Why The Colors In Your Etsy Product Photos Don’t Look Right

You’ve been working hard to get great photos of your handmade products only to find out when you go to upload them, some look kinda yellow or blue.

First off, your camera isn’t broken so don’t start panicking thinking you need to run out and spend your hard earned cash on a new smartphone or camera. News flash: getting a new camera won’t fix this problem.

Put your credit card away because I’m gonna share with you how you can easily fix this color issue so you can get flawless photos of your handmade products for your Etsy shop or online website.

One of my old product photos from my selling Etsy days.

Why getting the colors right matters

When you’re browsing online and you see a light blue shirt that you can’t wait to get your hands on, you expect to receive what you saw in the photos, right? So if you ordered that shirt, you expect the light blue shirt. Not some dark blue or weirdly colored shirt. Believe me, you’re not going to be a happy customer.

Well, your customers feel the same way. What they see in your product photos is what they expect to get in the mail when they order from you. If the colors are off in your photos, you might end up with an unhappy customer on your hands.

This is why getting getting the colors right in your product photos matters when selling your crafts online.

So why are you getting product photos where the colors look wonky? Whelp, I’m glad you ask because I’ve got the answer for you …

Your white balance is off

Okay, my what? What the heck is white balance?

In basic terms, white balance is how warm or cool the colors in your photos appear. You see, different sources of light have different color temperatures that you should be mindful of when photographing your products.  

So you might be wondering, “The lighting looks fine to me in person, but in the photo, it’s wrong. What’s going on?”

In case you didn’t know, our eyes and brain automatically adjust to different lighting conditions which may make it harder to see when lighting may appear a bit blue or yellow, etc. Cameras on the other hand, well they see differently. 

Luckily, most cameras today, even your smartphone camera, have an auto white balance (AWB) feature which takes a guess at what the lighting conditions are when you take a photo.

However just because there’s an auto white balance, doesn’t mean your camera is guessing correctly …

Want to learn more about how to get your lighting right when photographing your crafts for your online business? Check out these posts! 

Why do I need to be able to change the white balance when there’s an auto option? 

Even though your camera can take a guess at the lighting source, it doesn’t always get it right. Sometimes it has a difficult time reading the light source which is why you may end up with yellow-ish or blue-ish photos. That’s why having the option to manually adjust the white balance is better so you can make sure the colors in your product photos are as accurate as possible. 

Here's an example of how a white piece of paper can look different depending on the white balance settings. I took these photos in a west-facing window on a bright, sunny day.

Do you see how the color changes depending on the settings? Some look warmer while others look cooler. 

While you CAN fix the white balance when you edit your photos, but it’s best to try and set the white balance to the lighting source you’re using so you have minimal color correcting to do later. Believe me, depending on how severe the color cast is, it may not be worth editing to fix it, so make your life easier by correcting the white balance before you take a photo. 

How to adjust your white balance

Most cameras (DSLRs and point and shoot cameras) have an option to adjust and set the white balance. You may need to do a little digging to find where this setting is so check your camera manual if you can’t locate it.

For my digital point and shoot camera, these are the icons and what each of them means:

If you use your phone to take photos, check your camera app to see if you have the option to adjust the white balance. Some only have an auto white balance option like my phone does so if you have that issue, you may need to download a camera app that allows you to adjust the white balance.

I downloaded the camera app Camera FV-5 for Android. This app gives me a lot more control over the camera in my phone, like being able to adjust the shutter speed, ISO and so on. Here are the options for white balance in the Camera FV-5 app:

If you’re on iOS, you may want to try Camera+ as it does give you the option to adjust the white balance settings. Note this app isn’t free so be sure to shop around and look for other apps that have the white balance adjustment feature.

Once you find the settings to adjust the white balance, think about what the lighting source is. Are you taking photos using natural light? If it's sunny without a cloud in the sky, try the sunny icon option. Are you taking photos in the shade? Try the cloudy option. Remember, you’re not striving for perfection but just doing your best to select the white balance setting that makes the colors in your photo look as close to the real thing in person. The colors in your photo will look neutral when it’s a good match with the light source.

If you can’t find a setting that matches well, you may be able to manually set the white balance so you can set it to what looks best. 

Don't mix your light sources

When you're taking photos, make sure you're not mixing your light sources. If you're taking photos next to a window with natural light and you have other indoor lights on where you're at, it may be difficult for you to set the correct white balance. If you're using natural light, be sure to shut off any indoor lights you may have on.

If you're using studio lights, turn off any other indoor lights and close any curtains or shades that may be letting in any outside light. This will make white balancing your camera a lot easier.

Don't forget to edit your photos!

After you take your photos, you’re not out of the woods yet! 

When you edit your photos, this is the time to make any adjustments to the white balance if needed. Many editing apps and software have a white balance feature. It may be called white balance, color balance or color temperature. Don't stick to the auto white balance because as I mentioned above, it isn't always correct. I highly recommend adjusting the white balance manually so you can adjust the colors in your photo to look as accurate as possible. I also recommend during this time to also adjust the brightness, contrast, etc., accordingly to make your photo look the best it can before you upload them to your listings. Don’t make these common editing mistakes craft sellers make when editing their photos.

If you want to learn how to easily edit your product photos for your Etsy listings, check out this blog post where I show you how to do it.

Final thoughts

Now you know why the colors in your photos are coming out wrong and how to easily correct it. The more control you have over your camera settings, the easier it is to capture quality photos of your handmade products for your online shop. So the next time you setup your camera to photograph your work, adjust the white balance before you start snapping away.

Have you tried adjusting the white balance when you photograph 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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