Product Photography On A Budget

Affordable product photography. The key to great product photography is to keep it simple. Amazon’s requirement is that the product for sale should dominate the shot (taking up at least 85% of the space available) and should be on a pure white background so that the product is clear. Once upon a time, I had an Etsy shop. One reason I started getting serious about photography was so I could create better product photography for my Etsy store. I learned a few tricks along the way for taking great product shots on a budget. These have come in handy for selling my gear or used items on eBay as well.

  1. Product Photography On A Budget
  2. Product Photography On A Budget Deficit
  3. Product Photography On A Budget Proposal

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Our goal at EcomElites is to help readers get the information they need, we partner with companies to help bring you that information. If a purchase or signup is made through our partners, we receive compensation for the referral. Learn More

Even before the invention of the internet, product photography played a very important role in sales. This is why the hamburgers you see during commercials look so inviting. They are colorful, and the juices are oozing from the burger patty. Now, that kind of photo did not come out by a simple point-and-shoot method. A lot of work was put into it, and we will show you how to shoot the same quality of photos.

Before we begin, it is important that you know the purpose behind product photography. The first one is called transparency. You want your customers to see what they are buying. And if you show them a picture of your product, you are meeting the second purpose, which is trust. A clear picture of your product tells a website visitor that you put a lot of effort into it, and that you are a professional seller that he can trust.

What Is Product Photography?

Product photography is an art. There are many professional photographers that make a living out of it. However, you do not really need the services of one if you know what to do. For online marketing, the product photography is meant to capture attention. The pictures you take must be able to engage, and must make the viewer say, “I like this!”

Look at the example photo below. It is a clean shot. The person looking at it has no idea what it is, but because it comes in three colors, and the photo clearly shows that it is a knob, the person looking at it is likely to scroll down or click a link and read more about the product.

After that initial engagement, your photo must be able to convert, which means he must be convinced to buy. There is so much that goes on behind product photography, and professionals have a lot of techniques. You can learn these techniques, too, and boost your conversion rate by doing your photos right.

How Photography Can Increase Your Sales

Human beings are highly visual. This is why we tend to remember things and lessons if there are pictures involved in it. Also, we humans easily pass judgment according to what we see. Even if the product is a written material, like a book or novel, there is still product photography that goes in there. This is why many books show breath-taking photos on the front page. Magazines do the same thing.

As you can see, perception is everything. You may have the best ad copy or product description, but if your photos are bad, the customer is not likely to buy. 93% of consumers buy because of the photos they see.

The two main ways that product photography increases your conversion rate are:

  • Appeal to emotions
  • Familiarity with branding

Appeal to emotions

If a photo looks good, it becomes eye-candy. The person looking at it cannot take his eyes off it. After reading your product description, the consumer will look at the photos again, and start imagining that product on his hand. If it is a decorative item like a curtain, the consumer will start thinking about how it would look on his window.

If a product looks good, then it must feel good. If it feels good, then the customer must have it. Photos do a lot to the human brain. They help the brain create impressions, judgment, and lead the brain to imagine things. If done right, you will be able to influence the decisions of your potential customers.

Familiarity with branding

Did you ever notice that many branded companies have one style of photography? They use the same backgrounds, same layout, and the same image proportions on all of their photos. This is the art of branding.

Take a look at these two photos from McDonald’s. You will see that the colors used are either red or yellow. You will also see the there is a gradient background where the colors fade a little, and there is an emphasis on the food. The sauce is highly visible, and then the fries look really crispy.

Planner

Image Source: McDonalds

Any person who sees the picture of the sandwich will immediately know that it is from McDonald’s because of the colors used. You can do the same with your brand by using the same colors all the time, same fonts, and by always putting an icon or logo somewhere on the picture.

Different Photography Options For Your Products

Whether you are selling books or physical goods, there are only two types of product photography when it comes to online selling. The first one is called clean-cut, and the second one is called lifestyle.

Clean-Cut

This type of photography is where you take a shot of your product with a white background. It does not always have to be white, for as long as the background does not interfere with the clarity of the photos. In a clean-cut photo, your goal is to show the buyer that different angles of the product.

It is called clean-cut because you do not include other elements that can take the buyer’s eyes away from the product. You want him to see nothing but your item. Usually, clean-cut photography is a technique used for gadgets.

Above is an example of clean-cut photography. You will see nothing but the watch. As a buyer, your brain can concentrate on the picture, and then you will start seeing its features, like the fact that there are two watches in that wristwatch, and that there is a digital display on the bottom left.

Below is the next photo of the same product. In this photo, the seller is showing the buyer the dimensions of the wristwatch. It is still a clean-cut photo, but this time using a gray background.

Lifestyle

This is the kind of photography often used in fashion and sports. Perhaps you already noticed, but many photos of fashion or sports items are taken at the top of the mountain, a grassy field, or outside a restaurant. This kind of photography shows the product while it is being used, and it is effective to appeal to the buyer’s emotions and make him buy.

The two photos above are perfect examples of lifestyle shots. With the lady, the item that is being sold is only the top or blouse. But since it was used by a model, you will see that the matching shorts, shoes, bag, and hat make the product all the more beautiful.

The second photo is for a snowsuit, not a snowboard. The photographer used a model to wear the suit and showed the product in action, and the setting of the place is the right one, which is a snowy mountain.

You are not limited to using only one of the two types of product photography. You can actually blend both, but make sure that the order of the photos belongs to the right type. For example, you can use clean-cut for a wristwatch product, and then follow that with more clean-cut photos showing the wristwatch at different angles.

Then, start using lifestyle photos with one person using that wristwatch. And then show more lifestyle photos where that wristwatch is used. Do not alternate the two, as it makes the presentation very confusing to the eye and the brain.

Guide To Product Photography and Equipment (in 5 steps)

To be honest, you do not need a $5,000 camera to do good photography. Your smartphone can do it, provided that you know how to use it. The quality of the photos you take with your smartphone should be enough to serve your online marketing purpose. You will only need expensive cameras if you print your photos in giant billboards, but it is not needed for internet photography. For more tips on Photography check out this article!

Here are the steps to create great product photography on a budget:

Step 1: Prepare the studio

Product

Product Photography On A Budget

Nope, we are not talking about a real studio. You can turn your kitchen into a studio. What you need to prepare is the product, and make sure that the entire place is clean, and that your background is white. You can hang a long white cloth on your wall behind the kitchen table or behind the kitchen chair, and this is going to be your studio.

Another choice is to create a photo box. Get a big square cube box. Cut the front side to give it a frame. Inside, line the back and the box bottom with white paper. This will serve as your background. The two sides on the inside must be lined with aluminium foil so they can reflect light. Cut the top of the cube and hang a bright LED white light above it. Put the product inside, and then take photos.

Once the studio is ready, you need to prepare your product. Make sure that it is free of dirt and grease because your camera will capture fingerprints. Wipe the product off, and apply some polish if necessary. If you are selling necklaces, you need a neck statue or a bust where you can hang them.

Step 2: Use the right lights

Depending on your product, you may need to use white light or yellow light. The choice is yours, as the lighting will depend on your product’s mood. You can use natural light if you are on a budget, but make sure that your product is not under the sun.

If you ever need to take a photo outside, like for snowboards, make sure your back is against the sun to prevent too much light from getting into your photos. Overexposure is bad and will make the photos dark. If you have the money, you do not have to buy expensive camera lighting. All you need is a couple of LED bulbs and a stick to prop them up.

Step 3: Buy a tripod

Why is this important? Cameras will shake in your hands, especially if you are an amateur photographer. Since you are doing it for business, it is important that you do things right. The tripod will keep the smartphone or camera in place and will take shots without shaking.

A tripod is also important if you will take close-up shots. It requires a great amount of skill to get the right angle and shoot at close range, not to mention that camera’s focus, the light that enters into the camera, and so much more. With a tripod, you can get rid of all these problems, and focus on shooting that perfect photo.

Step 4: Use the right camera

What is the right camera to use? The ideal camera is DSLR. It comes in so many ranges and has great features to help you produce high-quality images for your products. However, this is also costly, so a smartphone is the best place to start.

At the very least, you must have a smartphone that has autofocus and 13 megapixels. Samsung and Apple phones are your best companions for product photography. If you will use a smartphone, buy a compatible tripod for it.

Step 5: Process the photos

After taking the shots, you need to edit the photos to make them brighter or cut unnecessary elements from them. If you are using a DIY lightbox or your kitchen studio, it is likely that you also took the sides of the curtains, or the wood panel of your kitchen is showing up. You need to transfer the images to your computer and correct these before you publish them.

Photoshop is the best editing tool. It was made for photography, but it is expensive and can be difficult to use for beginners. Your alternative should be free image-editing tools. You can try using free software like Pixlr, Canva, Fotor, Snapseed, or the photo editor of Microsoft if you are using a Windows PC. A Mac also has a default photo editing software.

As you edit your photos, you can remove the white background and replace it with something else, like the background shown in the McDonald’s photo earlier. You must also ensure that you move the photo to make it straight, especially if you are selling a dress.

Product Photography On A Budget

What To Include In Your Product Photography Guidelines

There will come a time when your shop will have a long list of products. The photography for these products must be taken at the same angle, same lighting, and the same style so you can create a brand. A website whose product photography is all over the place is sending bad messages to the consumer.

As such, you need to create a photography guideline so you can repeat the same kind of photos every time you add a new product. You can also pass this guideline to an employee if the time comes that you can now pay a marketing specialist to do this job for you.

Here are the things to include in a product photography guideline:

  • Angle
  • The distance of the camera from the product
  • Lighting
  • Shadows
  • Location

For more advanced photography, you can include focal length, lens type, saturation, color palette, and others. Since photo editing is also part of the task, you must include the photo dimensions, background, font size, type, and color for the texts, and naming conventions or keywords for the photos for SEO purposes.

How To Optimize the Photos for the Internet

Now that you have great photos, it is time to post them to your store. However, it does not end there. You want search engines to find your photos online if from specific keywords. Also, you want photos to be clear, and yet not too heavy as to affect your website’s load times.

The first thing you need to do is to reduce the size of the picture without seriously damaging the photo quality. There is free software to do this on Mac and PC, but you can also do this online with free image resizing tools like TinyPNG and PicResize.

As you resize the photos, one which used to be a 5MB photo will now only be about 138KB. This size reduction will improve the speed of the website, but not make the photo quality any worse.

Next, you must name your photos properly. If your photo is an axe, then that photo must have a name that bears the word axe. All cameras name photos as numbers and letters. For example, a photo you took might have a file name called DSC132424.jpg. You need to rename this file with the right keyword.

For example, you can name it jackoutdoors-brown-handle-axe-with-cover-illinois. In that file name, we used the name Jack Outdoors, which is the name of the website, then brown handle axe with cover, which is a product description that customers are likely to type in Google search, and then the state Illinois.

If a customer goes to Google and types “brown axe handle in Illinois”, your product has better chances of showing up at the top of the search results.

Photography Equipment For Under $40

Below is a simple guide to the tools you need to do your product photography. We will not include a camera as it is acceptable to assume that you have a smartphone.

1. Lightbox or photography box – $12.39

2. Tripod – $13.98

These two should be enough to get you started. The total cost is only $27. But if you need a bigger studio, you need to DIY it on your kitchen and use your kitchen table or kitchen chair as the pedestal where you put your products. In these, you need more stuff.

2. White bedsheet – $10.99

3. LED Bulbs – $11.99

For this second set, the total cost is about $37. With these things, you should be all set. All you need is an extension cord and hang the light bulbs on top of your product. If you do not want to use your kitchen as a studio, you can simply take out the chair to your backyard when the sun is high and take the photos from there.

Frequently Asked Product Photography Questions

What are the most important things I need?

The most important things are the camera, lighting, tripod and white background.

What kind of shots can I do?

Here are some recommendations:

  • Single-shot – a photo that shows the front of the product
  • Angle shot – this one shows the side of the product
  • Scale shots – a photo taken with another thing, like a ruler, to help the viewer understand how big it is
  • Detailed shot – a close-up shot of a product’s part, like the mic input, or the power button

How many lights should I use?

The minimum is two, with one on each side. Use bright white lights that are at least 5,000 kelvins so it can simulate the light of the sun.

Summary

All in all, you can produce great quality photos if you have the right tools to use. It takes a little patience and some experiments, but you will eventually get the hang of it. If you are starting out, take several photos of one product first, and then edit it on one of the software programs we recommended. See how it looks, and then make the necessary adjustments to make it perfect.

By Mary Savel

I am a leatherworker (and multi-passionate crafter: knitting, crocheting, sewing, embroidery, you name it, I love making it!) who has been selling my leathergoods and crafts online since 2008 and if there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the years, it’s that you MUST have great photos of your handmade crafts if you want to successfully sell your work online.

Great product photos are the number one way for you to ensure that your customer is drawn to your products. Having great photos are so important, especially with online selling, because your customer can’t see or feel your product in person. So the job of getting your customer’s initial attention rests solely on your product photos.

It’s like a first impression. You don’t get a second chance.

Years ago, when I first started selling my leathergoods on Etsy, I was taking pictures at my studio table in a dimly lit room but I had a lot of overhead lighting so I figured I was covered.

But my photos always came out dark or sort of had an orange or yellow tone to them. They were also a bit blurry.

Not a winning combination!

[My product photography before: Yikes, it was pretty bad.]

It was really frustrating and it definitely played a big role in holding me back from making any sales on Etsy.

But over the years, I realized a few things about product photography.

A lot of people think that you need to have a fancy camera or an elaborate lighting setup in order to take great product photos.

Some people think that you need to hire a professional photographer in order to get the really pro shots.

These things are great if you can afford them, but if you’re on a budget there are some very easy things that you can do instead to get great product photos on a budget.

And the good news is that there is no fancy equipment needed here!

Here are 5 easy smartphone photography tips that will improve your dark, blurry and shaky photos, not to mention help you increase sales of your leathergoods online.

1 Shoot using natural light as opposed to indoor lighting.

This is my biggest and best tip. If you only do one of these five things, do this one.

I live in NYC in what sometimes feels like a cave of an apartment. I have 2 large sliding glass doors but I also have very tall buildings all around me that block a good portion of the sunlight but even still, I’m able to get great product photos.

Below is a photo of my setup.

I point the camera at a wall with the sliding glass door to the right or left of whatever it is that I’m shooting.

I also make sure that the light is coming in on the side of where I have my camera positioned.

Avoid pointing the camera directly at the glass door or window, because your subject will be dark in the photo.

You don’t need a sliding glass door to capture this natural light either. You could also use a window with a table pulled up beside it.

If you live someplace where you don’t have access to a window, you can go outside to shoot your products. I’ve done this many times before as well.

I’ll pack a bag of my leathergoods that I want to shoot and some props and backdrops, head out to Central Park and make a day of it. It’s pretty fun.

If you want to take this tip one step further you can time your shoot for the optimal time of day as well.

I find that shooting in the a.m. as the sun is starting to rise to the highest point and as it’s starting to set in the afternoon are the best times to shoot, but you should experiment with this wherever you live.

Just avoid shooting when the sun is at its highest point directly overhead, otherwise, you’ll get shadows that are not going to look great in your photo.

Since I’ve stopped trying to MacGyver an at-home studio with terrible overhead lighting and instead focused more on using natural light, my photos have dramatically improved.

2 Use a white seamless or piece of posterboard for your background.

The next thing that you can do to improve your photos and showcase your work in a professional way is to use a white or neutral background.

I see a lot of sellers on Etsy who have product shots where the product is on a desk or tabletop, but unless this is part of your brand it can look a little sloppy and be distracting for the viewer. You don’t want the potential buyer to be looking at everything else in the photo except for your product.

I am all for creating styled and lifestyle photos with my products. However, to show off the product and make it pop you’ll want some shots using a white backdrop.

Product Photography On A Budget Deficit

The cheapest and easiest way to do this is to go to your local craft store and get a piece of white posterboard. Then take the posterboard, bend it slightly and tape the top edge to the wall and the bottom part to the floor or tabletop creating a nice curved shape.

That nice rounded poster board creates a backdrop that has zero distractions and will make your product look like it’s floating on the page.

If your products are larger, you might want to get a large roll of paper and do the same thing. I have a roll of paper that is about 5 feet wide which I purchased from a photography store (search for “seamless paper”). I use this whenever I’m shooting some of my larger handbags.

Avoid using dark-colored poster board or seamless paper that could make the product hard to see unless of course, that sort of moody and dark look is part of your branding.

3 Use a tripod to avoid blurry photos.

I told you these were simple solutions! But hey, they work and here is why using a tripod is so easy but really helpful.

When you hold your camera in your hands and take a photo the slightest movement and even your breathing will cause you to move and the camera to shake slightly.

Even if you’ve got steady hands, you’re going to shake a bit and this shake will cause the photo to be blurry.

Blurry photos are not cute when you’re trying to show a potential customer your beautiful handcrafted products!

Also, think about this. The photo that you just snapped, while a tiny bit of blur might look okay on your smartphone’s small screen, it will stretch to double, triple or even a larger size depending on if you want to use it on your product listing or your website’s homepage.

The bigger you stretch the photo, the more blur you’re going to get.

So to eliminate the blur as much as possible and get a crisp focused photo instead, use a tripod that you can get at Best Buy or on Amazon for around $25.

Most tripods come with a little attachment that can hold your smartphone as well.

Once you’ve got your smartphone on the tripod and the tripod in place, we can take this tip one step further and set the timer on your phone.

When you push the button to take the picture, this can cause some shake as well. If you use the 3 or 10-second timer, you know that the camera is going to be perfectly still when the shutter opens and closes and captures the picture.

4 Wipe your camera lens clean

Seems like a no-brainer right? Well, you wouldn’t believe how many people forget this part and wind up with spots, smudges, and fingerprints on their photos (Believe me, because I’m speaking from personal experience on this one).

Our smartphones are in our hands about 99% of the time these days and, as a result, the lens on your camera gets smudged and dirty. Any of this dirt on the lens will come out in your photo. So simply take a cloth and wipe any dirt away before starting to shoot.

5 Use the AE/AF function on your iPhone

AE stands for auto exposure and this is the function that you can adjust to make your photos brighter or darker.

AF stands for auto focus which controls what your camera is keeping in focus and which part isn’t.

Your camera will automatically focus and adjust the exposure if you let it, but you can control and manipulate this setting by tapping on the camera screen where you want the focus to be. You can then move your finger up and down on the little sun icon to adjust how bright or dark you want the photo to be.

If you have a few photos that you want to shoot at the same focus and exposure, hold your finger in the spot that you want your camera to focus for 3 seconds. This will lock the focus and even after you press the shutter button you’ll be able to continue to shoot with the focus and exposure that you’ve set. This is great for shooting multiple shots all at the same settings so there is consistency in your product photos.

If you’re not already using the above 5 tips in your product photography, give it a shot next time you do a shoot and see what a huge difference it will make as you can see here in my photo.

[My product photography after implementing these 5 simple steps]

We all know that selling handmade products online can be hard as it is, let alone if you don’t have great photos. Most people will scroll right past your Etsy listing if your photos are subpar.

Product Photography On A Budget Proposal

Product photography is a big piece of the puzzle of selling your leathergoods online, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

When selling your work online, whether it’s the 1st time or the 50th time, you not only want to think about your photos but also your product descriptions, marketing methods, and sales strategy. These are just a few of the things that you’ll do to help you increase your sales once you launch your leathergoods to the world.

Update opengl version. There are a lot of steps to selling a product online, which is why I’ve created a checklist that walks you through start to finish, pre-launch to post-launch exactly how to sell your leathergoods.

You can get your copy of the checklist at www.lucrativeleathercraft.com.

Mary Savel teaches people how to make traditional leatherwork and how to sell their handmade work online, at craft fairs and to stores. She runs www.LeatherBeast.com, www.MarySavel.com, and lives and works out of her NYC apt that she shares with 1 boyfriend and 2 cats.