Part Four of the How to Run a Business on a Budget series
Everyone who has an online business, whether it be handmade or just a small shop, knows your photos are what sell your product. Without your customers having the benefit of holding your product in their hand, trying it on, squishing it etc, your photo is the main thing they will use to decide if they should purchase or not. This is the top reason why product photography is so important.
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The key to taking a good picture is making sure you have good lighting. When I first started taking product photos, I thought good lighting meant well lit… so I would put my product in direct sunlight. This did not make for pretty photos ????. Now, when I take product photos, my goal is well lit, no shadows and as true to color as possible.
Here are a couple pictures I took in 2015, in direct sunlight
Up until this winter, I took all my product photography outside; all the photos for my Etsy listings, Instagram posts and for my blog post.
I would gather my products and props then wait for the right time of day (usually in the evenings because I’m not an early bird and can’t have things ready in time for early morning light), then take everything outside to be photographed.
I did this for about two years. Natural light is the best way to light up your photographs, and the cheapest (hello it’s free). You will want to lay your products in a spot where it’s well lit, but it isn’t in direct sunlight (causing shadows and warm tones). I would take a lot of my pictures under the roof of our outside deck.
You don’t have to go outside. If you have big windows in your house that will do the trick, especially if you have corner windows!
If you’re using a window for light, put something white behind your product, like a white piece of poster board. This will reflect the light from the window back onto your product.
For me, I could never get a good shot inside, it could be the direction my house is facing or that we have too many trees and not enough light comes inside, it was just easier for me to take everything outside.
Here are a few lighting tricks I’ve learned.
- When you are outside, place your hand out in front of your face where you can see your palm. Slowly spin in a circle and watch the shadow on your palm move around. When your palm is well lit, with no shadows, that’s the direction you should shoot from.
- If your images are looking too blue, your white balance may be off. If you have a big camera these things are adjustable (I just haven’t figured all that out yet). If you’re just using a smartphone (I use my iPhone 8+), you can make the auto white balance cooperate by putting something white or light gray in the frame. Sometimes I will use a little cotton stock, a business card, a white coffee mug, just something white so the camera will say “oh hey that’s what white should look like”, and adjust the rest of the colors accordingly.
- I noticed one time when I was outside taking flat lay pics, my lighting changed
significanlywhen I took the picture vs when Gabe took the picture. I was wearing a black shirt and Gabe was wearing a white shirt. Gabe is my Husband by the way. His white shirt helped to reflect the light and made for a prettier photo.
- Concrete reflects light as well. If you are taking photos outside and you can either shoot from the grass or shoot from the sidewalk, a sidewalk will give you a more true-to-color photo.
I now have a light kit that I invested in to help with inside photos and videos. It came with two standing lights and one tall standing overhead light.
I purchased these light bulbs from Amazon, but I think when these give out I am going to jump up to the next wattage option available. My room that I use is super dark and has one measly window.
I still take my product photos for my Etsy shop outside, but a lot of the other stuff I can now do inside with my lights.
My kit came from jet.com but here is one I found on Amazon that is super similar!
Something else I invested in recently is a phone mount attachment for my tripod! This little guy was a huge game changer.
I use it for my videos, my Instagram lives and of course my photos. It can hold a phone either vertically or horizontally.
I also have a Bluetooth remote for my phone so I can take a picture from a distance. I have a pretty particular set up, I’ll explain it in words then show you guys a diagram (excuse my poor art skills)
So I have my phone on my tripod (using the new attachment I purchased from Amazon), then I plug my phone up to my MacBook Pro and open Quicktime Player. (Quicktime Player comes standard on MacBooks I believe, at least it did on mine)
In Quicktime Player I go to file, New Movie Recording, then the down arrow next to the red record button, and I choose to record from my iPhone.
I’m not actually recording anything, I just do this so I can see on my computer screen, what my phone is seeing.
Then I stand in front of my phone, line myself up by watching the computer screen, and snap the pictures with my bluetooth remote!
This isn’t the tripod I use, I got mine from a yard sale ☺️, but it’s the same size and seems to have good reviews!
Everyone edits their photos different, some people find a filter they like and stick with it, some people like to get more creative and change colors and stuff like that, for my photos, I edit them just enough so they look polished but nothing is really changed too much (for the most part).
Recently I have been getting into a little bit more creative editing for my Instagram feed and blog marketing graphics, but for my product photography, I try to edit them as little as possible.
I use the Photos app to edit my pictures. It’s the free app that came with my MacBook. It’s also the app on iPhones and iPads, but the desktop version has more options and is easier to manipulate in my opinion.
You can see the adjustments I made on the right hand side of this image.
Then I open up a free extension I downloaded called BeFunky to brighten the eyes and whiten the teeth. I also use the teeth whitening tool to whiten anything else in the photo, in this one I whitened the shelf behind me.
That’s basically all I do! Here is a before and after side by side for comparison.
This picture was taken in my very poorly lit craft room with my three lights.
If I’m posting a picture to Instagram, I will usually make a few more edits within the app there as well. I always “sharpen” the photo a little and remove some shadows, sometimes I’ll add more brightness if the photo needs it.
Staging and Posing
This is something I feel like I’ve always struggled with, I’m not a very decorative person lol, my house is pretty plain (except for the parts that my neighbor decorated for me) and I hardly wear jewelry or accessories.
It’s just never been a priority for me or something I even think about in my personal life, so I had to really focus on it in my professional life to try to get a handle on staging my photos.
My first tip is if you sell wearables, show your pieces on a model. That goes back to what we said at the beginning of this post, a photo is the main thing your customers will go by when deciding to purchase, they need to be able to envision the piece on them, and it’s very hard to do that when you are just looking at a
If it’s on a model, they can see how it drapes or frames the face, they can see how it sits on a person, they can compare the size of the model to their size and try to envision how they would look wearing that piece.
With online sales, you have to make buying as easy as possible, less thinking more shopping!!
I’m going to say this next part with as much love as possible, but you need to use a pretty model. People buy things from pretty people.
If your model is a babe, your customers will think “oh if I have that thing I’ll be a babe too” boom sale. I personally believe everyone is beautiful and unique, but when I find models for my photos I try to find people who I know the majority of viewers would find them aesthetically pleasing.
Also, something I’m looking into doing is diversifying my models because my product is for everyone, not just one demographic or ethnicity.
But how do you find models? I am lucky enough that my sister is a total hottie, she is seriously photogenic, but your model doesn’t even have to be someone you are very close with.
My best selling beanie, the Linen Claire Bun Beanie, has done so well because my model is absolutely stunning. She’s just a local girl that I went to high school with (we weren’t even Facebook friends at the time yall) and
I reached out to her to see if she would be interested in trading a beanie for a promotional post on Instagram. She agreed and posted this picture to her Instagram.
I got over 100 new followers that day lol. Then I used her picture (guys this was a selfie she took on her phone, I’m not even kidding) with permission of course, as the listing photo in my Etsy shop and I have sold over 1200 linen Claire Bun Beanies in 2 years, because of this beautiful pic of a beautiful model. All I did was reach out to her.
I did the same thing for a couple other models you can see around my Etsy shop. I messaged them, told them they were beautiful and would make perfect models in my shop, and asked if they would mind setting up a photo shoot with me (and my photographer friend) and let me take some pictures in exchange for beanies.
You don’t even have to use local models! I have sent
Just find some accounts that have a photography style you like or that is close to yours and see if they would be interested! The answer is always no if you don’t ask, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!
Be proud of your product, proud of your skills and confident people will want to model for you!
Do Your Research
The last thing I want to touch on about photography is just to always be mindful when you are looking at other photos.
If you are seeing photo ads for Target, if you are seeing beautiful picture on Instagram, Polo, Coach, whatever catches your eye, try to pick it apart and see what drew you in.
Was it the way the model was posed? Was it the
All of these little aspects you can dissect and use in your product photography. If you see a picture where the model is standing in front of a road and the lines of the road direct your eyes directly to the product being advertised, try to do that in your photos!
Look at what pictures are doing well on Instagram, is it mostly flat lays, detail shots, lifestyle shots, photos of models? What is your target audience drawn to?
Search Pinterest and YouTube for things like “how to pose in photos” and “how to style product photography”.
Look in magazines and see how all their pictures are styled, start thinking from a different perspective. Instead of saying “oh that’s pretty” and moving on, stop and think “why is this photo so pretty” what aspects do you like and how can you incorporate them into your photos?
The Debrosse Masterclass goes into detail how Teresa of Debrosse styles, shoots and edits her photos. It is very helpful and
I hope you guys found this post helpful! I’m telling you, the shadow in the palm trick I mentioned in the beginning, is the best tip I’ve ever learned!
Please feel free to ask me any questions, I am happy to answer them! I don’t know everything there is to know about photography, I still just use my iPhone and I don’t use any fancy editing software, but I get by, and I’m happy to share with you how!