Want To Use Props In Your Product Photos? Check Out These Quick Tips!

Have you wondering how to you can use props into your products product for your Etsy shop or Shopify store? Or maybe you’ve been using props but your photos aren’t looking as nice as you thought they would and you’re wondering why? 


In this post, we’ll go over why props are important to selling your handmade products online and the do’s and dont’s when it comes to using props for your online shop.


Why using lifestyle photos are important for online shoppers

While studio product shots (when you photograph a product against a simple background with no other items) are important for shoppers online, creating lifestyle photos with props can influences customers in purchasing from you.


By including lifestyle photos, you can create a mood, a feeling and bring your products to life in a way you can’t with a studio product photo. Lifestyle product photos provide your customer a way to imagine what your product could look like in their life. They provide context and are a great way to tell a story that they may not imagine with a standard studio photo. Lifestyle photos are a powerful way to show customers how they can use, display or style your product which is an important when online shopping.

Be selective with your props

Just because you see other Etsy sellers using flowers or seashells in their product photos, doesn’t mean you should use them too.


It’s my belief that a prop needs to be used thoughtfully and purposefully. Otherwise, your prop will run the risk of looking random in your product photo. 


A few things to ask yourself when selecting props is:


  1. Is this prop related to my product and/or brand?
  2. Does this make the photo better or worse?
  3. What’s the story, them or feeling I want to communicate to my customer with my product?


If you sell handcrafted cherry-vanilla soap, why not use some cherries or vanilla beans as props in your photos? Don’t include a random basket with plastic, colorful beads because it won’t make sense with your product and possibly your brand. Always be intentional with your props.

Don’t let props dominate your photo


One of the biggest problems I see with product photos on Etsy is when the props end is up dominating the photo and take away from the product being sold.


If you’re photographing a handmade product next to another item that’s competing to be the star of the photo, it’s going to look off.

In the photo above, is the plant the star of the photo or the penguin dish? It may be hard to tell because they're both competing for your attention which is what you don't want to do when using props in your photos. 


Make sure the props you’re using are not competing with your product. Often times this may mean you need to get closer when taking a photo like in the photo below or remove some props


Also selecting props that are a more muted in color or are smaller (or that can be partly cropped out yet still add some context) than your product can help too.

small penguin dish with a plant against red background

Don’t use too many props 

The more things you add to a product photo, the more you need to ask yourself “Does this make the photo look better or worse?”


When you start adding more and more props into a photo, you run the risk of your product getting lost in the photo which isn’t what you want. You want a customer to look at your photo and easily see and understand what product you’re selling.

Sometimes it may make sense to add more props to communicate the story of a product, like these walnut shells that hold player pieces of a specific board game. Adding the items to the environment a customer would actually use them provides a customer a visual of how their board game setup would look with if they purchased and used these products.

Don’t be afraid to practice and experiment

Don’t be surprised if you start using props and it doesn’t look as nice as other photos you see online.


Understand there is a definite art to styling products in product photography, but it doesn’t mean you won’t figure it out. It takes time to figure out how to frame your photos and how to place your products in a way that work.


This also includes composition which is important when taking product photos. If you want to read more about composition and how to improve how your product photos look, check out this post to learn how to better frame your crafts in your photos.

Photo of botanical print styled on a stack of books and another photo of botanical print styled with plant against a black backgroun

Look to your competition for inspiration


One of the things I always suggest any handmade seller to do when it comes to product photography is to see what other sellers, especially in your niche are doing. This is a great way to get ideas on how to photograph your work, including what props they use. You can also check out larger brands who sell similar products too for inspiration.


Final Thoughts


Something to keep in mind is that you’re selling more than a product or a solution to customers. Something I love is what Monica of business with monica says which is “You’re not actually selling a product, you’re selling a lifestyle. People buy your product for how it makes them feel.” What better way to communicate this to your customers than with lifestyle photos of your handmade products?


What do you think? What are your favorite props to use for your product photos?

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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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