Monday, February 13, 2012

Photography Tips for Beginners - By Marisa Kestel

There are so many pointers for good photos for your products, I will try to touch on some of them.

I have been photographing products for over 13 years and have learned many tricks to make images pop. These tips apply to any camera, from a point and shoot to a DSLR. As long as you have a bit of time and access to natural light, you can accomplish beautiful images to help sell your images.

The first piece of advice I can give is to think of your item as a piece of art. A photograph is an artistic representation of something. When I photograph my husband’s furniture(brandMOJOinteriors), I look at each part of the item as a unique view: a part of the whole piece.

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors
With 5 photos for each Etsy posting, have one photo be the entire item. A standard shot, flat on.

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors
Then concentrate on the corners, the clasps, the loops, the craftsmanship that goes into each creation for the other 4 images.

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

You have to imagine if someone were to have a bracelet of yours, they would focus their eyes in on the clasp when they put it on. Photograph the clasp; this also shows the clasp you selected for your piece. Their friends will likely notice the stones or details in the bracelet and will compliment them on this. Photograph the stones. These types of photos give the details for your 4 other photos and will enhance the posting by showcasing the whole of the piece.

So how do you take those photographs?

1.  Start with natural light. I strongly recommend overcast days. We refer to those days as “Mother nature’s lightbox.”  A lightbox is an item you can buy to soften direct sunlight or photography lights. But when it is overcast, you can photograph on your porch, or your driveway or sidewalk and really get the perfect lighting for your products. It also allows you to shoot anytime of the day.

Photo from PrintsAndThings
Try to still avoid 11am - 1pm, as it will still be the brightest part of the day.

            If you do not have overcast days often, you will need to shoot in the morning or the hour before the sun goes down, i.e. the golden hours. The reason for this is so that the sunlight is not directly overhead and harsh. Your camera has a hard time deciphering the proper exposure for the bright bright sunlight while maintaining details of your product. (You can tell the time of day by the shadows cast from the legs of the table.)

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

You can also photograph during the day in a cast shadow, such as under a tree or overhang.

My back patio gets shade around 2pm and I can photograph back there. Just know that this is still not the best, but will suffice.

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

2.  Turn off your flash on your camera. Usually, this looks like a lightning bolt on the camera’s function. You will see the don’t symbol, that will turn it off for all of your photos until you turn it back on. Try to select the “P” on your camera instead of the “A.” P is for Program, A is for Automatic. They are essentially the same, as the camera will select everything you need, but P allows you to turn off the flash until you turn your camera off. If you turn your camera off, or if it shuts off automatically, the flash will turn back on. If the flash was on in this photo, there would have been a harsh reflection on the stone, which is the key portion of this pendant of from JZHunt.

Photo from JZHunt

3.  If you wish to do close-up photos, do not put your camera right up to the item. DO NOT GET CLOSER than 10” of the item. This is where you will see out of focus shots even with the macro setting on. The macro setting, which is often denoted as a flower symbol is best used at 10-12” and the lens zoomed in. You will likely have camera shake with these settings if it is too dark where you are. Invest in an inexpensive tripod. The small 5” tall ones work just fine for most cameras, even DSLRs. But if you can afford a taller one, they typically run about $75. You do not need one fancier than that, unless you prefer to spend more money.

Photo from BeadsMe
*I will insert here that I hate tripods. When I photograph my husband’s furniture I never use one, as I typically crawl all over the ground to get the best angle, but when I photograph smaller product, especially jewelry, I always use a tripod.

4.  Photograph on a neutral background. It does not need to be white, but try not to use black. Etsy frowns of black backgrounds, but with certain items, black is quite helpful. You can go to the local fabric shop and buy black velour. Wood is another great background. I have also used white sheets. Just be sure to iron your background.

Wood Background
Photo from LongForgotten
White Background
Photo from MOJOMercantile

Stone Background
Photo from soulphotos

When you photograph larger pieces, you can use your paved driveway. It is a great gray and shows most items really well. Pay attention to what is in the background. Keep it empty, no garage doors, cars, or shrubs. You will need to notice these details when you are taking the photos. Just be sure to crop anything distracting out of the photo. Here’s a sample of before and after. Note the ladder foot, black blob, and excess empty space in the left photo.

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

Photo from BrandMOJOInteriors

You can use grass, but things tend to get lost in the pieces of grass and the grass will reflect green on your product.

5.  Take your time. Do not rush. There is always tomorrow. Practice with your camera. If you have a DSLR, turn off the autofocus and manually focus yourself. You will find that you will focus on what you deem as the part you wish to showcase. You will also feel more in control of your photos.

Photo from BrandMOJOImages
This post was written by Marisa Kestel and published on her behalf.

Images are borrowed and may not be duplicated without consent from the original owners:

Mandy from BeadsMe


  1. Great photography tips. Thanks for using one of my photos in your post.

  2. Great article! I love the specific information about time of day. I rarely see that discussed in detail!

  3. Thanks AP Team for this chance to help out. I look forward to the next installation.