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How To's, Product Listings, Product Photography Tips

How To Critique Your Own Product Photos For Your Online Handmade Business (+ Free Worksheet!)

Want to improve your Etsy product photos, but don’t know what steps to take to actually improve them?

If you answered yes, I’m here to help!

Back when I was taking product photos for my Etsy shop, I thought my photos looked “okay” or “decent.” While I knew my photos could be better, I didn’t take the time to figure out how to actually improve. Instead, I just would hope that pointing and clicking my camera would produce “good enough” product photos to score me sales online. And while I did get some sales, they were far and few in between.

That was back in 2011.

photo of glass magnets with purple flowers and another photo of photo greeting card of a dog

A few of my old Etsy product photos

You can’t show quality handmade products with “decent” photography

Nowadays, the competition is high for selling handmade crafts online. That means “decent” or “ok” product photos may not be good enough to stop a customer from scrolling to look at your product. With the amount of time we spend scrolling online on a daily basis, you can’t afford to have so-so photos , especially if our attention span today is shorter than goldfish

So rather than pray for good product photos every time you go to pick up your camera, let’s be a bit more strategic. Let’s look and see if your shop views and sales can give you some insight into what changes you should make next time you go to shoot new product photos!

Want to download a worksheet to help you through this exercise? Click here to download it. You'll also get bonus prompts and questions to give you more insight into your current product photos! 

Disclaimer - I want to give you a heads up before we get into the rest of this post. You know we’re our own worst critics. Product photography is a learning process. This exercise isn’t intended to make you feel bad and make you think, “Omg, I’m so bad at taking product photos!!” Remember, no one starts out taking great product photos off the bat. It takes practice! My old product photos weren’t great. It’s about progress, not perfection. So please be kind to yourself during this process! We all start somewhere and we can always grow and do better!

STEP 1 - Which listings have the most views or sales?

First, make table (see image below) in a document on your computer or with a pen and paper and write the following categories at the top:

  • Product
  • Main Listing Image
  • Background
  • Lighting
  • Image Quality
  • Angles/Shots

If you downloaded the worksheet for this exercise, be sure you’re in the “Most Views/Sales” tab which you’ll see at the bottom of the Google Sheet.

Google sheet template to critique product photos

Download this worksheet to guide you through this exercise

Based on your shop stats (Etsy, Shopify, etc.) look at which listings have the most views and most sales.  Select 5-8 listings for this exercise or you can of course select more if you want. List those products out under the “Product” column.

Next, go through each listing and describe what type of photos you see based on each category. Write down your observations. See example below for reference.

Not sure what to write down under each category? Below are a few questions to help you get started. 

If you download the worksheet, refer to the “Listing Questions” tab for these questions and more to help you fill out each category. 

  • What is the main listing photo?
    • What type of photo it is? (Lifestyle, product against plain background, etc.)
    • What angle or perspective is it? (Straight on, side profile, flatlay, etc.)
  • What background are you using in your photos? 
    • Do all your photos have the same background or do they vary from photo to photo?
    • Are they dark or light-colored backgrounds?
  • How is the lighting?
    • Does the lighting look more or less the same in all your listing photos?
    • Do you have shadows that can be seen easily or are your shadows almost non-existent?
  • What’s the image quality?
    • Are your photos bright, sharp, clear and in focus?
    • Are they dark, gray, grainy, and blurry?
  • What types of shots do you have for your listing?
    • How many total photos are in your listing?
    • What type of photo is each image in your listing? (Lifestyle, straight on, side profile, etc.)
square beach photo print in wooden block holder

STEP 2 -  Which listings have the least views or sales?

Next, you’ll create the same table you did as before and focus on products that have the least views and sales.

Go through the same process as you did before by selecting 5-8 listings and describe what type of photos you see. 

If you’re using the worksheet, fill in the table on the “Least Views/Sales” tab.

I know this may seem like a lot of work, but trust me, it will help you give you clarity about what’s going on with your product photos!

STEP 3 - What common themes do you see?

Once you’ve finished filling out your tables, it’s time to see what common themes emerge! 

If you’re using the worksheet, click on the “Review Questions” tab to help you with this portion of the exercise. Otherwise, feel free to do this on your computer or with pen and paper if you want. 

First, let’s look at your listings with the most views and sales. Do you notice any patterns or common themes? Maybe these all have the same type of main listing image? Maybe most of the listing photos have the same type of background? Maybe the lighting looks softer and even?  Whatever themes or patterns you see, write these down.

Next, do the same with the listings with low views and sales. What themes do you see? Do these listings only have 1-2 listing photos? Or maybe each photo in a listing has a different background? Write down what you see.

If your answers are all over the place and it’s hard to see a theme, don’t worry, the information you write down is still valuable.

black cross body bag with gold strap flat lay

STEP 3 - What’s working and not working?

In the worksheet, the “Review Questions” tab has a section for “next steps”. You’ll find questions to answer for this and the next portion of the exercise along with some added notes to help you along.

Now that you’ve figured out what themes and patterns have emerged through reviewing your listing photos, now it’s time to figure out what’s working and not working. 

Based on your observations, what do you think is working with your photos? What’s not working? And what do you think you should change when it comes to your product photos? Take some time to think through these questions. Again, don’t get super critical of yourself here. 

STEP 4 - Now what do you do?

Now that you have some information about what things you should change, it’s time to start taking action.

If lighting is an area you think you should work on, check out the basics on lighting and how to tackle common lighting problems.

If your product photos are all over the place and there’s very little consistency between your listings photos, here’s how to be more consistent when photographing your products for Etsy.

If backgrounds are something you're looking to change, here are tips to select the right background for your products.

a hand touching teal colored bowl with yellow flowers floating in milk on marble surface

Product photos aren’t the only thing that influence your business

Now I want to mention that obviously SEO, marketing, product descriptions and so on play an important role in customers finding your craft business.

Things like your marketing and SEO bring customers to your shop, but you product photos are what get customers to click on your listings. It will either get them to stay and shop or it will or drive them away. 

Don’t underestimate the power of your product photos for your business.

Final Thoughts

Is this a perfect assessment of your product photos? No, but that’s okay. It hopefully will provide you the clarity and guidance you need to know what solutions to seek out to improve your photos.

Remember that your product photos are crucial aspect of your business because they’re the first thing your customer sees. The better quality product photos you have, the more likely you’ll increase your views and sales for your business.

What’s 1 thing you discovered by doing this exercise? Leave a comment and let me know!

Want to go deeper and get personalized support for photographing your handmade products? Click here to learn more about how you can work with me one-on-one.

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