Product Photography

Product photography, it’s one of the key things to get right when selling on Etsy and yet one many of us seem to struggle with. We asked team member and professional photographer Heather, of Heather Isobel Photography to give us some tips on what we could do to improve our product photography…

We’ve probably all heard it before, maybe even read articles on it, but for a lot of Etsy sellers product photography is the task that feels the most like a chore. For some it may even be bottom of the to do list, the one to get over and done with as quickly as possible so you can get on with making and selling.

But hang on… the image is literally the first thing potential customers see! The trouble is, as makers, we know what our products look like inside out. We know how useful they can be or what a wonderful gift they’d make or how beautiful they can look in a person’s home… because we see them all flipping day! So when we’re uploading our product photos we’ve got all our knowledge and understanding of the product in our minds. Potential customers on the other hand, are just seeing the few images we put on the listing and nothing else. No context, other than what we provide in the images.

Product photography - before and after!

My first attempts at getting some ‘how its made’ images. A little too much context on the left mean that its not clear what the focus (i.e. the product) is. I narrowed it down for the one on the right…better.

Task time!

So I want you to try something. Get a notebook or open a word doc and write down a description of one or two of your products. Describe how it looks, what it does, where it would be useful, who it could be for, what its made of, what room in the house it would go in, where you could take it…

Product photography shared by Etsy

I can almost smell the pineapple, can’t you?

Now put that aside and forget everything you just wrote down because the next thing I want you to do is see your images with fresh eyes. Take a step back and look at your product photography as though you know nothing about them. Pick a few images and for each one write down a description of what you see. Not what you know about your product, not what’s in the Etsy description, just what you can see in the picture and what that tells you about the product. (Better yet get someone else who’s willing to be brutally honest with you to do this!) You know what’s coming next… time to compare the two. What isn’t matching up?

This is a really simple way to get into your potential customers shoes and reveal just how important those images are. I’m not trying to beat you over the head with a camera to get you to spend hours and hours getting award-worthy photos, I just want you to recognise the power those images have and why its worth taking a little more time to get them right.

Product photography featured on Etsy's Facebook page

Both great examples of getting the ‘where’ into product photography. Both featured on Etsy’s Facebook page…

Now, take another look at that first description you wrote. If you can, highlight or underline what in the description isn’t being represented in your images e.g. where in the house it could be useful or who it would make an ideal gift for or just what it looks like from the side! Now you can start getting creative and begin to jot down ideas for how you could represent those concepts within your product photography…think location, props, models… Get playful with your styling, take your product out to a location, fill a bag with related objects and props to surround it with, get a friend to model it for you. Spend an afternoon/hour/day/weekend playing about with all your ideas until you have a load of images of your product(s) in different styles and settings. Then you can go through those images and pick out what works and discard what doesn’t. What works can become your framework for all your future product photography, what doesn’t gives you a better idea of what you are and aren’t trying to communicate to your potential customers. It’s a win-win.

Product Photography featured by Etsy

All three involve confetti, but each has a very different vibe. Lesson? Take inspiration from product images you admire, but make it your own!

Remember, none of this is wasted time as it could be the difference between someone clicking through and buying, and someone scrolling right past. This is your shop window. Take some time to make it pretty!
Etsy Sellers of Sheffield, don’t forget it’s the photography social this weekend (24 September 2016)! Click here for more info and to join us at The Holt (team members only I’m afraid!).

Heather is a professional photographer specialising in weddings, events, portraits and product photography. You can reach Heather via her website at http://heatherisobel.co.uk, and when she’s not taking photos Heather is making for her Etsy shop which you can see at Heatherbel Creations.