You hear it all the time, “if you want more sales on Etsy (or Shopify or Amazon Handmade) you have to take better pictures of your products!” But what does “better” mean, anyway? Also, they give you that advice without actually telling you how to take better photos for your Etsy shop in the first place!
Well, today I’m going to share some simple hacks and ideas for creating better art and/or product photos, as well as show you some real-life examples of Etsy sellers who are nailing their photography. Let’s get to it, shall we?!
Try Using a Light Box
If your product or products are on the small side (say, smaller than your fist or maybe fists together) I would suggest investing in a light box. Which is counter to what I usually say (which is Always Use Natural Light!) But now that we have 10 spaces to fill up on Etsy (and virtually limitless spaces on Shopify), purchasing an affordable LED light box (like this one from Amazon) is a great way to get nice, clean and bright photos any time of the day, night, or year. (This is especially handy for moms who have to work and/or take photos after the babies are sleeping!)
But Let’s Get Back to that Natural Light Idea…
Natural light is almost always going to be the BEST light. But that doesn’t mean taking your products outside to shoot them at 12 in the afternoon. (In fact, you should probably never do that.)
You’ll have to play with this a bit, depending on where you live, what windows are facing what direction in your home, and what part of the year it is. But generally speaking putting your items next to an open window either in the morning or later afternoon creates the nicest lighting. But remember: you don’t want to put anything is direct sunlight (unless that’s a branding tactic in which case you can ignore pretty much this and everything else I’m going to say here. 😋)
For instance, the biggest window in my house faces East, so I almost never take any photos before 1-3pm (depending on the time of year.) In the winter, the actual hours I can photograph my work are pretty short, but in the summer I can shoot for much longer periods of time. The one advantage during the winter here is our grey and cloudy days. If it’s not too dark, I can use those clouds to create ambient light all day long – even at noon!
If you don’t want to photograph your home, and/or want to keep a consistent theme in your pictures (a really good idea!) you can actually buy a full 10ft backdrop stand and a muslin backdrop for about $50, which I thought was surprisingly affordable.
Take Outdoor Photos During “Golden Hour”
If you’re shooting outdoors (like if you’re using a model or shooting somewhere site specific like the beach or forest) the “golden hours” are the best time for that. That is the short periods before/during sunrise and during/after sunset. It’s a pretty magical time to take photos!
You Can Also Take Advantage of the Shade
Shady spots are great for outdoor photography, but again – if it’s a sunny day, they typically come out best when taken in either the morning or the afternoon.
A Few More Tips for How to Take Better Photos for Your Etsy Shop
Keep your backgrounds simple.
White and wood are popular background choices on Etsy, and for good reason: they let your products shine in the spotlight. But if your brand calls for bringing in some color or drama, go for it!
Use props sparingly
Props can be over-used, again, taking away from the product itself (I’ve seen photos and wondered, what exactly are they selling here?!)
Get Creative with Your Backgrounds
Again, you want to make sure that any backgrounds or back drops don’t take away from your product itself. They also should make sense for your product. For example, if you sell baby clothes you probably wouldn’t shoot them hanging in a forest. (Unless, of course, that’s on brand for you.)
Simple White Backgrounds Are Great, But Sometimes a Little Drama is in Order
If your brand calls for it, there’s no real reason not to turn up the drama in your photography.
Use Models When you Can
I know it’s not always possible to use live models, especially when you’re first starting out. But if you can, do! It makes such a difference.
Photography Tips for Artists
If you’re an artist, having photos of your art in a home is ideal. But it’s not always possible, which is why I use mockups. Mockups are in inexpensive way for your art to look great and help your potential patrons imagine your art in their home. My favorite place to buy them is CreativeMarket. If you do have a lovely space (and light) to shoot in, you can skip this piece if advice.
This is a mockup with one of my prints:
Scan work (when possible)
I always scan my smaller works, too (at at least 600 DPI or higher). I use the scans occasionally for my prints, but I also make them smaller (typically no more than 800 pixels on the longest side and 72 DPI — this helps prevent people from stealing my work and just printing it out). I share the small scans in my shops so people can see the art itself with no distractions.
More Tips for Photographing Art
The best way to photograph art is with a camera on a tripod, using a remote shutter, in natural light, making sure the angle is just right. This is especially true if you want to make prints with your photos.
You can also lay your artwork on top of a large foam core board so you just have a clean, white background.
Take closes ups and shots from different angles, too. That advice applies to products and art!
Final Thoughts on How to Take Better Photos for Your Etsy Shop
Be sure to take more photos than you need. Every time I shoot my art, inevitably one or more photo will come out blurry, even if it looked fine in the preview. Now that Etsy offers 10 spots for your photos, it’s more important than ever. (If you need more ideas of what to include in those ten spots, you can check out this post.)
Take photos of every possible angle. This will help your potential buyers feel confident in their purchase.
Use props to show scale. But please, don’t let it be a ruler or coin. I know those are used frequently, and there may be some instances where a ruler could work (I’m thinking of fabric shops). But I feel like using a coin is just kind of lazy. Use props that not only show scale, but also make sense for your particular items.
Speaking of scale, if you sell art and use mockups to show your art in rooms, make sure you represent the size of your art accurately. I’ve seen some artists make their art look like it was 5×7 feet across in a photo over a sofa, but in reality it was an 8″x10″. Even if you write “art not to scale in photo” it’s still deceitful. But you want to be careful, especially because so many shoppers don’t read the descriptions! They may be expecting something large, and when it shows up small, they are bound to either leave negative feedback and/or try to return it.
Finally, don’t be overwhelmed or intimidated. I started photographing my art to sell on with my phone and some heavy Instagram-like filters. Looking back, I cringe a bit! But we all start somewhere, and it just takes time and practice to take great photos. So keep shooting and practicing, as well as looking at other shops with great photography. Of course, you never want to steal someone’s style, but you can always be inspired by them and learn from them.
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