4 Habits That Are Holding You Back From Improving Your Etsy Product Photos

You’ll probably agree with me when I say photographing your crafts for your online handmade business is something you probably don’t get super excited about doing.

Many craft business owners I’ve spoken to or coached privately have told me photographing their products is often a frustrating experience. If you spend WAY longer than you want trying to get good product photos only to end up with photos that rarely come out well, you’re definitely not alone!

I didn’t particularly like the process of taking product photos when I sold on Etsy and I usually didn’t end up with good photos either. But I can say this time around taking the time to practice, experiment and not going down the Google search rabbit hole have contributed to my product photos dramatically improving. 

If you find yourself getting stuck when it comes to photographing your handmade products, hopefully one of these tips will help you get unstuck and get you moving in the right direction.

1. Stop spending hours researching to find THE solution

There’s a good chance that if you don’t know how to do something or you’re looking for a solution to a problem you’re running into, you’re probably going to hop on Google and do some research. 

While there’s nothing wrong with researching to see what solutions are out there before taking action, it can be easy to get stuck in the researching phase and avoid actually doing anything with what you’ve learned.

I think we often get stuck in this phase because we’ve been conditioned from a young age that the more information we know about a topic, the better we’ll be at getting the results we want. While this way of learning works if you’re trying to get your learner’s permit to drive, it doesn’t work for product photography.

If I had gotten stuck researching for tips to learn how to take product photos and not implemented what I had learned by actually taking photos, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

When I started applying what I was learning by practicing taking photos, I began making progress with my photography, which brings me to the second thing that keeps makers from improving their photos …

2. Get off the computer, pick up your camera and start practicing!

When I talk to makers about their product photography and ask how much time they’re spending time practicing, their response is usually “not enough.”

Now I totally understand because photography isn’t the main focus of your business, but remember that to sell your products online, you need good photos and if you want your photos to improve, you have to practice taking photos.

Practicing was one of the things that I didn't do enough of when I had my Etsy shop. I often did the minimum, meaning I’d just take product photos that I needed for my product listings and then called it a day.

Rarely did I carve out time to practice which is one of the reasons I didn’t see my photos improve. But this time around, the more I took the time to practice and experiment (my next tip!) with my setup and what I was doing, my photos started to look better.

3. Don’t like the results? Do something different!

When I was taking photos of my photo greeting cards for my old Etsy shop, I really didn’t really experiment very much with my setup (taking photos on the floor with a dim overhead ceiling light) which resulted in me getting more or less the same, poorly lit product photos. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing!

So when I started taking product photos again this time around, I started taking photos on my dining room table with a crazy setup using the light from the ceiling (omg why was I doing this again?!) as my light source. I didn’t like my results (yay, I figured that out!) and decided to DIY a light box to see if that worked. I took some photos and realized yep, I still don’t like the results light boxes give me and recycled it immediately!

I hadn’t tried natural light and decided to give that a try instead because if you don’t like the results you’re getting, you gotta do something different. As I kept experimenting and making changes to my setup, I realized my photos looked 1000x better than the photos I had when I was selling on Etsy.

Left image of DIY photography setup of book next to window with camera, right DIY photography setup of  of Buddha figurine on book stack on table with papers and camera

4. Quit wasting money on photography gear 

While this isn’t a “habit” per se, this is something that blocks a lot of makers from improving their photos that I wanted to throw in.

I know when it comes to photography, gear and equipment often comes up a lot. It can be SUPER easy to assume you need to buy all this stuff to make your photos better. And while having certain things may improve the quality of your photos and process of photographing your work easier, you can get really great photos without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on gear and equipment.

Most makers can get great product photos just by using a tripod, the camera on their phone or a camera, and a few other pieces that can be purchased at your local craft supply store. 

When I started out learning how to take better product photos, I didn’t buy really anything to get started. I made due with what I had already (which wasn’t much other than a camera and a tripod!) and did the best I could. My end results came out great not because of the equipment I had, but because I learned the basics about product photography which isn’t all about the equipment you have.

How do you take better photos of your handmade products?

If you find yourself getting stuck when it comes to taking better product photos, it’s time to approach things differently so you start getting better results!

1. Pick up the camera and start taking photos

If you're getting product photography tips from me or somewhere else online, there’s a good chance you have enough information to go pick up that camera and start practicing. Print out those photography tips and have them next to where you’ll be taking photos. Or if you want instead, have your computer setup so you can reference the information you’ll need as you practice.

2. Schedule time to practice

If setting aside time to practice is your biggest challenge, you need to dedicate time to practicing. Taking photos once in a while isn’t going to help you make progress. “Repetition is the mother of all skill” as Tony Robbins once said so I’m going to challenge you to dedicate time once a week to practicing photographing your products.

Commit to practicing for 1-2 hours a week. If you want to break those 2 hours and do 1 hour one day on Mondays and the other hour on Thursdays, that’s great! Do what works best for your schedule. If you want to spend more time practicing, that’s awesome!

Square photo print of beach in wooden block holder

3. Change things up with your setup

If you don’t see your photos getting better, it’s time to experiment with your setup! If the lighting isn’t great, position your setup differently so the light is hitting your product from a different direction. If you usually take photos in direct sunlight, try taking photos in the shade or indirect sunlight. If you usually take photos with a light box, take photos using indirect natural light and see how your photos look. 

Don’t get discouraged!

Recently, I shared a story with my email subscriber list about how one afternoon I was practicing photographing some candles and it seemed like everything was going wrong.

By the end of the day, I felt I totally wasted my afternoon! Then I realized that while I didn’t end up with photos I liked, I did learn about what not to do the next time I tried to photograph the pair of candles.

When I went to photograph the candles again, I tried a different spot, changed my background, had better lighting and tried to improve the styling. I ended up much happier with my end results! If I had let my previous attempt discourage me from trying again, I wouldn’t have ended up with the photos I liked. So don’t give up, even when you want to!

Similar photos of candles on top books. One photo with fabric covering table, the other without

Final Thoughts

If you find yourself practicing and it seems like nothing is working or everything is going wrong, know that it’s okay! When you’re learning to do something that’s out of your comfort zone, you’re going to make lots of mistakes and it’s going to be frustrating at times. I get frustrated too, believe me!

Just remember the more you spend time practicing what you’ve learned and experimenting with your setup, the more likely you’ll see your product photos improving. I didn’t go to school to learn how to take product photos for Etsy.

I learned on my own by practicing, experimenting and not getting caught up in researching all the time. If I can take great product photos with minimal photography gear and tools (tripod, camera and natural light), you can 100% do it too.

What’s 1 thing you’re going to commit to doing when it comes to photographing your crafts? Leave a comment below and let me know!

About the author

Imelda Jimenez-LaMar is a product photography coach and former Etsy seller, who said goodbye to her corporate job to create a business teaching photography. She is on a mission to demystify product photography for makers who want to create product photos that sell their handmade products online and grow their handmade business.

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