The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone

The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone

Awesome news! While DSLR cameras are awesome (as per this article here), you can TOTALLY create great DIY product photos with your smartphone. There’s an important key to successfully taking awesome product photos with your smartphone, and I’m going to share it with you right now.

While there are numerous methods with which you can achieve better DIY product photos with your smartphone (I’ll leave the others for future posts), there is none more valuable than this.

The key to better DIY product photos with your smartphone is light.

Really, light is the key to all photos. Quite literally, light is our number tool when capturing images. The reason it’s even more important with smartphones is because with them, we lack the tools to manipulate the light to our advantage.

With DSLR cameras we have the option of changing the cameras setting to allow more light in and those beasts are designed to retain high quality detail in lower light situations; we have three options for allowing in more light (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) but when it comes to smartphone cameras, they adjust their internal settings automatically, mostly by cranking up the ISO to brighten the image.

Unfortunately, smartphones really don’t handle higher ISOs very well. The problem with higher ISO is that it reduces image quality and creates image noise, which is a graininess that is undesirable in just about any situation, except for perhaps in Film Noir.

Bonus tip: While bright light is key, we need to seek out bright diffused light, as opposed to direct light. Direct light creates strong highlights (bright spots) and harsh shadows, both of which will take away from the quality of the product and usually makes it look cheap.

So what can be done?

Get yourself in a brightly lit area, but not direct sunlight. We can’t change the way the cameras in our smartphones function, but we can change our environment.

Below is a photo I took for the purpose of demonstrating my point. Side note, my prop for this lesson today is a pair of earrings I bought at a market in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. They’re made of wood from local trees and Lucite. I highly recommend checking out their Etsy shop.




This first photo is an example of undesirable low lighting. Is it the worst ever? Not quite. But is it the quality that you want to share with your clients or customers? Heck no. The colour is kind of funky, the detail and quality is poor, the image isn’t sharp or crisp. I even threw some greenery to solidify the point that styling it won’t help.




Below is an example of swinging the pendulum far to the opposite side and going for direct light. The direct light from the midday sun creates unwelcome highlights and harsh shadows that detract from the quality of the product. Not cool. Direct light is almost always best to be avoided.




What did I do next? I moved out of the sunlight and into a different room. A room with large windows and bright, indirect light. By the way, the room I used is my office and the wood background in the photo is the surface of my new desk. Love it!




See the difference? It’s huge! This photo is crisp, it shows off the detail in the earrings, and it’s not hard on the eyes. This photo speaks to not only a higher quality image, but a higher quality product.

Add in some greenery for styling and hello there, you’ve got an Instagram ready image to share with your following.




An additional note: While you can definitely take great DIY product photos with your smartphone, there are limits that ultimately will make it tough to do so consistently. I recommend that all serious handmade sellers make it a goal to eventually invest in a DSLR camera for their product photos.  Check out my post on choosing the best camera for your DIY product photography  for more info.

If you have any questions regarding today’s tip, drop it in the comments!

Happy snapping,

– Amy

The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
The Key to Great DIY Product Photos With Your Smartphone @amyeaton | #productphotography #handmadesellers #etsysellers
Choosing A Camera For Your DIY Product Photography

Choosing A Camera For Your DIY Product Photography

One of my most-asked questions from Etsy sellers when it comes to product photos is what camera should be used for DIY product photography. There is a both a short and a long answer to this. The short answer is, whatever camera you want. The long answer we’ll get to in just a moment.

While it’s true you can use any camera to take photos for your products (it’s all about knowing how to use it!), there are certainly limitations within two of the three most common categories and some options are more ideal than others. Let me explain.

There are generally three types of cameras that handmade sellers will use for their Etsy product photos. There are more categories, but I won’t bog you down with unnecessary details. The three categories are:


  • Smartphone camera
  • Point-and-shoot camera
  • DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera


Both smartphone cameras and point-and-shoot cameras have limitations. Smartphones have very limited settings options and the quality is heavily dependent on having adequate lighting and using that lighting appropriately.  And lighting is one of the most important aspects when it comes to DIY product photography (or photography in general for that matter). Point-and-shoot cameras are the digital cameras you would most commonly buy, like the Nikon CoolPix or the Canon PowerShot. They have a bit more flexibility than the smartphone (a variety of different modes, optical zoom), but ultimately will still limit your ability to take awesome product photos for your Etsy shop. That leaves us with the DSLR. You guessed it, folks. The DSLR is my recommendation for just about all things product photography.

A DSLR camera gives you all the freedom to be creative, turn out great product photos, change the look and feel of your images, and won’t even break the bank anymore. Entry level DSLR cameras (the least expensive, most newbie friendly version) start at around $500 – $600, which considering how much you’ll use and benefit from it, is actually a pretty sweet deal. DSLRs have the option to shoot manual, which allows for a lot more flexibility and creativity than the auto function on smartphone cameras and point-and-shoot cameras. DSLRs also allow for the use of different lenses which will open up a whole range of versatility for what these cameras can do, and allows you to create the best images for your products (eg, macro lenses for jewelry photography). I’ll discuss the lenses in more detail in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned. Until then, here are my picks for the best entry level DSLR cameras for your handmade product photography (this post contains affiliate links):

Nikon D3300


Full disclosure: I am a Nikon girl. I have always shot with Nikon cameras and will always recommend them first and foremost because A) I am completely biased, and B) they are fantastic in terms of quality.

The Nikon D3300 is sold for about $550 USD and $600 CAD on Amazon. With a 24.2MP sensor and very little image noise (that graininess that shows up in low light/high ISO situations), the D3300 packs a punch. Oh, and it’s incredibly user-friendly with it’s own built-in guide that helps beginners learn about the camera’s features. That’s basically a camera and an instructor in one. Pretty sweet deal.

If you love the sound of this camera, but really wish it had Wifi capabilities, there’s a solution out there for you. You can purchase a wireless adapter for about $80, pair the camera with your compatible smartphone or tablet, and BAM… The photos from your camera pop up on your device. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably want to touch those photos up a bit before sharing them with your tribe. I’ll discuss both computer editing programs and my favourite editing apps for smartphones in upcoming posts.

The Nikon D3300 comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Those numbers may not make a whole lot of sense to you, but essentially they mean that it has a little bit of zoom and is suitable for normal lighting situations (but not so great for low light areas, like darker rooms, without the use of flash).  This is the standard kit lens for entry level DSLRs and is fairly versatile and great for getting to know your camera. There are better options out there for product photography, which we will cover at a later time, but the 18 – 55mm kit a great starter lens.

To get the Nikon D3300, click here.


Canon EOS Rebel T6i (750D)

eos-rebel-t6i-dslr-camera-front-open-dEven as a loyal Nikon photographer, I can’t be that biased to completely ignore Nikon’s top competitor. In the DSLR race, there really are only two: Nikon and Canon. There are other decent DSLR cameras, but these two really have the market by the… you know. Balls. Gonads. Ovaries.

The Canon Rebel T6i is a bit more expensive at $750 – $900 USD, but has some very cool features like built-in Wifi and an articulating (movable) touch screen. Like the Nikon D3300, the Canon Rebel T6i has fantastic image quality, low image noise at high ISOs (great for low light), and comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. As with the other DSLR options discussed in this post, it is important to note that when you look through the viewfinder to take a photo, the viewfinder only shows 95% of the image that will be captured, making it possible to have unwanted things show up in the edges of the photo.

To get the Canon Rebel T6i, click here.


Nikon D5500


If you love the idea of an articulating touchscreen and built-in Wifi, this is the Nikon for you. Also with exceptional quality, 24.2MP sensor and low noise at high ISO sensitivities, the Nikon D5500 definitely delivers.The Nikon D5500 sells for around $850, including the camera body and the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.  However, like the Canon T6i, you will also only see 95% of the shot through the viewfinder. Keep that in mind when taking snaps and you should be a-okay.

To get the Nikon D5500, click here.

There you have it ladies and gents! My top three picks for entry level DSLRs for your DIY product photography. There are, of course, better cameras out there that cost a great deal more. But for handmade sellers who just need decent photos for your Etsy shop, there’s no need to invest thousands in photography equipment when these little gems will do just fine.

If you have any questions regarding my picks for entry level DSLRs, drop it in the comments.



Until next time,