! Great tips. " by

    "Thanks for this advice! It's nice to get some perspective on taking good photos beyond the purely technical aspects." by

  13. A few more comments from the Etsy Forums:

    "Sisterbatik, your photos are just gorgeous! I just love all of the texture and angles in each shot. :) " by

    "Really, really helpful, thanks! Gorgeous pillows! " by

    "Thanks for writing and posting your photography tips. I got a lot out of reading them. You're a really good writer, too!
    I really liked what you said about not being front-page obessed. My work, like yours, is all about bright, bold, saturated color and whoever chooses treasuries for the FP does not seem to have much love of color. We shouldn't forget to use our own taste and our own judgment regarding our product photos. The etsy experts recommend white backgrounds for everything. I tried it, didn't like it, and I'm pretty happy with my photos now altho I'm not a great photographer and there's certainly room for improvement. Thanks a lot!" by

  14. Great tips and great photos!

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  15. Nice tips! And very axesome photos :-)

  16. Very good advice! Thanks to digital cameras, everyone is a photographer now, which results in tons of crappy photos. Paying attention to detail and working on your imagery indeed is the shortest way to standing out!

  17. Great info, thanks for sharing. It can be difficult to make photography such a priority when it doesn't come naturally, but these kind of details make it easier to understand what to do and why. If only taking photographs of my sewing was as much fun as the sewing itself!

  18. Great tips! Thanks for taking the time to put together such an informative post. Love, love, love all your pillows.
    Everyday Inspired

  19. Awesome tips! THanks for stopping by my blog.

    I'm having a giveaway, come stop by!

  20. Love this blog, keep up the great work wish you all the best.....

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