10 Tips to improve product photography

May 19, 2013

For some time I have been feeling frustrated with the images I have been taking of my recycled bags for Etsy.

There are lots of great articles on the internet, and Etsy forums advising on improving product images, how to make your own reflector, and your own light box. However I wasn’t convinced this was going to take my images from OK to good (well to be honest ideally superb!)

Naturally I am quite reserved and not a sales girl, so in order to sell my creations the internet suits me… however to do this well image is key.

After some deliberation I researched attending a course to improve my photography skills, but I already have a good grasp of the basics including how to use aperture mode, shutter mode etc… what I was lacking in was understanding lighting. I was seriously tempeted by the course Photograph your craft run by Lyndsey James, however it would involve an overnight hotel stay, and high fuel costs.. plus I don’t have stunning hotel to photograph in on a day to day basis! Finally I decided to organise training on a one to one basis in my home, using the exact conditions I have to work in. I was not disappointed.

Here are some pointers I learnt from Kiri of Going Digital, explained in every day language (I am not a physicist and am unable to explain in scientific language).

1.Source of light

We are fortunate that our home has lots of large windows, but to my surprise I learnt that it is not the quantity of light but the evenness of light that matters. For me the dining room with a ceiling roof light was ideal as it disperses light evenly.


2.Use a tripod
Do not be afraid of a long exposure, for the first time I am shooting with a second or more exposure. This optimises natural light which is far kinder to an item, as it does not produce deep shadows.

3.Use the timer release mechanism
This avoids camera shake.. I hadn’t realised that some of my images where I thought the camera had not focussed accurately was me shaking the camera when I pressed the shutter release.

4. Use a reflector
Never having used one this was a revelation to me at how much light they reflect back at an item, and help reduce any shadows. I am going to need some practice at the angles, I just need to experiment. There are different reflectors available with different colours which affects the kind of light reflected. I was advised to use a silver reflector which is a cooler light often used for fashion photography.

5. Composition
Don’t forget the golden rule of thirds.. the part of the image you focus on should be a third into the image. This makes the image more pleasing to the eye.

6. Sense of scale
If you include an item in the image which people are familiar with it can really help people visualize the size of the product. I had collected various shiny items to give a sense of scale. But I was advised to avoid items that reflect so as not to have to learn/negotiate how to avoid reflections of myself/camera on the shiny object! A suggestion is non waxed apple.

10 Tips to Improve Product Photography

10 Tips to Improve Product Photography

7. Sharpness of image
I am comfortable shooting by controlling and setting the aperture mode. This controls the depth of field. A  f/16 has a smaller hole than a f/6. This means that the area in the image which is sharp is wider than that taken with a lower f nunber.

I was mistakenly setting the aperture at approximately f/6, on the basis that I did not need the background to be in focus. However this often left parts of my bags blurred. We experimented with the aperture setting, and agreed that in my dining room I am best setting the aperture to f/25. If your camera has the ability to set the aperture I suggest experimenting with a few shots so you can see the difference.

8. Focus point
If you are choosing a setting to only have part of the image in focus, set your focus point a third of the way into the focus area… if you would like a crisp apple with everything else blurred focus your lens on a third of the way into the apple.. the camera will focus a third of the way forward and two thirds of the way back.

9. Grey
I never knew until Tuesday that a camera has less tonal ranges of colour than the human eye. It is set to photograph the predominant tone as grey. This means a 100% white object will be grey, and likewise a hundred percent black object will be grey. That explains why my white has not been white then! On my DSLR camera there is a +/- button where I can alter the camera automatic exposure level, this then enables me to increase the exposure + to create white. My DSLR also has a histogram which will show me the evenness of the image.. if there is nothing in the far right of the histogram I need to +, if it goes off the scale on the right I need to -.

10. Even stage background
If you would like an even background you can create this with a white sheet of card to bend (without creasing). I am searching for a good thickness of card… on the day I used thick watercolour paper as that was what I had, but I did get the odd crease showing.


So here are some before pictures:

G 1   G4

and here are some after pictures!



I appreciate that I have assumed in these tips a certain level of knowledge about settings on your camera. You may have a point and shoot camera with more settings than you realise, why not check out the instruction manual and see what you can achieve? Please do experiment.

Thank you Kiri for a great morning. You quickly picked up my current knowledge level, and provided me with a great bullet point list of tips, just have to remember them all and implement them!

I have lots of bags to re photograph, which is handy as I need to practise and practise some more… here’s hoping this week the tot has afternoon kips!!Have you any suggestions re staging/setting of bags? (I’m saving for a mannequin in order to show them in use, so to speak!)

Please do stop by handmade harbour and see what other people have been making this week.

26 comments so far.

26 responses to “10 Tips to improve product photography”

  1. Thank you for all the tips! I have so much to learn! 🙂

  2. daniellajoe says:

    i like the after pic better, i wish i had a professional photographer 🙂

  3. Ginny says:

    Thanks for all the tips. I still struggle a bit, but do think that a good quality photo can really help sell a product.

  4. freespiritdesigns says:

    this is a really interesting post with some great tips!

    I can imagine a bag being displayed well hooked over the corner of a pretty chair 🙂 x

    • Thank you:) A tip I didn’t include (wasn’t 100% sure of the reason!) is to shield the view finder (without touching re camera shake) – I think this must be due to light coming in through the camera view as confusing the camera. Have to admit to kicking myself for not stopping and buying vintage chair I spotted outside a charity shop the other week!! I’ll keep looking out for a chair:)

  5. Wendy says:

    A really useful post – thank you! You’re so right about images being important. It’s easy to forget that this is the main thing the customer has to go on when shopping online.

  6. Pam says:

    My camera’s not expensive, but it has so many dials and buttons I don’t have a clue how to use. Thanks for the tips. Hope you don’t mind, but I’m pinning.

  7. Jan says:

    Fantastic tips. Thank you for sharing. Now I know what that +/- button means

  8. The bag with the flowers is a lovely photograph. Interesting points, thanks. (The Patchwork Fairy)

  9. Kiri says:

    Hi Vicky, thanks for having me, I am really chuffed that you got so much out of our session, this is a great summary. Being an attentive student such as yourself and having such beautifully made recycled products to market also helps 🙂 . Kiri

    • Thanks Kiri, I’m going to write myself a bullet point list to follow when taking images… not done it yet due to temporarily misplacing my note book!! One of your friends kindly bought a bag this morning:) Rather handy as I forgot I have yet to pay the childminder for Tuesday!! Vicky

  10. Photography is one of those things that you keep on learning!

  11. Interesting – i wondered why the white in my pictures wasnt white x

  12. You can see the difference between the two sets of photos. The bag, itself, is lovely. Thanks for the photo tips

  13. Glyn says:

    An excellent blog post, really useful, thank you. I have a fancy new camera which I have yet to learn how to use. I have photography books but so far haven’t had time to read them. I would love to do a photography course but it’s not possible at the moment. After reading this, it is definitely worth doing, and will be going to the top of my list of things to do.

  14. Jeannie says:

    Great tips. I would like to see a shot of the + – screen you are talking about.

  15. Thanks Jeannie, will see if I can find +- shot, plus I’ll try and add more images taken with different +- settings. glad you found tips helpful:)

  16. Some truly great tips there… Thank you! 🙂

  17. Emily says:

    These are just as useful for blog pictures as they are for product photography. Thanks! Would love for you to join in my new tutorial linky, You The Expert, if you’d like. http://www.emilydavieswrites.com/2013/05/you-expert-linky-290513.html?m=1 #mbpw

  18. Some great tips, thanks for sharing 🙂
    Thanks so much for linking up week for week, I look forward to seeing what you share with us this week on Tutorial Thursdays Linky Party.
    Marigolds’ Loft

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A passion for sewing, upcycling and caring for the environment - the perfect excuse to haunt charity shops for bargains!

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