Do You Need A White Background For Your Handmade Product Photos?

Do You Need A White Background For Your Handmade Product Photos?

One thing I hear a lot from makers is how difficult it is to get a white background for their handmade product photos. And it’s true, it IS really difficult for the DIY product photographer. But the first thing I asked them is, do you really need a white background for your product photos? The answer usually is “I think I do… Don’t I?”

In short: No. You don’t need a white background.

Back in the day when Etsy first became a thing, the recommendation was that you should use a white background. However, they very quickly changed their tune and dropped that recommendation. If you visit any of their “Editor’s Picks” featured collections, you’ll see a variety of different backgrounds, many of them not white.

First let’s figure out when you do and do not need a white background, then I’ll give you some ideas for some awesome alternatives.

When do you NOT need a white background?

  1. When you sell on Etsy, Handmade at Amazon, or your own website.

There are no requirements for a white background on any of the aforementioned websites. So you’re off the hook!

  1. When it’s not really your brand’s vibe.

Your backdrop for your products should support you brand’s overall vibe. Unless your brand is super clean and minimalistic, it probably doesn’t warrant a white background. Even then, a dark grey background may give a better look. For more info on how branding plays into your product photos, click here.

  1. When your products are white or light in colour.

It can be SO tough to get white or light coloured products to pop on a white background. A camera’s limited dynamic range make it difficult for it separate the tones of your product and the tones of the backdrops. I can be done with a lot of editing, but why make more work for yourself?

  1. When you just CAN’T get it right!

If you’ve tried every which way to get a beautiful white background and you’re about ready to pull your hair out, then know this – you don’t need a white background. You can switch up your background, save yourself the frustration, and make your photos look even better with a different background.

When DO you need a white background?

  1. If it is 100% your brand’s vibe.

If you’re confident that a white background is what you need to express your brand properly, then a white background you should have.

  1. If you sell on regular Amazon.

And I don’t mean if your handmade listings show up in the regular Amazon feed. I mean if you straight sell on regular Amazon, and not Handmade at Amazon. Regular Amazing does require a white background. Handmade at Amazon does not.

  1. If the website/publication/etc requires you to do so.

There are some website aside from Amazon and some publications that may want to feature your products that do require a white background. Read the fine print before you submit to make sure. Also keep in mind that there are loads of websites, publications, social media influencers, bloggers, etc that will want to feature you even without a white background. Maybe especially because you didn’t use a white background, and your photos have more interest and are more editorial.

Okay, so now that you know you don’t have to use a white background – what should you use?

Here are some great guidelines for select a background for your product photos:

– Choose a background that is neutral.

There are many great options out there for background that are simple, neutral and won’t take away from your product. A brightly coloured background can distract from your product and make the photo more about the background than your actual product. The background should be a supporting character, not the star of the show.

– Textures are awesome.

Marble, slate, white washed wood, dark wood, beadboard, shiplap, linen, and so on are all great neutral textures for your products. It’s important to pick one that is a fit your for products, otherwise it’ll feel odd and out-of-place

– Avoid fabric.

Fabric almost always appear wrinkled, messy, and unprofessional. Use thick cut paper or poster board, vinyl, foam board, or specially made photo boards instead.

– Don’t go seamless with a texture background.

Textured backgrounds are meant to emulate things like table and counter top, floors, and the like, so setting them up as a seamless background looks unnatural and unprofessional. The line in the textures don’t curve well and it looks awkward. Use the texture for the bottom only, and use something separate like a white or black foam board for the “wall” behind your product (or an actual wall – that works too).

There you have it! You are now free to drop the white background.

Got a question or comment? Drop it below!

Look for cheap or free tools for your DIY product photography? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-free-or-cheap-tools-for-awesome-diy-product-photos/

Interested in learning how to brand your handmade product photos? Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/brand-your-handmade-product-photos/

 

 

5 Steps To Awesome DIY Product Photos For Your Etsy Shop

5 Steps To Awesome DIY Product Photos For Your Etsy Shop

Hey there handmade seller!

If you’re just joining us for the first time, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Amy and I’m a product photographer and educator teaching handmade sellers just like you how to rock their own product photos for their online shops.

‘Cause here’s the thing – I’m about to break some serious news here – without great product photos, your online shop probably won’t succeed. I know, that’s some tough love right there. But I said it because I want you to succeed and because I believe in you. (read all about why product photography is so important in this post)

The good news is that you are not doomed to a life of dreadful DIY product photos and no sales. I’m here to help you transform those “meh” product photos into photos that’ll have shoppers hitting the add-to-cart button faster than you can say “cha-ching”.

The topic of product photography is vast, overwhelming, and often confusing. There’s sooooo much information out there and, let’s be honest, it’s really not directed to you as a handmade seller. That’s why it’s full of technical jargon you don’t understand.

Every resource you’ll find here on my blog and on my YouTube channel was developed with you in mind. It’s the nitty gritty – no muss, no fuss, just exactly what you need to know to start taking great DIY product photos, and quickly.

Because, guess what? Product photography doesn’t have to be super complicated. Once you learn a streamlined and simplified photography process, you’ll be amazed at how your photos will transform.

So let’s get started!

Step #1

You MUST have great lighting.

When it comes to photography, lighting is everything. Literally. The word photography is derived from the greek “photo” meaning light and “graphy” meaning drawing – so, drawing with light. Hence its importance.

But it’s not just words. A photograph is made from the light that comes through the shutter of a camera to hit the sensor. So, great light = great photo.

Light should be soft and even, plenty bright (but not too bright), and the right colour (ie, daylight). Try photographing your product next to a bright window with white foam boards bouncing the light back towards your product. (pictured below)

Step #2

Choose your background.

News flash: Your background doesn’t have to be white.

So many makers think that their backgrounds have to be white, and it’s simply not true. Neutral? Yes. White? No.

If you like a white background, and you’re able to capture it well on camera, that’s great! Don’t change a thing. But so many handmade sellers struggle to take a great photo on a white background and if they’d just let it go, life would be so much easier. So I’m giving you permission. Let it go.

When choosing a background, pick something that is neutral and subtle. Textures are also a nice. Backgrounds like dark wood, white washed wood, marble, slate, beadboard, etc are all great option.

When determining which is right for you, think about your products, your branding, and your ideal customer. Your background should be a fit for all those things. (read more about how your branding play into your product photo in this post)

 

Step #3

Choose some props.

When it comes to props, you need to keep it really simple. One or two props are plenty. When it comes to social media and brand photos, you can incorporate more props, but for product listing photos it’s important no to do too much.  Too many props confuse buyers, clutters up your shot, and will have people moving on pretty fast. You want your props to be “supporting characters” to your product, not steal the show.

When it comes to choosing props, the same rules apply as they did for the background. They should be a fit for your product, brand, and speak to your ideal customer.

Want to grab my list of 90+ Prop Ideas? Click here!

 

Step #4

Arrange your shot.

Take care to photograph your products at the correct angle. If not composed properly, the angle can distort the image and make your product look strange or misrepresent it. Photographing your product as a flat lay (“bird’s eye view”) or straight on (“eye level”) is a good place to start.

When arranging props, keep them off to the side and/or in the background. It should be very clear what is for sale in the image and your props shouldn’t take attention away from your product.

 

Step #5

Edit your photos.

Yes, you must edit your photos. A photo isn’t truly complete until it’s edited. Back in the film days, the development process was when images were fine-tuned. In these digital days, the editing process is the same idea. Sure, your digital camera does a bit of this work for you. But it’s just a piece of equipment and its abilities are limited. You don’t let your washing machine pick out your outfits do you? I didn’t think so.

So edit those photos! One of my most commonly asked question is what editing programs and apps I recommend. I recommend Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, available for $9.99 USD a month through the Adobe Photography CC subscription. They are the industry standard when it comes to photo editing and they allow you to embed a colour profile, which is extremely important when it comes to product photos.

Edit your photos for correct tones, size and ratio, and white balance while avoiding faux pas like oversaturation and harsh contrast (read about other editing mistakes in this blog post).

And there you have it! You’re already on your way to better DIY product photos.

Got a question? Pop it in the comments!

Until next time,

Amy


Wondering about how to make sure your colors look right in your product photos? Check this post out! >> https://amytakespictures.com/etsy-product-photos-colours/

Interested in learning how to brand your handmade product photos? Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/brand-your-handmade-product-photos/

 

 

How To Brand Your Handmade Product Photos

How To Brand Your Handmade Product Photos

We talk a lot about how to great technically great product photos, but how to brand your handmade product photos? That’s another story.

As a handmade seller, you’ve likely heard all about the importance of branding.  It’s your business’s identity and it communicates who you are, what you believe in, and what makes you and your products special.  It makes you stand out and be recognizable.  Your branding should resonate throughout your Etsy shop, your social media accounts, your logo, your product descriptions… And of course, your handmade product photos.

But, a lot of handmade sellers don’t know what their brand is or even where to start.  I totally get it. You just makes cool things and want to sell them. Why the need for a brand? Because having a brand is what will make your customers recognize you, love you, and sing your praises to everyone they know. It’s branded handmade product photos that will make them stop scrolling in their Instagram feed or in those Etsy search results because they see an images and instantly know that it’s your business and your stuff. How you style your images is what communicates your branding through your handmade product photos.

But, one of the struggles I have heard from the handmade/product-based community is that they have no idea how to style their images.  I believe the words “they look crazy” have been thrown about to describe how their styled product photos look.  And I understand.  You add one prop, then another, then another, toss in a chaotic background and BAM. Crazy. It all happens so fast.  As Ron Burgundy would say, well that escalated quickly.  The reason this happens is because of uncertainty and a lack of guidelines around what should be (and should not be) included in styled photos.  The beauty of your branding is that you let it be your guide.

Take some time and examine what you want your business and your brand to be all about. And then consider how your product photos will communicate your brand.

For example, perhaps your brand is clean, modern, and minimalistic – how should your photos be styled?  Exactly like your brand.  Clean. Modern.  Minimally.  So this could likely translate into white backgrounds, very few props, with props and products arrange in a structured, linear fashion. If your brand is very earthy, eco-friendly, and natural, you could easily use wood backgrounds and incorporate moss, stones, bark and the like into your photos.  You may have a super trendy fashion brand and your ideal customer is a fashion-forward urbanite.  Here you can have chic-looking models (or a fashionista friend) wear your clothing and shoot them in a cool urban setting.

Here is the step-by-step process to brand your handmade photos.

1. Determine Your Branding

Take some time to figure out what your branding, and/or what you want it to be. Take an hour or so, sit down somewhere comfortable with a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine), and brainstorm. Jot down words and phrases that fit with your products and your business. Brainstorm who your ideal customers is who is buying your stuff. Write down what kinds of values they have and what’s important to them. Pinpoint adjectives that describe your brand. By the time you’re done, you should established a sense of your business’s brand identity.

 

2. Brainstorm props that are a good fit for your brand.

Consider that props fit with your newly established brand. Eco-friendly? Don’t use plastics or props that harm the environment. Is your ideal customer older? Don’t use a bunch of youthful, hip and trendy props. Use props that will being awesome supporting characters to your products and not steal the show. Stumped for ideas? Grab my 90+ Prop Ideas PDF for free by clicking here.

 

3. Pick a background that is good for your products and brand.

News flash: The background for your handmade product photos does NOT have to be white! This myth was started many years by Etsy who very quickly changed their tune. Choose simple, neutral textured backgrounds like wood, marble, slate, bead board, etc to compliment your products and your brand while creating a bit of interest and intrigue in your photos.

 

4. Arrange your props appropriately.

Once you have your background and props picked out, now it’s time to set it all up and start taking photos. Defer back to your branding to determine arrange – what makes the most sense? Is having a structured, organized flat lay layout the best for your brand? Or should you set up a lifestyle scene? Or show your product in action with the props? My best advice here – try everything and see what looks the best and is the best fit for your brand.

 

The most important take away from this post – establish a consistent, unique look to brand your handmade product photos. Product photos that stand out with a unique look will win fans, garner you followers on social media, and turn those followers into repeat and raving customers.

 

 

Wondering where to find props for your styled images? Check out this post! >>  https://amytakespictures.com/where-to-find-props-for-styling-your-photos/

Want to learn more about how to style a flat lay? Read this! >> https://amytakespictures.com/5-tips-for-styling-a-flat-lay/

 

 

 

5 mistakes that you’re making when editing product photos

5 mistakes that you’re making when editing product photos

You’ve gone through the process of planning and taking your photos – good job! – and now it’s time to edit them. Here’s the thing. Editing is a careful craft. You can easily take a great shot and ruin it with poor editing. Additionally, when editing images for the purpose of selling products, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Below are the top 5 mistakes I see handmade sellers make when editing product photos – and how to fix it.

 

1. Not bothering to edit.

First of all – you really must edit your product photos. If your skillset of taking photos is pretty solid, you may not have to edit much, but it’s still important to crop, resize, adjust levels, etc. If you’re wondering what on Earth I’m taking about right now, never fear – there are future posts coming up very soon that address the basics of editing product photos in easy, simplified steps. Until then, rest assured – you need to be touching up your photos. If not, you’re going to end up with lackluster and drab images that do nothing to sell your work. If you want to stay tuned for the upcoming post regarding editing basics, sign up for my emails on the side menu.

 

2. Oversaturated images

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to punch up the colours in your images. However, it’s really important that this is done carefully and tastefully. Oversaturated images look cheesy and cheap. So, NOT the message you want to send about your biz and products. You are better served by using the “vibrance” adjustment tool as opposed to “saturation”, as it will give your colours a punch without overdoing it.

 

3. Vignetting

This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to edited images: The overuse of vignetting. What is vignetting, you ask? I have provided an image below of an example of an excessive vignetting that I’ve applied to one of my images for the sake this post. Vignetting is a natural occurrence that happens when photographing images with interchangeable lenses due to lens distortion. A subtle dark vignetting can look cool on an editorial image; S-U-B-T-L-E being the key word in this sentence. A common mistake in editing is overdoing the vignetting, and it is especially inappropriate in product images. Even worse – applying a lightening vignetting (white) around the edges. Cringe-worthy. With product photos, it is best to avoid adding vignettes at all.

 

4.  Adding Watermarks

I understand the desire to add watermarks to your image. Image theft is a real thing. However, when you’re dealing with image of your products, watermarks take away from the goal of your image – to attract customers to your work and sell that product.

Having a small, subtle mark in the bottom corner of your photo is usually acceptable if you feel compelled to mark your image in some way. But keep in mind that images that get the most attention for your biz are often images that become featured – by blogs, on the Etsy front page, on Pinterest, etc. Images with distracting watermarks are not the ones being featured.

It’s also important to keep in mind that as a product-based seller, your business asset is your product, not your images. If you’re a photographer or you design digital prints, you should not be sharing the pure digital version of your image with or without a watermark. I recommend using digital mockups to show what your work will look like framed and on the wall. That way your potential customers have an opportunity to see your work in action, as opposed to sharing the actual image with a huge watermark splashed over it.

 

5.  Adding colour filters.

This one is reeeeally important. When selling products, you need to give your customers a true sense of the colour they can expect from said product. Adding colour filters affects the colour portrayal of your product. Also important to know, colour filters when not done properly (which takes a lot of skill and advanced editing) look really cheesy and cheap.   The best way to ensure correct colour balance in a photo is through the use of a grey card (which will be covered in an upcoming post), but you can also use the colour balance option in your editing program to ensure that the whites are actually white, blacks are actually black, and true greys are neutral. Lots more to come on colour balance in a future post, so please stay tuned.

 

Now that you’re aware of these crucial editing mistakes and how to avoid them, you are well on your way to cranking out beautiful product images.

Until next time,

Amy

 

 

Where to Find Props for Your Product Photos

Where to Find Props for Your Product Photos

Hello friends. In last week’s post we talked about how to style the perfect flat lay, so it just seems natural to follow that up with where to source props for your product photos. I’m talking real, tangible places you can scout to get awesome props for your images. It’s a lot easier than you think, and if you’re planning ahead you can grab some pretty sweet items at some pretty sweet deals – or better yet, free. Check it out.

The Clearance Section

Ahhhh, the clearance section. My very favourite place in just about any store. I have spent far more time than I care to say in the clearance section of my favourite stores. Here are a few that offer up awesome selections for styling your photos:

Chapters/Barnes & Noble

Chapters is my absolute favourite store for my photo styling needs. And reading needs. And to fulfill my need for pretty things. And Starbucks. But anyway, Chapters always has a section in their store for clearance and these things are often pretty little home or stationary items. It’s a great place to check out. Sorry in advance if you spend way more than you intended (I usually do). For my American friends: Barnes & Noble is a similar type of store, so check it out (and let me know how it goes). Bonus: You can shop online too.

Sidenote: Chapters is a supporter of handmade business and I have a few friends who’ve had their lines picked up by Chapters.  I shop there as often as I can, because I too am a huge supporter of handmade business (and you should be too!).

Michaels

Not all Michaels stores have a clearance section, but they frequently have awesome markdowns, great coupons, and a section for odds and ends that are great for photo styling. I’ve gotten really cute notebooks, mini clipboards, scrapbook paper, cute pens, and lots more there. Definitely worth a look.

Target

Give me a moment to grieve the loss of Target in Canada. It may have been two years ago that they closed, but I still feel a sense of loss. For my American readers, Target (as you no doubt know) has a fantastic section for odds and ends and lots of great clearance items.

Homesense/HomeGoods

Always awesome deals here, and they have super cute stuff. I could drop a lot at Homesense if I didn’t have self-control (or if my significant other didn’t rein me). Their home décor section is rife with unique items and they have really cool office accessories too. The last time I was there I scored some gold binder clips and huge gold paper clips. They had rose gold too. I highly recommend scouting them out.

I also recommend checking these stores/sections out on a regular basis. If you know your brand vibe and values, and/or have defined brand colours, you can easily pick up what will be a good fit for future use even if you don’t have a particular need for them at that time. If you’re not sure where to start in terms of defining your branding for your photography, check out my free downloadable styling planner with 90+ props ideas and stay tuned for next week’s post which is all about creating photos that fit your branding.

 

Poppin.com

Poppin.com is a website that’s fantastic for grabbing your brand-specific colours in a large variety of office accessories. The website is SO FUN. You can shop by colour or what items you’re interested in. Turquoise scissors? Yes, please!

Nature

Depending on your branding, picking up a few things on a nature walk might be exactly what you need. Nature is abundant with fantastic things you can use to style and give life your photos. Examples include moss, stones, bark, ferns, wildflowers, twigs, pussy willows… You see where I’m going with this.

Grocery Store

Again, this one will depend on your branding, but there are loads of awesome accents to be found in the grocery store’s produce section. Sliced lemons, a bowl of shiny red apples, cherries, limes, oranges, and the like can bring a lot of character and feel to a photo.

Your Own Home

Never underestimate the value of finding styling props in your own home. From home décor items to cute coffee mugs, our homes are chock blocked full of things we can use to style photos. For example, you might have a really beautiful vase that would look great in some photos (bonus points if it has flowers in it). Or, you may have a set of wooden bowls that would look great with your products. You might have a vintage camera in the attic your forgot about, or perhaps an old wooden crate that perfectly fits your brand vibe. It’s important to be open-minded and keep your branding in mind. Walk around your house and look at your things through a new lens (first figuratively then literally). You’ll be surprised how much you find!

The Flower Shop or Your Garden

I’m a straight up sucker for succulents. I love the texture and colour of them and I especially like that they’re difficult to kill by accident which strangely seems to happen to a lot of the plants I own. I have a few succulents I keep “on staff” for photo styling and when not at work making a photo look great, they hang out in my office. In addition to succulents, there is a huge selection of plants for styling at your local flower shop or greenhouse. Fresh cut flowers, ivy, dried lavender… There are lots to pick from. Even better, if you’re so inclined to have some growing in your yard, you can pick straight from there.

Do you have any tips on where to get props for styling? I’d love to hear them!

Until next week,

Amy

 

 

5 Tips for Styling A Flat Lay

5 Tips for Styling A Flat Lay

I hear this all the time from creative entrepreneurs: “Taking photos drives me crazy. I don’t know what I’m doing. Why do my photos look like crap?”

I know your frustration. Honestly, I do. It’s how I feel when I try to DIY my own website. Sometimes I get a little ragey. One day I will have a web designer on staff so I never have to look at code again. But in the meantime, I’m asking the experts how I can do better. And that’s what this blog is all about: To help YOU do better with your product and brand photos.

There are many components to taking a good brand photo. So much content is going to be shared here in this blog (and let’s not forget my upcoming webinars and e-course) so I want to keep the information in simple, broken-down chunks. Streamlined information will make your life easier and will allow you to implement these tools with more ease.

Today we will discuss the ever-popular flat lay and how you can start styling your flat lays like a pro.

What is a flat lay?

A flat lay is an image taken straight down from above. A birds-eye view, if you will. While technically speaking a flat lay can simply be a photo of a single thing laying flat, the real bones of a flat lay comes in the styling. By styling I mean the props and items that you add to the photos to give it a more branded and editorial feel, to provoke more interest.  At the bottom of this email you will see a link for a free download that includes a styling planner for your flat lay and a list of over 90 props ideas, so be sure to grab that.

With those suggestions in mind, let’s move on to our top five tips for styling an awesome flat lay.

 

 

1. Keep your branding at the forefront of your mind.

Your brand vibe & values are of utmost importance when selecting props and creating your flat lays. If your vibe is very earthy and natural it is unlikely that you will style your image with say, bottles of nail polish. Consider some words that come to mind when you think about your brand – Modern? Comfort? Luxury? Feminine? Alternative? Edgy? Your brand should always guide your prop selection.

 

 

2. Use props that make sense.

When styling your flat lay, keep in mind what makes sense. If you’re a blogger having a day at the beach and you want a pretty flat lay to go along with that, consider what makes sense for a beach day. Sunglasses, yes. Towel, yes.  Beach bag, yes. Stilettos? Nope. A purse? Naw. No one takes their purse to the beach. That’s what the beach bag is for.

Carefully consider the “genre” or category that your flat lay would fall into and ensure you’re selecting props that would also belong in that category.

 

 

3. Carefully select your background.

Your background can add as much to the flat lay as the actual props you use. It can also detract from the image if it’s not a great call. With current trends followers, clients, and customers tend to be most drawn to white, wood, or marble backgrounds. White backgrounds can be created with white bristol board or foam board. Wood backgrounds can be a desktop, a wood floor, or a deck surface. Do be careful of the tone of the wood – some wood, like hardwood floors in older homes, can be very yellowish and does not translate well in a flat lay. The important take away here is that the background should be simple, clean, and allow your products and props to do the muscle work.

 

 

4. Carefully arrange your props.

First, consider the dimensions of your image. Is this shot for Instagram and will be square? Perhaps it will be a Facebook cover photo and will be very short and very wide. Or will it be a more standard 4:6 ratio? Planning ahead will help you arrange your props appropriately to ensure you get the most out of your image.

Next, consider the feeling you want your image to give off. Clean, organized perfection? Effortlessly chic and casual? You can either arrange your props in a linear fashion with right angles, or you can arrange them as if they just happened to land in that way and look perfectly fabulous. Both options are great – just depends on how you want the feel of the photo to roll out.

 

 

5. Keep it simple.

Perhaps my most valuable tip – keep it simple. Your flat-lay does not need to have 10 different items. Some of the most beautiful flat lays contain just a focal point (ie, a product), and one other styling element. The more you add, the busier it gets, and the more places there are for the eye to go. When it gets too overwhelming to look at, your audience is going to shut off their interest and move on. It’s much more valuable to pick one or two perfect styling pieces that compliment your focal point to keep your audience coming back for more.

Bonus flat lay tip!

Proper lighting is everything.

I won’t delve into too much depth on this subject, because I covered it a bit before in this blog post and will be getting into the more technical aspects of lighting in future posts. But I would be remiss if I didn’t stress it again here. Proper lighting is absolutely instrumental in creating an attractive flat lay. This can be achieved with natural or artificial light, but it must be bright and diffused, meaning the light must not be direct from the source. Some examples of great light sources include next to a bright window (without a direct sunbeam streaming through), a lightbox with lights shining through thin white material, or lights with softboxes. If all this lighting talk feels overwhelming, don’t worry – there are future posts coming your way that will help you master great lighting.