If you're selling anything online, getting great product photography is probably always on your to-do list. Here are a few quick tips I've learned over the past few years, with trial and error, and thousands of pictures taken.
Lighting is the number one key to great shots. I have a few spots in my house where I take most of my pictures and I know exactly what times of day will yield the best results thanks to natural lighting. You’d be surprised how much difference thirty minutes on the clock can make.
Experiment with different spots in your house near windows or doors. Look for places that get light from more than one direction but aren’t too bright. Outside usually doesn’t work for me because it’s too bright and there are shadows. Shadows are not your friend.
My need for perfect lighting has recently been greatly reduced by using a mirrorless digital camera with a bright lens. If you’re in the market for a new camera try a digital single lense mirrorless (DSLM).
Close Up Is Good
One of the most important things to remember when taking pictures for online sales is that your picture should answer the buyer’s questions. Think about what you do when you’re about to buy something in “real life” and try and provide for that experience through pictures.
The first thing most people do before they lay down their hard-earned money is to look closely. Jewelry and other small items are usually picked-up and looked at up-close. So make sure that some of your pictures are both close-in and high resolution to allow for zooming.
If you’re selling online, you always have the opportunity to offer your customers more than one picture of each item. My advice is to provide as many pictures as you can so that your customer can spend as much time as possible with eyes on your product. The longer they look, the better your chances of getting the sale.
One of the best ways to both “answer the customer’s questions” and keep them looking at your items longer is by providing shots from multiple perspectives. An upward angle, a little to the left, now move to the right and tilt slightly back, work it, own it, yeah baby! Got the idea?
Mind the Background
The background is key to making the picture look nice, primarily by putting all the visual attention on, and not distracting from, your product.
Possibly even more important in some settings (such as Etsy), the background is a key part of your shop's look and feel and, by extension, the Etsy browse pages and home page.
A great background increases your chances of getting your items featured, and of people sticking around to browse after they find your shop. Think of it as the walls, ceiling and flooring in your “real world” shop. It should look good and feel good but not take the focus from your “stuff”!
Use Models of Real Life Examples
If you can, show pictures of your product in action. If you sell something wearable, use a model, or at least a mannequin. If you sell something in the home-decor market, then you would want to show some pictures of your item alone, then other shots of it in use in real life.
I’ve sold lots of jewelry without following this rule, so it’s possible to succeed without models, but I know from watching other sellers that models absolutely make a difference. You can also try the “self-portrait” version of modeling, as in the picture above.
The main goal is to bring your products to life by showing them in their natural environment.
Every Bad Picture Is a Step Forward
Each of these tips represents a “problem” to solve, right? How do I get better lighting? Where am I going to find a model? I really need a new camera…
Never give up! First of all, realize that you’re never going to be fully satisfied. The better your pictures get, the better you’ll want them to be. Also try to keep in mind that every time you take a bad shot, it’s just one more step forward on your journey towards knowing what works and what doesn’t.
It reminds me of that Thomas Edison quote: “I haven’t failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Keep working it and eventually you’ll have the best product pictures on the Internet! Woot!
This post is part of BlogHer's Pro Photo Tips editorial series, made possible by Panasonic.
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