Thursday, October 25, 2012

Product Photography 101: Try, Try Again

.....And Again

You know me. Girl with camera in hand. Unfortunately, the kind of pictures I take and I am good at, don't necessarily qualify me as a good product photographer. As I mentioned yesterday, I always feel like I'm struggling with my product shots.  They rarely do the item justice and this, my friends, is a problem when you're trying to sell merchandise over the Internet. People can't see your product in person when they are surfing on the web. They can't use their other senses either to decide if they like your product, so product photos for Internet shops have a huge job to do.

I made a light box the other night in an attempt to give myself some more shooting time, especially when the sun doesn't cooperate.  It worked O.K., but that's it. I can't say I was thrilled in the least with how they came out. I think a trip to Home Depot is in order to pick up some daylight lights to retro fit my set up. I did some quick tries, just so I could get my product listed, and used a backdrop that could have used a hot iron. Should I have listed it anyway? Probably not. What if someone visited my shop and saw that listing just the way it was, with wrinkled backdrop and blah lighting. They might think, 'well, it's not worth coming back here again'. This is not what I want my potential customers to think. Then again, it was listed, and someone may have come to the shop and seen something else they liked. Catch 22.

Today, the sun has been cooperating so I've been shooting a few things, including the calendars I shot the other night. 

Here's some before and afters so you can compare.


Although the light box has potential, this just isn't working. Light is still not bright enough and I need a better background.  Perhaps one that doesn't require ironing.

The sun was full throttle at this point, rather than behind a cloud. Hence the shadows. Better but the shadows are a bummer. This is one reason that it's better to shoot in natural daylight with filtered sun or when it's a little overcast. Gives you light, but not too much. 

Here's another garland page I shot with the sun behind the cloud. Better.

Better lighting. Better background. I don't know if it's the best I can do but it's certainly and improvement.  I shot this outside with the sun behind me. It was coming in and out of the clouds. If it was out of the clouds, I blocked the direct light with my body the best I could so that it would cast less shadows.

Oh man. You can really see I need the right kind of light bulb. Those CFLs have the most awful yellow glow.


I tried again the next day, with indirect light from the window and different backdrop.


It certainly looks better than the yellowy light box one, but still has room for improvement. The background is better, but the calendar isn't as clear as I'd like. Again, it's not showing the product off as well as it should.


Hhmmm.  Flowers look clearer, but I think I like the lighting better in the previous version. See what I mean about try, try again.  This one is still not quite there. What to do, what to do.

I also took shots of some of my stationery, as they too can use some  improvement.

Not my worst, that's for sure.


However, I like the lighting and the contrast against the darker background in the one above better.


Dull. Lifeless. Needs to be clearer.


Stationery could still be clearer, but composition and lighting is much better.

Ah....composition. Even more to think about. Do you know about the rule of thirds? If you don't, it's worth reading about (see link below). It definitely can help with composition and improve your shots.

Here are a couple of resources I've come across that you might be interested. I'll definitely be adding thoughts on this subject as there is much room for improvement on my end.

Product Photography & Styling: This post on Decor8 is great, because Holly is nice enough to share a bunch of resources. Great info. Still have some of the links to explore.

Rule of Thirds: How To Compose a Better Photo: Ashley must have been reading my mind when she posted this article by Gayle Vehar.  (and why don't I have Lil Blue Boo in my sidebar? I read it every day.)

In case you're wondering, a real dslr camera is on my wish list. Right now I'm shooting with a point and shoot Panasonic Lumix. I know I can still get better pictures with that thing, but half the manual is online and I like to have something I can read right in my hand. You'd think for the price of these cameras they could give you the entire, in-depth manual- yes?  I wish I could shoot products with my 35mil camera, but it wouldn't make much sense to wait for the film to be developed for a product shot. That camera seriously rocks a shot. I need a digital version, but I'll have to save for that because they are a chunk of change.

Do you find your self struggling with product photography? What are your biggest challenges?

Hope the day finds you well. The lighting this morning highlighting the trees in the field was simply beautiful. A great way to start the day.

Make the most of your Thursday. I'm going to throw a pot of chili on for later. I'll probably get the sriracha sauce too, for a little extra heat.  Had some last night on the lo mein I made and it made my eyelids sweat. Yeowza.

Ciao for now,


  1. I hate photography! I have to take some pictures today and I still haven't gotten to where I can take a consistently good photo. I think the photos above with the darker backgrounds turned out well and offer contrast for your lovely works of art!

    It helps me to know that I'm not alone in my photography issues!

  2. I feel your pain Pam! I have been trying different cameras/techniques for years- i even have a light box- fancy lamps, etc. i have to try and photograph round shiny glittery ornaments....! it's hell! I even hired a professional photographer- well- fail! make sure if you do- they are COMMERCIAL product photographers- huge difference! As you mentioned, I also find that pics look great until I upload them to Etsy, then they look crappy and blurry.ugh. Every once in a blue moon- I can get a decent shot on the perfect outdoor day, with the little flower symbol- it focuses the forefront and sort of blurs the's hit or miss and has always been a bone of contention with me. There are tons of helpful articles on Etsy, but by the time I read them I am more frustrated and lose lots of time- it is SO much! all of my customers that order online always tell me how much better the item looks in person :( My BF actual gets better pics of my product on his Smartphone- go figure. good Luck to you!!!

  3. Oh Pam! So glad I am not the only one! I have exactly the same problem and in fact it has rather put me off Etsying for a while. I lost my mojo... I will try to get inspired again! Thanks for the interesting post.


    PS: Guys, if you want some extra free Etsy Promotion check this out:

  4. Wow, you took a lot of photos! I actually like the next to last one of the calendar. The lighting looks nice and not too dark. I actually love all of your stationery shots (man, is flat paper HARD to photograph!!) but I agree on the darker background. That being said, if you ever look at Etsy's front page, it is getting more and more the trend to be on a white background. However, if I look through my favorites (a favorite past time) then most everything I've picked has some other kind of backdrop. I'll tell you this, though- I hate the photos that are so white that they look like the item is floating in space. That totally turns me off. Good luck, and I'll probably be trying some of these tricks myself.


You comments make my day. Thanks for taking the time to visit Mercantile Muse and for commenting. I really appreciate it. ~Pam

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