Have you been wondering how to use props in your products product so you can sell more of your crafts in your Etsy shop or Shopify store?
Or maybe you’ve been using props, but they're just not looking as nice as you thought they would and you’re wondering why.
In this post, I'll go over why props are important to selling your handmade products online and share with you a few do’s and dont’s to keep in mind so you can create visually appealing product photos that will attract customers online.
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, creating lifestyle photos with props can be a powerful way in getting customers hitting add to cart and making a purchase.
Lifestyle photos give customers a way to see what your product could look like in their life if they buy from you.
It's like going into an open house that's staged with furniture in every room. Seeing how the furniture is laid out, the style of the decor and so on helps potential buyers see themselves living in that home.
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. They give your product context and have the power to a tell the story that your customers may not imagine if they were just looking at a plain product photo.
So let's get dive into these tips so you bring your products to life and sell your crafts online.
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.
To me, props should be selected thoughtfully and purposefully. Otherwise, your prop will run the risk of looking random in your product photo.
Here are a few things to ask yourself when selecting props:
- Is this prop related to my product and/or brand?
- Does this prop make the photo better or worse?
- What’s the story and feeling I want to communicate to my customer about 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. 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 like in the photo below.
Is the plant the star of the photo or the penguin dish? It may be hard to tell because both subjects are competing for your attention which is what you don't want to do when using props in your photos.
Since the plant is larger than the dish, the whole weight and balance of the photo feels off which can happen when you're trying to get everything in the frame.
But you don't need to have your props in full view when you take your product photo.
Rather than try and show the plant in its entirety, I cropped it out a bit by getting in closer with my camera.
I made the penguin dish more the subject of the photo with the plant just peaking out in the upper left-hand corner which you'll see in the photo below.
Making this simple change totally transforms the photo and puts the dish as the main focus of the photo.
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.
But sometimes it may make sense to add more props to communicate the story of a product, like these walnut shells that hold player pieces for a specific board game.
Yes, the photo is much busier due to all the pieces of the game, however it's all about context.
The photo is painting a clear picture for a customer and showing them how their product is designed to be used.
It shows the scale of the product and how the product can enhance their play experience of the game.
So don't be afraid to try telling a story like this for your customers. It can be the photo that moves them to purchase from you rather than someone else who is selling a similar product.
Don’t be afraid to practice and experiment
Don’t be surprised if your lifestyle product photos don't look as good as other photos you see online.
On some level, there is an art to styling products in product photography. But this doesn’t mean you can't improve your photos.
It takes time to figure out how to frame your photos and how to place your products in a way that work.
If you're new to using props or find your photos just don't look right, here are a few tips to try:
- Keep the number of props to a minimum. It's easier to manage 1-2 props than 5 or more. You may find your photos look better with less props.
- Change the angle you're taking your photo or the angle of your product. Sometimes making this adjustment makes a big difference.
- Try using props that are bigger than your product. It can make it easier for framing your shots because you can crop them out, but still have them peaking out of your shot and still giving context.
- Experiment with the colors of your props. This can really make your product photos look professional and attract customers online.
Don' forget to work on framing. Where you place your props makes a big difference in how your photo looks.
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.
Use a tripod
If you haven't started using a tripod when photographing your products, I encourage you to start now.
Setting your camera up on a tripod not only provides your camera stability and reduces your chances of getting blurry photos, it also makes it a lot easier to set up and frame your shots.
Having your hands free and your camera already set up will make it easier to fine tune your shot, especially when using props.
Who wants to keep having to pick up and set down their camera or always carrying it? Set your camera on a tripod and make photographing your products easier.
Get inspired by your competition
If you're at a loss as to what props to use, check out your competition. It's one thing I always suggest handmade sellers to do when it comes to product photography.
What are others sellers in your niche doing, especially when it comes to using props in their photos?
Look through their product photos, especially the lifestyle ones and think about these questions:
- What feelings do their lifestyle photos invoke?
- What's the story their lifestyle photo is trying communicate?
- What props are they using?
Then, think about what story or feeling you want to tell with your lifestyle photos.
How do you want your customers to feel when they see your handmade products? What story do you want to tell?
Write these things down and then think about what props and setup you can use to visually communicate it.
And don't forget to check out larger brands who sell similar products too for inspiration. Especially ones that have a similar customer audience to your brand.
Something to keep in mind is that you’re selling more than a handmade 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.” This is so true!
There's a reason why lifestyle photos are popular online. They tap into our feelings in a way that you don't get with a standard product shot.
They can tell the story of your product, your brand and who you are as a craft business owner. Handmade products are full of stories, so why not share it visually with your customers?
So apply these tips out the next time you go to photograph your products. Remember, it takes practice, but the more you practice, the better you'll get at getting the lifestyle shot that makes your products shine.
What tip are you excited to try out? Drop in the comments below and let me know.