Great Product Photos

The single most essential element to your online selling success is product photography.  Show your work with wonderful photos and everything else will fall smoothly into place.  The opposite is sadly true – you may have the best products in the world, the finest craftsmanship, charming product descriptions packed with powerful search words, great prices and excellent customer service – but if your photos are grey, fuzzy, filled with shadows and dull contrast, you won’t sell a thing online.

On the Internet, photos are the only thing a customer has to judge your work and decide to click the “Add to Cart” button. Your photos must replace the experience of picking up the item, feeling its texture and quality, looking closely at the craftsmanship, and imagining it in use.

Good selling platforms allow you to display multiple photos.  Etsy, for example, gives you 5 photo spots for each item.  So what sort of photos work best and how do you take these photos with your own digital camera?  You’ll find an entire chapter on photography in Selling Arts and Crafts Online, with great illustrations and links to online resources and tutorials.  Here are a couple tips from the book.


A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

A beautiful product and photo from Nancy at MidwestGypsy. Click the photo to visit her Etsy shop.

1. The Plain White Background Photo
This classic “studio” photo is the best way to show off your product. It is simply the whole item on a seamless white background.  Look at the products selected to show on Etsy’s homepage ( and you’ll see great examples.
Tips: For small items, lay them flat on a plain stretched canvas from the art store, or tape white paper to the wall and let it curve smoothly down onto the tabletop.  For larger items, hang white cloth on the wall curved smoothly onto the floor.  A white bed sheet will do in a pinch, but visit a fabric store to buy a large piece of heavy white cloth that will hang smoothly, without wrinkles. Indirect sunlight on a bright day is an ideal light source. If you use spotlights, set up a couple lights shining on the object from different directions to minimize shadows. You can even hold a sheet of white paper or foamboard to reflect light back onto the product. Get full-spectrum lightbulbs for the best product color.

2. The Detail Photo
A close-up shot captures the quality of workmanship in your product. It shows the fine stitching, the details of paint, the texture of wood and clay and stone.  Move in closer and closer and take many different photos from which you will select the best after you download them to your computer.
Tips: Use the close-up or “macro” setting on your digital camera to get the best detail shots.  If you use your mobile phone as a camera, consider buying a “macro lens” (for example see Resting your camera on a tripod or simple beanbag helps avoid fuzzy, out of focus photos. Learn how to use a photo editing app or program to crop your photos.

3. A Photo Showing Scale
One of your product photos needs to show the size of the item by placing it in a setting with something easily recognizable.
Tips: Including a human being can be the most intuitive way to communicate this.  Photograph a tiny item in the palm of a hand, show a bracelet on a wrist, hold a vase, have a model wear a garment.  Other common items can provide visual clues.  In the photography chapter of Selling Arts and Crafts Online, Deb from BlueSkyPottery explains how she includes pieces of fruit to show the scale of her ceramics.

And there’s so much your photos can accomplish!  Products in charming room settings.  Interesting angles.  Eye-catching composition.  Outdoor locations and natural backgrounds like sand, rock, weathered wood.  Free online services to help you crop, edit and enhance the photos you take.

Pick up a copy of Selling Arts and Crafts Online to begin improving your own product photography!

Illustration “Tiger Eye Swarovski Crystal Silver Bracelet” courtesy of and © MidwestGypsy on Etsy.


One thought on “Great Product Photos

  1. Frances

    Product photos for the Etsy shop I co-own with my mother are both my favorite thing to do and my least favorite (well, SEO might have earned itself least favorite haha). Natural light is definitely my favorite to work in-the colors come out nicer and there is less need for editing later on in photoshop. Also, having fun with it I think is important, otherwise it can start to feel like a chore. Excellent article; I think this will be helpful for many people!

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