5 Things You MUST Get Right to Take Stellar Product Photos


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again until the end of time – product photos are your KEY to building a successful online handmade business.

Photos are the number one marketing tool your business has – because your photos are the window through which your customers can peer into your world.

Sure, product titles and descriptions are important – but in this ever-more-visual age, it is the photo of a product that will be what first draws someone into your shop – and what convinces them to ultimately click the ‘buy’ button.

So – how do we make sure we’re taking THE best product photos we can?

There is a LOT that goes into this process (which is why we’ve created and released the new Product Photography Guide) but today I wanted to highlight the 5 things that you must get right in order to take stellar, clickable product photos.



Your background is to your product photography what the choice of canvas is to art.

It underpins the entire feel of your photo. Not only that, your choice of background fundamentally affects the feel and branding of your online shop.

Therefore, it’s really worth thinking about carefully, and experimenting with.

You might decide to have exactly the same background for every photo (such as a plain white) or you might decide to follow a theme. For example, in my shop, I use a few different grey-blue toned backgrounds, as well as a wooden background for my oxidised jewellery, because the dark jewellery just doesn’t ‘pop’ against the dark background.



Styling is the next layer of your photography. You can style the same item on the same background many, many different ways.

Not only via the props you do (or don’t) use, but also the positioning of your product, and the angle you photograph it from.

I always like to move my jewellery around in different orientations, and photograph it from lots of different angles. From many years of experimentation, I have a feel for what angles will work best, but it’s always worth trying new things. I usually end up with between 20-40 images of EACH product, which I then whittle down to 5 or so.

Often, it’s not until you look at all your images next to each other on the computer screen that you can tell which ones really work and capture the eye.



Your choice of lighting really affects the mood of your photos.

Do you want super-bright and fresh looking photos, or do you want them to be a little bit dramatic? Again, it comes back to your branding.

So long as your item is clear and easy to see, you can play a bit with your lighting to help create the feel you are after.



It should go without saying that in order to craft an excellent product photo… it needs to be in focus.

However, there is more than one way for a photo to ‘be in focus’. Maybe the whole image is in focus. Maybe you only have a key part of the product in focus, and the rest of the image blending into blurriness. This is controlled by the depth of field setting on your camera. (If you have no idea about that, we explain it in our Product Photography Guide).

You can play around with this, and decide which type of focus and what focal point really shows your product at its best.



Publishing your product photos to your shop without editing them is like making up a cake mixture and forgetting to put it in the oven.

Editing is a VITAL step that will take good photographs into the realm of amazing.

Things like cropping, adjusting the white balance, and playing around with brightness and contrast are fundamental editing steps that can’t be ignored. I edit every single one of my photos.

One thing to remember with editing is to not go too far. You’re not trying to fundamentally change the look of your product – you want it to be as true-to-life as possible while still standing out.


No matter how beautifully you manage to implement any of these 5 elements… if one of them is off, it will detract from the final photo. They all need to be in harmony – working together – to create a truly breathtaking product photo.


A Case Study (pardon the pun)

I thought it might be useful to pick one product and show a few different examples of how it can be photographed.

I looked through my faves and found a men’s leather satchel I’d added. After a quick search on Etsy, I found a heap of different example of similar bags photographed in very different styles.

Let’s compare them, shall we?

I want you to scroll through these photos, and keep the 5 elements we covered above in mind. How does the lighting, background and styling affect the ‘feel’ of the brand and product? Where does the focal point fall in the image? Can you see any obvious signs of editing (colouration, whitening of background…). I’ve numbered them below each image for easy reference.

Which ones appeal to you? Do you like the modelled shots or the plain product shots – and why? Dark or light background?

Really consider which images you’re drawn to the most, and why – try to see the technical elements that come together to produce a particular feel.



1. {emili}



2. {canvas lifes}


3. {Satch & Fable}


4. {Milan Studio}


5. {Vortex Limited}


6. {Mr Vintage Style}


7. {Luscious Leather NYC}


8. {Luscious Leather NYC}

I’d love it if you would share your thoughts on this exercise in the comments below!

I bet we’ll find that there are some personal preferences, but that there are some commonalities in the technical analysis.


A Note on Good Camera Use

Prior to thinking about these 5 core elements of good product photography, you really need to get a handle on what your camera can and can’t do.

If you’re like me, the only time you looked at your camera manual was when you took it out of the box to unpack your camera… upon which you promptly put it straight back in and never looked at it again. Honestly, manuals are important, but they’re often so jargon-filled and dense that most of us just pop our camera on ‘auto’ and hope for the best (go on, you know you do…).

If you’d like to actually UNDERSTAND things like camera modes, white balance, depth of field, and macro, and how altering them can dramatically change your product photos, check out our new Create & Thrive Guide to Product Photography. Professional photographer Jeffrey Opp actually explains these things in plain English so you can quickly grasp what they are, how they work, and how they affect your photographs.

Of course, he also covers the 5 core areas I talked about above in way more detail. You can find out more about the Guide here.

Image sources: main image via unsplash. All other images via the shops linked to below them.

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