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canister, howkapow, lifestyle shot

Cat’s How To… take product shots that buyers, shops and press will love

by Camilla

A picture tells a thousand words, and in the case of selling your products online, a good photograph can sell a thousand products! Cat How from super-cool design store Howkapow knows exactly what shops, customers and press want from product shots. In the third of her Cat’s How To series, she shares her tips for taking photographs that will sell your products and appeal to shop buyers… 

Never underestimate the power of a well-taken photograph: you can have the best product in the world but if a customer can’t get an idea of what it looks and feels like from your photograph, then you’re selling it (and yourself) short – which is a travesty! Give yourself the best chance of selling your work by taking into account some of the things we consider when selecting work and photographing our own products for Howkapow.

What we look for
If a designer is able to provide a great cut-out shot as well as a lifestyle shot of their product, shops are generally more than happy to use these. With Howkapow specifically, we always aim to take a range of our own photos (especially lifestyle ones), but that’s not the case for most shops, so if you can provide them with what they need from the outset then you’re saving them time, which is always a winner!

What is a cut-out shot?
A cut-out shot is a photograph of your product on a white background. Press almost always want these as they can then place your photo on their pages with little fuss. I would say it’s pretty much essential to make sure every one of your products has a product shot, and not only that but that you have them in a range of different sizes.

Howkapow cut-out shot, product photography tips, photograph scarf
A ‘cut-out’ is a photograph that has been edited so the product sits on a perfect white (not grey) background without any shadows

Press and cut-out shots
Print press always ask for 300 dpi (dots per inch) photographs or ‘print-quality’ pictures, so make sure you have a high-resolution version of your cut-out shot ready to send over to them. It makes sense to have the same shot as a lower-res version too (72 dpi) which works better on the web and is more appropriate for online press and blogs.

What is a lifestyle shot?
A lifestyle shot is a picture of your product in a setting which gives a customer or buyer a flavour of what it looks like in situ. Lifestyle shots are great for creating a mood around your product and for giving people a sense of its size, colour and feel – things that can sometimes get lost in the harsh abstraction of a cut-out shot. This is your chance to tell a story with your product, so have fun and take two to three shots showing different angles and positions to really show it off.

canister, howkapow, lifestyle shotA lifestyle shot shows the product in a setting and can be styled with props

How many pictures should I have?
There’s no hard and fast rule for this, but generally the more photos you have the better! The more angles and positions you can show your product in, the easier it is for a potential customer (or shop buyer) to imagine what it looks like in reality. This is good for you, because the last thing you want is a disappointed customer. I’d say between two and six different photographs per product is a good amount to aim for.

Be honest with your photos
Make sure your pictures are always truthful to your product. A little Photoshop tweaking is a good thing and I would actively encourage plumping up a photo a bit to make it sing, but make sure you don’t dramatically change what your product looks like in order to sell it. It will only come back and bite you in the bum when a customer or shop buyer gets something that looks completely different and wants to send it back.

Have fun with your photos
Aside from your cut-out shots, think about fun and innovative ways of presenting your lifestyle shots and your products in general. At Howkapow we use coloured paper and quirky arrangements to tell a slightly different story. If you have a range of pieces that work together, consider doing a photo shoot with them all in, or using props or models to create a feel all of your own.

No.3 Blog Post - Photos - Howkapow Lifestyle Shot 6

fish vase, howkapowHave fun with your photos and create a style of your own

Cat x


Cat How studied English Literature at Bristol University and Communication Design at Central Saint Martins College. She worked as a professional journalist and graphic designer, but made jewellery as a hobby and sold it at artist markets on the weekends when she lived in Melbourne and London. In December 2010 Cat set up Howkapow with her husband, Roger How. Howkapow is a colourful design shop which supports and promotes the work of independent designers and illustrators. Follow @howkapow on Twitter. 

Howkapow logo


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Simmi Duffin - Grace's Favours March 25, 2014 - 12:48 pm

Great article and some gorgeous photos to illustrate the point!

Helen Goodinson- Mickey and Podge March 25, 2014 - 5:12 pm

Good article, thanks! Please could you give me detailed information on how to do a cut out shot, is it all done with photo editing? Thanks, Helen

Camilla March 25, 2014 - 9:26 pm
Denise Payne March 27, 2014 - 7:50 am

Thank you so much for your fantastic advice I am going to re-think my decoupaged jewellery box pictures. :))))

Kirsty Basram Textiles March 29, 2014 - 2:00 pm

Great article, practical, helpful and inspirational!

Sarah Eccles April 12, 2014 - 5:24 pm

Thanks for this, I’m off to re-take photos and have some fun with them too!

Sharon Holmes April 16, 2014 - 9:00 pm

Really great advice, will look at product shot tips. But here’s my question. Our children’s clothes are not easy to take shots of because we don’t always have access to models. What would be the best way to use what already have?
We have white fibre boards for a background, we could use a few of our fish from our logo enlarged and dotted about on boards. The negative on our side is we don’t have a great deal of time because we make all the time for shops and markets we do. Thanks for any help.. Sharon from Madfishstuff

Emily June 27, 2014 - 8:13 am

Dear Camilla

Thanks for all the helpful information in your article. I wonder if you could maybe help me with how to take photos of my quilts that I make – it seems that no matter how I try and display them they never really look appealing to the eye when viewing them online.

Would be very grateful if you could help – thanks so much

Kind regards
Precious Moments Crafts

Camilla June 29, 2014 - 9:19 am

Hi Emily. Have a look at how Lisa Watson photographs her quilts because I think her lifestyle shots work really well. Quilts one of the hardest products to photograph because of their size, so it might be useful to see how some of the big stores photograph them, see which images you think work best, and take some tips from their styling – they will have tried and tested different types of product shots and picked the ones that work best for press and buyers.

If you have a large wall (or can find one) maybe you could try making a makeshift quilt hanger with a wooden baton and some string, hang it from a nail, and then fold and drape your quilt over the baton? For a white background product shot, I imagine the easiest thing to do would be to fold the quilt so you can see it’s many layers or find a way of shooting it from (high!) above, like Hopewell have done in their product shots. For more inspiration and ideas, try searching for ‘contemporary quilts’ in Pinterest and see which images appeal to you. I hope that helps.

Selling Craft Online: How to take better photographs - June 8, 2015 - 12:38 pm

[…] How to take photos that buyer will love […]

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