Home Seller TipsProduct Photography TipsHow to photograph craft Product photography basics – Quick & Easy Ways to get better product shots
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Product photography basics – Quick & Easy Ways to get better product shots

Six ways to get better product shots for your Folksy shop – so you can spend more time making!

What are the product photographs basics you need to get right when taking photographs for your shop? We often hear from artists, designers and makers who tell us they are not photographers and they would much rather spend their time making than photographing their creations. We feel your pain. But when you sell art or craft online, good product photographs are essential – people can’t touch, hold, smell or explore the details in your work, so they rely on the images you give them.

To help you get the product shots you need quickly, we asked professional photographer Richard Bryan to suggest some sure-fire ways you can achieve better product photographs – so you can spend more time making beautiful things and less time agonising over the photos! Over to Richard…

Featured image: Glass Cycling Coaster by Abundant Glass on Folksy

Ceramics by Graham Hudson, photographed by Richard Bryan


Not everyone has a passion for photography – for many it can be something of an obstacle to overcome. Designing and making is how you would rather spend your time but, with a little push in the right direction, you can improve your photography results no-end. In this article I’m going to share six quick and easy ways you can improve your product photography and get better product shots for your Folksy shop.


Product Photography Basics

Tip 1. Use a tripod and position your products in the same place for each shot for a consistent professional look
Tip 2. Use the self-timer to get a sharp image
Tip 3. Create a lifestyle setting based around your product’s use, theme or style
Tip 4. Consider what you want to communicate about your product when choosing your surfaces and backdrops
Tip 5. Create one setting for each collection and swap out props
Tip 6. Use diffused natural sunlight from a window and shoot at the same time of day


The first thing to consider is consistency. If you can style and photograph your work in a consistent way, it can elevate your shopfront presence, even if you don’t change anything else. This can have a massive impact on your sales potential.

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Tip 1. Use a tripod and position your products in the same place for each shot for a consistent professional look

To achieve any sort of consistency between shots it’s essential to have a tripod. Set up your tripod and place your product on the table or the background setting you are using, and then mark the position of your product on the surface so can easily reposition a new product there each time.

If you’re using a phone, you can improvise something to hold the camera in position, but for the sake of a tenner you may as well just order yourself a simple phone tripod with a mount.

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In the examples above, the cards, the surface and the props are all placed in the same position. Cards by Hannah Marchant Illustrates.

Tip 2. Use the self-timer to get a sharp image

Another factor that makes a tripod essential is sharpness. By using a tripod you can make sure the camera is focused on your product, and then use the self timer that’s built into most cameras and phones to take the image. Even with a tripod, the movement you get when you press down the shutter button can still affect sharpness, even if it’s not immediately noticeable and doesn’t look blurred on your camera screen.

If your tripod is very lightweight, use a sandbag to stop it from moving!

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Sharpness is very important on small objects such as these earrings, but it’s also very noticeable on things like lettering, typography or fine details within your work.

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This glasswork features lines in the design which would detract from the image if they weren’t sharp enough

EXTRA TIP: Sometimes both automatic and manual focus can struggle to accurately recognise the focus point you want, especially if there isn’t an area of high contrast to focus on. When that happens, place a barcode or something else that has very high contrast either against or by the side of your product as you’re focusing and then move it quickly out of shot before taking the picture.

Tip 3. Create a lifestyle setting based around your product’s use, theme or style

When it comes to creating a setting for your product photos, there are two basic types of product photographs you can either create: either a lifestyle setting based around how people use your product or a themed setting that emphasises a particular element of your design or complements the style of your product.

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In the image above I’ve photographed four coasters on a dining table alongside coffee beans and sugar cubes to indicate what they are and how they would be used.

You can also style your photographs in more of a unique way, using various props that inspire you as the artist, designer or maker, such as found objects, craft supplies or tools. For example, in the image below I’ve used wooden boards I found to create a weathered organic feel to the image, alongside an old book on wild flowers, conkers and pine cones to reinforce the nature theme of the greetings cards.

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Tip 4. Consider what you want to communicate about your product when choosing your surfaces and backdrops

When choosing backgrounds and surfaces for your photographs, think about what you want to communicate about your product. Consider the age, texture, colour and patina of your surface, and how best to complement your product range.

Real wood offers lots of possibilities, as it can can be painted or stripped to accentuate the texture of the grain. Why not try using the top of an old table, new or old flooring or break up a used wooden pallet? A trip to your local tile merchant is also a good idea. You’ll find an amazing array of materials there, from natural stone slabs to granite, marble and porcelain, and as you’ll only need one of each, it won’t cost much, even for a large tile. You’ll be able to create a huge number of different looks from just one tile, plus you can clean it after each shoot so you’ll be able to use it again and again.

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In this image, I’ve placed a chest of drawers in front of a large piece of grey mountboard. I’ve then used a marble-look tile on top of the drawers, which reflects the products and the props, as a way of adding interest.

Unless you’re photographing a flatlay*, you’ll also need to choose a background for your shot. Mount board is a good option as it comes in large sizes and many shades, and you can pick it up relatively cheaply online or from your local framing shop or art supplier. Bunching up fabric such as velvet, linen or silk is another option and can create interesting shapes and shadows, but if you go down this route try to keep the fabric light in colour so the image doesn’t end up looking to heavy.

Bunching up fabric such as velvet, linen or silk is another option for backdrops and can create interesting shapes and shadows.

I would personally avoid using printed photo-board backdrops as a curve behind your work as these can look unrealistic at best, or worse they can be distracting and devalue your product.

Tip 5. Create one setting for each collection and swap out props

Many products are sold in ranges, and for these you can create one setting for the entire collection. You can then make adjustments with minor prop changes to make your images unique.

Set up a mini production line for products that form a collection, using the same angle and swapping in one or two props each time, like I’ve done with these ceramic plates above by Helen Russell Creations

As each listing on Folksy has five photo slots, you’ll need more than one image of your product. So turn your work area it into a mini production line, have your camera or phone in one position and photograph each product one at a time in its setting, from one angle.

Now, keep the camera where it is, but switch your first product for another one from that range and change one or two of the props – it can be as simple as swapping a flower for a shell or changing the colour of the vintage buttons you’ve used. Photograph this new product and tweaked scene and repeat the process until you have photographed every product in your range from one angle. Now change the angle of your camera and begin the process again, making sure you include some close-up shots.

Having the same framing and angles across your entire collection gives your shop a professional feel. Use conventional standardised angles for your images – don’t try to be overly creative with them as odd angles can be distracting. It’s the product that needs to be the ‘hero’ of the shot.

Tip 6. Use diffused natural sunlight from a window and shoot at the same time of day

There are very few applications for on-camera flash in product photography. They’re simply too direct and too harsh. If you use a table or surface placed next to a large window it saves you having to invest in any lighting equipment, and it also provides a beautifully soft appearance to your products.

Use a north-facing window, just like a painter would, for the most diffused and continual soft light. If you don’t have access to a north-facing window you can easily diffuse the light by placing tracing paper, a voile or a white bed sheet across the window.

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To achieve consistent lighting across all your images, use the same window for all photographs, as windows will differ in the amount of appropriate illumination they can provide, mainly due to their orientation, and photograph at the same time of day if you can.

When you’re using window light, there will be a bright side where the light is striking the product and a shadow side. This shadow side will typically be too dark, so you’ll need to use a piece of white card or foam board to reflect the light back into the shadows. Foam board makes a great bounce card, because it’s rigid and white. Small pieces of white card are also handy for reflecting smaller areas, while pieces of black card can be used to prevent highlights (areas of too much light) within your scene. It takes a little practise and experimentation to get them in the right place but can make quite a difference to the finished image.

Make sure you turn off any lamps or fluorescent lighting, so that you’re using only one light source – this will make it more likely that your camera or phone can select the correct white balance straight away. All cameras and nearly all phones will let you adjust the white balance settings but to do that you’ll most likely to have to switch to manual mode. What you want is for the white and grey areas to appear correctly. If they’re too cold or too warm, the image will look amateurish.


PRODUCT SHOOT OFFER FOR FOLKSY SELLERS

Folksy Plus members can enjoy a 10% discount on any type of shoot with Richard Bryan. Find the discount code on your Folksy Plus dashboard and get in touch with Richard here – https://www.richardbryan.co.uk/blog/photoshoots-for-folksy-members


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3 comments

David Wilkins March 18, 2019 - 3:40 pm

I find taking shots at 45 degrees for small items works well with products

MeMyCrafts March 19, 2019 - 10:05 am

Small items seem easier to photograph, but I make quilts, which are quite large any tips for larger items.

Richard Jackson March 19, 2019 - 7:32 pm

The largest items I have photographed are throws, which can be done in a variety of ways. Is there any particular problem you’re having photographing them? Many of the tips still apply, like using natural light, and bouncing the light back in on the dark/shadow side. I might be able to advise/suggest something if you give me a little more info to go on, Richard

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