The Top 3 Mistakes I Made When Photographing My Products For My Etsy Shop And How You Can Avoid Them

When I was learning to take product photos when I had my Etsy shop, I swear it’s like all the photography knowledge I had learned went completely out the window. I was quickly learning that photographing a beach sunset was different than photographing a product.

Product photography was something I hadn’t done before so it was awkward and frustrating to try and get this amazing professional-looking photo I’d see online all the time, only to totally get unflattering, dull photos.

Looking back, I realized I made a lot of mistakes, but here are 3 mistakes that would have improved my product photos.

Mixing lighting sources 

When I would photograph my products, I’d end up with photos with a red or yellow cast to them. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I was mixing my lighting.

What’s that mean? 

It means I was using indoor lighting to take my photos while I had curtains open which was also letting in natural light from outside.

When you start mixing light sources, you can get weird color casting in your photos. This can be hard to see when taking photos, so it’s best to upload your photos if possible to a computer to fully see how your images look.

All digital cameras have an auto white balance feature (a tool to help balance and neutralize colors in a photo) that you should be using when taking your photos. But if you’re mixing lighting sources, adjusting the white balance doesn’t always work well because your camera can’t balance the colors well. 

I should have stuck with either indoor lighting or outdoor lighting as my light source. Not both. 

To make photographing your products easier, pick either natural/outdoor light or indoor/artificial light as your light source.

If you’re relying on the natural light coming in from a window, be sure to shut off any indoor lights that may be in the room you're shooting in.

If you want to use indoor light, close any curtains or blinds so you don’t get any unwelcome natural or artificial light (like a street lamp) coming in.

Not adjusting the white balance

Sometimes when I was photographing my products indoors, I’d forget to adjust the white balance. White balance is an important feature in photography because it can help save you a lot of time editing your photos.

Digital cameras (including your mobile phone camera) have an auto white balance feature. While it can be really good, it’s not always accurate. If you don’t have the option to manually adjust the white balance, there are camera apps you can download that have more camera features, including the option to adjust the white balance.

By adjusting the white balance before you take a photo, you it can greatly reduce the time it takes to edit a photo after. If you don’t, you may end up trying to fix a photo where no matter how much you try to get the colors to balance, the colors may still look off.

Not having enough light

When I would take my product photos, I would usually take them on the floor of my living room. But because I have a sofa in front of a window, the sofa would block light from hitting the floor, leaving me with insufficient light. 

So what did I do to fix this problem? I would turn on a side table lamp or overhead light to get more light.

Looking back, neither solution was great. By using overhead light, the distance from the ceiling to the floor is probably close to 8 feet which is far if I’m trying to photograph my product. By the time the light reaches my product, the light isn’t very bright. Add in light from a table lamp and I would end up with areas in my photo that were brighter or darker, creating an unflattering image. 

What I should have done is get close to a window and used natural light! I didn’t have any studio lights so natural light should have been my go-to source for lighting.

Now that I know my living room windows are north-facing, they’re great for photography because the lighting is even and consistent throughout the day. East and west-facing windows are more inconsistent and south-facing windows can create intense lighting.

One thing I did do correctly

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

I will say the one thing I did from the beginning when I was taking my product photos was keeping them simple! I attempted a few times to get creative when it came to photographing my products but I never really like the results. So I stuck with photographing my product against a plain, white background.

It’s really important to remember that when learning anything, especially product photography for your business is it takes time to learn what works. Not all products photograph the same. Some products are more challenging while others are a little easier to photograph. 

The more you practice and apply these tips, the more your photos will improve. You’ll begin to understand how to fix problems and learn how to take great photos of your products.

What’s 1 thing you’ve been able to improve on when it comes to photographing your products?  Leave a comment 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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