Today I am going to share some tips with you on how you can take better product photos (for your blog, Etsy, etc) with your point and shoot! I have been selling on Etsy for 10 months now and I’ve learned how a great photo of your product can really make or break a sale. Even though I have been selling on there for less than a year, I have been a frequent buyer on both Etsy and Ebay and weather you realize it or not, the photo has more impact on your purchase than you’d think! I know not everyone can afford an SLR, so this will give you some tips to get the most out of your point and shoot camera.
Now, I am no way discounting the SLR camera, if you can afford it, I would definitely recommend investing in one. Point and shoot cameras have come a long way, and can take great photos, but for full control and the best possible photos, I suggest an SLR. (Personally, I use the Nikon D7000 and usually my Tamron AF 60mm)
I am going to cover five basic topics today, lighting, backdrops, clarity, macro, and props. To prove that you really can take appealing photos with your point and shoot I am going to use a new product for my Etsy Shop as a guinea pig for my tutorial, and then I will use these pictures in my shop when I list my item later to show you that you really can take a great picture with a point and shoot! The camera I will be using today is my Pentax Optio WG-3 (You can read how I picked this camera out in my blog post here.)
First things first, and what I consider to be the most important step in any photography, product or not- lighting. If your lighting isn’t good, then the picture will not be good. Find the flash setting on your camera and turn.it.off. The flash can cause blown highlights (areas of pure white) or harsh shadows, and it will definitely make your picture appear flat and lifeless.
Now that your flash is off, you’ll need some natural light, so find a nicely lit room in your house- I prefer setting up my stuff in a room with a north or south facing window. I set up about a foot away from the window for soft, even lighting. If you only have east or west facing windows, either hang a sheer curtain over the window or wait for a cloudy day to soften the lighting.
Here’s a picture where I turned the flash on- see how the flash makes everything look “flat”? Not to mention the harsh shadows in the background.
And here’s a picture with the flash off. See how flattering the light is? The corks have more texture and everything appears more three dimensional.
Have you ever gone on Ebay to buy something and see a picture of it sitting on someone’s kitchen counter? To the left of the object is an open bottle of soda, in the background is a sink of dirty dishes, etc. You get the picture. This doesn’t make for the most appealing photograph- you focus too much on what is going on in the picture rather than the object itself!
I usually set my items up on a folding card table or a chair if I’m in a pinch. I keep a piece of white foam core board (about $3 at a craft or office supply store) handy for a clean, white backdrop. Using a chair really helps to hold up the backdrop for a clutter free background. You could also use fabric or a tablecloth for this, but make sure it is well ironed as any creases or wrinkles will show up! More on backdrops below in the “props” section.
You want your pictures to be sharp, and the best way to do this is to put your camera on a tripod. There are many inexpensive tripods out there, and for this purpose, since the point and shoot isn’t heavy, you won’t need the most expensive one. But, do invest in the best that you can afford, especially if you think you’ll be upgrading to an SLR down the line.
Use the tripod to steady the camera– set it up and move it around until the photo looks good in the viewfinder (or on the screen). To really make the shot steady, find the self timer option on your camera and set it to go off in 10 seconds. By doing this, you give the camera enough time to stop shaking or any movement you may cause by pressing the shutter button (yes, even though it is on a tripod, you do cause some movement just by pressing the shutter button!).
This one is handheld-
This one is on a tripod with the self timer set.
Now, we’ve got our product set up next to a window with soft light coming in, our product is set up in a clutter free area, and the camera is on a tripod ready to go. If you are selling your item on Ebay or Etsy (or even if it is something for a blog post!), your readers will only get a feel for the item through your pictures, so make sure you take photographs from all angles, and include some close ups! To get a great close up, find the macro setting on your camera (it is usually represented by a little tulip-looking flower) and turn it on. Now you can get in real close and show some of those great details of your item! By using the macro setting you will also get that wonderful background blur you see in some of your favorite product photos.
Here it is without macro (the camera could not focus and therefore the photo is blurry)
Now the macro is turned on
This is my favorite part about taking product photos for my blog and Etsy– the props! Take a look around Etsy or Pinterest– what pictures intrigue you? Most likely it is the one with the great props- sometimes it is as simple as a fun napkin in a food shot or an interesting rock to display a pair of earrings on. I always have an eye out when I am in vintage/thrift shops, garage sales, and the clearance racks at Kohls or Target for interesting plates, bowls, decorations, etc. I have a whole shelf in one of our cabinets that is reserved for my photography props- I have plates, bowls, fun fabric napkins (which double as great backgrounds!), shells, rocks, vintage silverware, etc. You don’t have to go out and buy new items either- take a look around your house and challenge yourself to look at the items you already have with new eyes. You never know what you might find!
Some props can make great backgrounds too- for example, my bamboo cutting board looks great behind food pictures, leftover bead board from a project makes a beachy background, my fabric napkins (and even pieces of scrapbook paper) make colorful backgrounds for smaller items. The possibilities are endless!
I ended up using an old map (because my item is a latitude/longitude necklace- I thought the map went with the theme) along with some corks to prop the necklace onto.
Now you’ve got great lighting, a steady camera, appealing macro shots on a clean and creative back drop, now all you have to do is practice, practice, practice! Look around on your favorite websites (I suggest Etsy and Pinterest) and see what pictures catch your eye– what is it in that picture that makes it appealing? I’m not suggesting copying someone’s style, but using it to decide what it is you like and then using it as inspiration for your photographs. On Etsy/Ebay, a photo can really make or break a sale, so it is in your best interest to make it the best photo possible!
*Note* I wanted to show you what your camera can do, so all of these photos are un-edited. Before I list anything to Etsy, I usually slightly edit my photos- usually adjust the contrast/brightness, crop and maybe sharpen. This will be covered in part two of this post.
Bonus tips: Mastered everything above? Stay tuned next week when I share four more tips to really take your product photography to the next level!
Interested in purchasing the necklace I used in the images above? It can be found in my Etsy shop here.
*Most links used in this article are affiliate links. They do not cost anything to you, but if you do purchase something on Amazon, I do receive a small kickback. I thank you in advance for following my links through to Amazon because the money earned is what helps keep this blog going!*