Mastering product photography: Common Errors

Updated: Jan 15, 2020

Product photography used to be a relatively simple affair. Put your item on a plain background, snap a photo, and your good to go. As crafters, artists, and diy lovers flock online however the bar has been raised substantially. Especially on artisan sites like Etsy, if you're working with a photograph that doesn't equal a magazine ad you may as well pack up and call it a day. So how can you make your photos worthy of a sale? In this article I'll pick apart several of my own product photos and how I can improve them. Hopefully the excercise will prove mutually beneficial as I create my next post on the fixes for these common errors.

1. It's Too Dark

Light matters. Alot. This photo is a prime example of a photo that's not terrible, it shows effort, but is sorely lacking. The result? People will easily scroll past it, as who wants to waste their time on subpar?

2. It's Lacking Substance

Again, not terrible, but no where near Etsy quality. The lighting is again not enough to dazzle, and with a wearable item people want to see it in action. Simply sharing measurements isn't enough, customers want to see where it will fall on their neck from their earlobe.

3. The Background Doesn't Support the Product

Ah grass. Who doesn't love nature? It's a go to quick fix background, but unfortunately it can create competing interests within the frame. You want all of the attention to be dedicated to your product, and unfortunately sometimes natural textures are too busy. Damn.

4. A Lack of Precision

Good dynamics, visually pleasing composition, solid lighting, but alas alack you can see the strings of the puppet by seeing the cardboard crease. Viewers should never be able to tell that your photoshoot was anything less than shot at professional quality. So corners, dents, anything that takes away from the illusion of perfection is just not going to work. Again, as these are in fact my photos, I say damn.

5. Harsh Contrast

This photograph is a prime example of harsh contrast and composition. A pure black background, such as the black used here, often provides too much contrast. While adding just the right amount of contrast can improve a photo, too much can look unnatural.

6. Strong Shadows

Photography in bright direct sunlight or harsh artificial light, creates strong shadows. Although shadows are perfectly normal and can give photos depth and realistic contrast in portrait photography, for product photography, strong shadows can be unflattering. Note the effect in the example above where direct sunlight was used. Soft shadows won't overpower the product the way harsh ones do.

7. Bright Highlights

There's a reason why photographer's dream of overcast skies. Too much sunlight can cause glares as well as strong shadows. Especially on reflective surfaces.

8. A Lack of Good Cropping.

You want every onlooker to be a potential customer, and if they're focused on a bad crop job, they're not paying attention to your work.

9. Unprofessional/Distracting Background

I feel like the title says it all.

10. Blurry/Out of Foccus Images

If people can't make out what your product is, your chances of selling it are basically zero.

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