Today’s post is all about developing your own aesthetic for your handmade product photos so that you stand out from crowd, look unique, and so that your images embrace your branding and attract your ideal customer.
No big deal, right?
Naw, it’s totally a huge deal. Because creating a cohesive, branded look for your product photos makes your shop and social media feeds like a magnet for the people you want to take notice (like oh I dunno, paying customers for example).
Having a strong brand is a huge step towards serious growth. More social media followers, more features, more SALES. Your branded look and rapidly growing fan following could even catch the attention of big box stores and make all your handmade dreams come true.
Why does having a branded photo aesthetic even matter?
Because having a strong brand message that comes through in your images will attract your ideal customers and make them want to buy your stuff.
Not only will they buy your stuff but they’ll talk to their friends about you, share your posts on social media, and drive traffic to your shop.
The central quality of a strong photo aesthetic is to develop cohesiveness across your images. All of the images in your online shop and on social media should exude your aesthetic.
Here are some ways you can achieve cohesiveness:
1. Always stay true to your branding.
Knowing your brand is paramount to attracting the right customers and being consistent in your images and your overall vibe. Is your brand kind of boho? Preppy? Rustic? Vintage? Flirty? Minimalistic? You images should stay true to that vibe.
2. Your backgrounds should all look like they’re part of the same collection.
They don’t necessary all need to be the exact same, but they should belong to the same tonal family (eg, lights OR darks, not a mix of both) and you really should stick with just one or two backgrounds. Too many different backgrounds makes your shop and social media feeds looks chaotic and people won’t want to stick around and browse for long. Having a cohesive look across your images will convey quality, professionalism, and give customers the confidence to make purchases.
3. Choose props that are a fit for your brand and appeal to your ideal customers.
Always choose high quality props that don’t overwhelm your product or confuse buyers as to what’s for sale. Select props that embrace the vibe of your brand and don’t contradict your brand messaging. For example, if your brand is big on being eco-friendly, you wouldn’t want to incorporate props that are bad for the environment. To read more about choosing props for your handmade product photos, check out this post.
This is probably the #1 most important thing you need order to get the most of out your equipment:
4.Whenever possible, pick a colour palette and stick with it.
Strong brand messaging is huge on colours. Choosing a colour palette can help guide your prop selection, backgrounds, and maybe even your product materials. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to two colours. A colour palette can have six, or eight colours even. They just need to fit together. Not sure where to start? Check out Design Seeds. They have hundreds (maybe thousands) of colour palettes to drool over. I apologize in advance for the heaps of time you’ll waste on that website. (sorry not sorry, because it’s awesome)
5. Stick with similar tones.
Along the same lines as stick with a colour palette, you should also stick within a similar tonal range. For example, if your brand vibe is light and airy, all of your photos should be light and airy. If your brand vibe is dark and moody, they should all be dark and moody. If your brand is bright and cheerful, they should all be bright and cheerful. You see where I’m going with this.
And there you have it! That’s how to develop and maintain a consistent brand aesthetic in your handmade product photos.
What’s your brand aesthetic like? How do you convey it in your photos? Drop it in the comments!
Today we’re talking about how to get the most out of the equipment you already have. Including those smartphones!
A lot of people think that in order to learn from me they have to have a big fancy camera and lighting equipment but that is super not true. My students have everything from smartphones to DSLR cameras. I even have an entire module in my Snap, Sell, Succeed course dedicated to smartphone photography.
Why? Because I know for some of you, that’s what you have. And dropping $500 or more on a DSLR camera just isn’t something you can swing right now.
The great news is that you can do A LOT with just a smartphone camera and regular ole daylight.
Regardless of what you’re using for a camera, there are a few tips to help you maximize the abilities of the equipment you already have.
1. Read your camera manual and practice using your camera.
I know what you’re thinking. "Cool tip bro". But it’s a legit thing. Have you read your camera manual? I bet not. If you have a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera, it would have come with camera manual (they’re also really easy to find online) and your smartphone manual should include a section on the camera (or find it online).
Knowing the modes, features, and options that your camera possesses is a big first step in getting the most out of your camera and how to use them will save you loads of time and frustration. Trust.
2. Know how light works.
This is probably the #1 most important thing you need order to get the most of out your equipment:
Wanna learn a bit more about types of lighting? Click here.
3. Make sure the image size (aka "quality") on your camera is large enough for high resolution photos.
Photos for your product listings need to be large, in order to still look good when the zoom tool is applied. You should have your image sizes set to highest jpeg option available (and if you’re advanced, you should shoot raw). I recommend you have your image setting on your camera setting to a minimum of 3000 px wide and 2400 pixels tall. (Note: if you use an iPhone you can’t change this setting, but the native file size for iPhones is plenty large enough at 4032 x 3024 px).
4. Make a DIY lightbox.
Don’t have a bunch of lighting equipment or the funds to invest? Make your own lightbox! I have personally made multiple DIY lightboxes during my in-person product photography workshops and they totally work. There are loads of YouTube videos that will guide you on to do this, but I like this one.
Once you make the lightbox (that’ll easily cost you less than $5), you can use regular desk/architect lamps that you may have sitting around your home with daylight light bulbs. If you find that light to not be sufficient enough, you may have to upgrade to tabletop studio lights (studio lights have stronger wattage), or you could try going outside during broad daylight in direct light.
5. Capture your images in raw file format.
If you’re using a smartphone, download the Lightroom app (free) and use the camera within the app. Change the file format of your images to DNG (at the top of your screen in the middle). This is raw file format and it’s like capturing a digital negative. There is so much more data captured with this kind of file and allows you so much more flexibility when editing your photos without losing quality.
If you’re using a DSLR, you can change the file format in the the shooting settings and select raw. These images will need to editing with a program like Lightroom or Photoshop (using Camera Raw). It sounds a bit scary at first, but experiment with raw files a bit and see the huge difference they can make in your editing!
One of my most-asked questions from Etsy sellers when it comes to product photos is what camera should be used for DIY product photography. There is a both a short and a long answer to this. The short answer is, whatever camera you want. The long answer we’ll get to in just a moment.
While it’s true you can use any camera to take photos for your products (it’s all about knowing how to use it!), there are certainly limitations within two of the three most common categories and some options are more ideal than others. Let me explain.
There are generally three types of cameras that handmade sellers will use for their Etsy product photos. There are more categories, but I won’t bog you down with unnecessary details. The three categories are:
Both smartphone cameras and point-and-shoot cameras have limitations. Smartphones have very limited settings options and the quality is heavily dependent on having adequate lighting and using that lighting appropriately. And lighting is one of the most important aspects when it comes to DIY product photography (or photography in general for that matter). Point-and-shoot cameras are the digital cameras you would most commonly buy, like the Nikon CoolPix or the Canon PowerShot. They have a bit more flexibility than the smartphone (a variety of different modes, optical zoom), but ultimately will still limit your ability to take awesome product photos for your Etsy shop. That leaves us with the DSLR. You guessed it, folks. The DSLR is my recommendation for just about all things product photography.
A DSLR camera gives you all the freedom to be creative, turn out great product photos, change the look and feel of your images, and won’t even break the bank anymore. Entry level DSLR cameras (the least expensive, most newbie friendly version) start at around $500 - $600, which considering how much you’ll use and benefit from it, is actually a pretty sweet deal. DSLRs have the option to shoot manual, which allows for a lot more flexibility and creativity than the auto function on smartphone cameras and point-and-shoot cameras. DSLRs also allow for the use of different lenses which will open up a whole range of versatility for what these cameras can do, and allows you to create the best images for your products (eg, macro lenses for jewelry photography). I’ll discuss the lenses in more detail in an upcoming blog post, so stay tuned. Until then, here are my picks for the best entry level DSLR cameras for your handmade product photography (this post contains affiliate links):
Full disclosure: I am a Nikon girl. I have always shot with Nikon cameras and will always recommend them first and foremost because A) I am completely biased, and B) they are fantastic in terms of quality.
The Nikon D3300 is sold for about $550 USD and $600 CAD on Amazon. With a 24.2MP sensor and very little image noise (that graininess that shows up in low light/high ISO situations), the D3300 packs a punch. Oh, and it’s incredibly user-friendly with it’s own built-in guide that helps beginners learn about the camera’s features. That’s basically a camera and an instructor in one. Pretty sweet deal.
If you love the sound of this camera, but really wish it had Wifi capabilities, there’s a solution out there for you. You can purchase a wireless adapter for about $80, pair the camera with your compatible smartphone or tablet, and BAM… The photos from your camera pop up on your device. Just keep in mind that you’ll probably want to touch those photos up a bit before sharing them with your tribe. I’ll discuss both computer editing programs and my favourite editing apps for smartphones in upcoming posts.
The Nikon D3300 comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Those numbers may not make a whole lot of sense to you, but essentially they mean that it has a little bit of zoom and is suitable for normal lighting situations (but not so great for low light areas, like darker rooms, without the use of flash). This is the standard kit lens for entry level DSLRs and is fairly versatile and great for getting to know your camera. There are better options out there for product photography, which we will cover at a later time, but the 18 – 55mm kit a great starter lens.
To get the Nikon D3300, click here.
Canon EOS Rebel T6i (750D)
Even as a loyal Nikon photographer, I can’t be that biased to completely ignore Nikon’s top competitor. In the DSLR race, there really are only two: Nikon and Canon. There are other decent DSLR cameras, but these two really have the market by the… you know. Balls. Gonads. Ovaries.
The Canon Rebel T6i is a bit more expensive at $750 - $900 USD, but has some very cool features like built-in Wifi and an articulating (movable) touch screen. Like the Nikon D3300, the Canon Rebel T6i has fantastic image quality, low image noise at high ISOs (great for low light), and comes with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. As with the other DSLR options discussed in this post, it is important to note that when you look through the viewfinder to take a photo, the viewfinder only shows 95% of the image that will be captured, making it possible to have unwanted things show up in the edges of the photo.
To get the Canon Rebel T6i, click here.
If you love the idea of an articulating touchscreen and built-in Wifi, this is the Nikon for you. Also with exceptional quality, 24.2MP sensor and low noise at high ISO sensitivities, the Nikon D5500 definitely delivers.The Nikon D5500 sells for around $850, including the camera body and the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. However, like the Canon T6i, you will also only see 95% of the shot through the viewfinder. Keep that in mind when taking snaps and you should be a-okay.
To get the Nikon D5500, click here.
There you have it ladies and gents! My top three picks for entry level DSLRs for your DIY product photography. There are, of course, better cameras out there that cost a great deal more. But for handmade sellers who just need decent photos for your Etsy shop, there’s no need to invest thousands in photography equipment when these little gems will do just fine.
If you have any questions regarding my picks for entry level DSLRs, drop it in the comments.
Until next time,