Tips to take better pictures for Etsy

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5 Tips To Improve Your Pictures on Etsy Without Using Expensive Equipment

If you sell product online, it is extremely important that your pictures stand out and look professional. I am going to tell you five simple steps to improve your pictures in just a few minutes without spending a bunch of money.

I see articles all over the internet of bloggers showing you how to take these amazing pictures with expensive cameras, tripods, expensive studio lights, and/or a light box or light tent. I am going to teach you how to photograph your Etsy products and not spend much money, if any.

I’ve been a professional photographer for over 13 years, I own quality cameras, state of the art studio lighting, and an amazing tripod. But I will be honest, I shoot every item I show on Etsy from my kitchen or craft room, with none of my professional camera equipment. I am sure you are asking yourself why I don’t use my professional equipment. The answer is simple…I love the cameras on the iPhones. Their picture editing apps are great and it is just so convenient.

Why are Pictures so Important on Etsy

Since Etsy is an online platform there are thousands and thousands of shops on there, and the competition is tough. Because Etsy isn’t a brick and mortar store, our potential clients can’t touch and feel our products. They have to rely on imagery. If the pictures that they are viewing don’t do the product justice, you can kiss your sale goodbye.

I have compiled a list of important key points that I feel will help with product photography. They are simple, yet full of valuable information that can change your okay images to amazing images.

* Some links below contain affiliate links. Purchasing through them, at no further cost to you, help support Montana Vintage Market blog. For more information, you may read the disclosure here.

1. Good Lighting

Lighting is key. Natural light is the best light source and it is free. Depending on the day, light can come in thru the windows either with a soft glow, or it can be too harsh. If the light is too harsh, meaning the sun is blaring thru the window, don’t worry, I will go over how to fix that. If you are shooting near sunrise or sunset (golden hour), you will get a warmer tone.

  • Position the product as close to the light source (your windows) as possible.
  • Turn off all lights (ambient and florescent lights will make your photos too yellow or blue). You don’t want weird tones on your products. Natural lighting is sufficient.

2. Scrim your Product

A scrim is a translucent piece of material that is placed between your subject and the sun. It is used to diffuse light, giving an overall even tone, basically helping to avoid having harsh shadows. A scrim is critical to get a good image if the sun is directly or partially on the subject. I use scrims for the majority of my photo shoots (products or people) unless it is a cloudy day.

There are two options to scrim natural light and they both work. One is a free option (using items in your home), and the other is less than $20.

  • Use white plastic kitchen bags and tape to the window. In the example, I’ve taped 2 white plastic kitchen bags to the window. I shoot products all the time from my kitchen. When it is in the afternoon and the light is harsh (I have an east facing window), I often tape plastic kitchen bags to the windows. I do own a scrim (explained below), but if its at my studio and not at my house, I don’t hesitate to use the plastic bag method. I doubt most customers can tell the difference in my photos.
  • Purchase a scrim. I have a link to a 5 in 1 Reflector/Scrim set in two different sizes:

These devices work amazing and is what I use on professional photoshoots where I need to control harsh light or have a subject with harsh shadows on them.

3. Use a Reflector

A reflector is a device that is used in photography that bounces light towards the subject to balance out the shadows. Place it on the opposite side of the subject from the light source. I use a reflector everyday in my business. They come in all shapes and sizes. The products I sell in my Etsy shop are small, therefore I can get away with a very small reflector. There are 3 items that can be a substitute, and that I usually have on hand:

  • A white plastic kitchen bag (same kind used as a scrim explained above).- Usually I have someone hold it close to the subject, or I set a box next to the subject and tape the kitchen bag to it (look at diagram where to place the reflector)
  • White Foam Board or Poster Board – These items can be purchased at the Dollar store or office Supply Store. The board should be set close to the subject (look at the diagram where to place the reflector)
  • White Canvas – We have an artist in the family so these are laying around our home. They can be purchased them from Michael’s. The canvas should be set close to the subject (look at the diagram where to place the reflector)

You also can purchase a reflector for very little money. Reflectors, in my opinion, are by far the best investment when it comes to photography. The 5 in 1 Reflector/Scrim that was mentioned in the Scrim section of this article, include the scrim and 4 reflectors for under $20.

Here are the links for the reflectors again:

Different Colors of Reflectors

  • White – Used in sunny situations and produces an even filled soft light when bounced onto the subject
  • Silver – Used in cloudy or low light situations where the sun isn’t harsh to help bounce light onto the subject
  • Gold – Uses warm filled light when bounced onto the subject (as a photographer, I stay away from this lighting as I don’t like the way it photographs)
  • Black – used to block light when needed
  • Translucent – used to diffuse light (this is explained under Scrim)

Image Not Using Scrim

Harsh lighting/ Blown Out

Image using a Scrim

Balanced lighting

4. Use a Background

Here is where a lot of Etsy sellers make a mistake. They shoot their product, completely unaware of what else is in the picture. If you are going to shoot in a room towards a wall, be sure that the background is blurred out so that the product isn’t competing with whatever is on the wall. Most cell phones have this capability nowadays. I shoot with an iPhone 8s and I set it to portrait mode. It automatically focuses on the subject, blurring out the background giving it a professional looking picture. Look at your camera settings for this feature.

If you are shooting down towards a table or floor, be sure that the area is attractive. Don’t just use a cement floor or asphalt. My go to for a background is barnwood that is natural or painted white. There is also have a tutorial on the blog on how to make a ship-lap flat lay that is easy to make and easy to assemble and store. Another option is using a piece of poster board.

5. Use props

In all of my Etsy photos, I use props that compliment the product. I love succulents, barnwood, and driftwood, and use one or more of those items in every photo. The items that I use are in my kitchen or craft room. Consistency is the key for recognition, and it also makes your Etsy shop look clean by having the photos have a similar background. I strategically place them in the photo, and play around with it until I am happy with final outcome.

Thats it, 5 tips on how to photograph Etsy products without using expensive equipment.

Until next time

~H

Image using a wood table for background

I love using greenery (succulents, and driftwood)

Use props that compliment your product that you

are selling.

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