FAQ: Product Photography (Part One)

A lot of people have asked me if I have any tips for taking product photos. I’m not an expert photographer by any means, but I’m happy to share what I know.

If you have a shop, it’s important to have the best images you can. I tend to use a lot of digital representation because it works well for my product – I design everything on my computer so I already have all of the images available. I also like everything to be uniform and exactly spaced, but I’m a bit persnickety like that.

As convenient as digital images are, one can’t underestimate the power of a good photo. I tend to shoot products against a pure white background (to use on my home page, in blog posts, and in newsletters), but I’ve seen several other techniques used to good advantage.

What kind of background should you use?

It’s all personal preference. Think about your brand and the image you want to convey, think about how the images will be placed on your site, and keep bloggers and the press in mind…

I like white backgrounds because I like the way the photos look neat and borderless against a white page. When Modish had a shop, all of the products were shot against different fabric backgrounds. Erica Weiner photographs all of her jewelery against a black background and adds a vintagey frame, and it works really well for her brand. Think about what’s going to work for you, and then be consistent in implementing your ideas.

Photos from Pink Loves Brown, Modish Shoppe, and Erica Weiner

Hopefully your shop will attract the attention of the press, so you may want to keep that in mind as well. Magazines often ask for images to use, and they almost always prefer a white background. Bloggers like me often put together style boards, and photos with white backgrounds are easier to work with so that’s another good reason to use them. However, “lifestyle” photos (using pretty backdrops and props or models) can be very pretty, and there are a lot of people that prefer them. Three Potato Four has excellent examples (their photos are always well-styled).

So how do I take a good photo?

I’m going to focus on photos with a pure white background because I think that’s what people have the most trouble with. That’s coming in part two…

21 Responses to “FAQ: Product Photography (Part One)”

  1. Laurie October 15, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    Awesome tips. Thanks!

  2. michelle October 15, 2008 at 10:15 am #

    I am in total need of these tips, can’t wait for part II

  3. Allison October 15, 2008 at 10:18 am #

    These are great tips! Thanks for sharing your secrets.

  4. Sarah October 15, 2008 at 10:57 am #

    I am really excited about this series of posts. Thanks so much for putting them together!

  5. Anna @ D16 October 15, 2008 at 11:38 am #

    Speaking personally (and I know you’re not asking for opinions!) I’m unlikely to buy something online if the provided image is completely digital. I want to see a photo of the item in context, not a digital rendering. I think this is especially important with paper goods and the like. I need to get a sense of the weight and texture of the paper — I want to be able to imagine how it will feel in my hands.

  6. PJ October 15, 2008 at 11:57 am #

    Can’t wait for Part 2!

  7. Ez October 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm #

    Can’t wait for part II Nicole! Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us. I can personally say that I prefer featuring images on my blog that have a clean white background. Another bit of advice I might add is for artists and designers to be certain to save large high resolution (300 dpi) images of their work. If you are contacted by a print publication this will be necessary, and will save you a lot of headache if you’ve already planned ahead.

    Thanks again Nicole!
    xox
    Ez

  8. amy purple October 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm #

    I’m really happy you’re taking the time to do this. I personally appreciate a white background for use on my blog. A lot of times I actually have to photoshop images to make it have the white background to suit my needs.

    I agree that it depends on the artist’s work too, I personally love how Andrea of http://www.plumandsage.com does her photography and it works well for her collection.

  9. Rachel October 15, 2008 at 1:42 pm #

    This is great information. I’ll be linking to this.

  10. All Thngs Lovely October 15, 2008 at 2:48 pm #

    Oh fantastic, this is what I need at the moment with photographing for my Etsy shop. Can’t wait for part two!

  11. Flyleaf Books October 15, 2008 at 4:07 pm #

    Yeah, I’m a big digital image person for my shop. But you’re right, you can’t replace the tangible textures that are visible in photographs. I always place in a photo of the finished item once I’ve made one.

  12. katelynjane October 15, 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    This is great! I always like to improve on my photo skills (:

  13. Jules October 15, 2008 at 4:45 pm #

    Great tips, Nicole. I need all the photo-tips I can get. I hope you will be doing a photo editing tutorial, too. That would be very helpful! :)

  14. Julie October 16, 2008 at 6:56 am #

    Thanks for posting Nicole – I struggle with photography, especially with white cards on a white background. And, since my cards are all handmade, I can’t go the digital route. Wish I could – it’d sure make things simpler!

  15. Anna @ D16 October 16, 2008 at 10:42 am #

    Julie, have you considered photographing your cards against a subtly-textured background, such as natural linen? I find it’s very helpful to see paper items next to a slightly contrasting texture, just to give me a better idea of how the item will look in person.

  16. Miss B. October 21, 2008 at 3:18 pm #

    Oh Nicole! Thank you for sharing this! I so need help:)

  17. Erin October 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm #

    I love that pendant…do you have a link to it? Is it still available even though there isn’t a Modish shop anymore?

  18. Vanda December 18, 2008 at 8:06 pm #

    Erin: The pendant is Paraphernalia, and is available here: http://shop.paraphernalia.nu :D

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