Taking a handmade product photo can be challenging - there’s lighting, styling, composition, how to use your camera, etc - surely you can just skip the editing part, right?
Sorry, friends. Editing is not optional.
Here’s the thing. Back in the day of film photography, when the negatives were developed they went through a process of things like dodging and burning, colour adjustments, and so on. That was the editing process.
Digital photography has eliminated that process, but adjustments still need to be made. Many cameras will make some adjustments for you without you even knowing, but do you really want a machine making these decisions for you? The voice in your head might be saying, heck yeah! Robot photo editing for the win!
But consider this - your camera doesn’t know if you’re taking that photo for products, vacation, your dog, the sunset, whatever. It doesn’t know what adjustments need to be, it doesn’t know not to mess with the colour. It just takes a stab in the dark of what someone might typically want to see. Consider this - would you let your washing machine pick out your outfit? I didn’t think so. Some things you need to do yourself. And editing your photos is one of them.
When it comes to product photos, the editing process is extremely important. Here are 5 reasons you need to be editing your product photos:
Image size is super important when it comes to product photos. When shoppers are browsing online product listings, there’s this handy little zoom function that allows them to see details close up. Without large enough photos, this zoom tool will not only be a waste, but can make your image look low quality - which communicates that your product is also low quality (even if it’s not).
Additionally, cropping them at the correct ratio is also super important (especially if you sell on Etsy). On Etsy, the thumbnails that appear in the search listings are 5:4. If your photo isn’t 5:4, you run the risk of part of your image and your product being cut off. When customers are quickly scrolling search listings, that’s the kind of thing that absolutely can get your product passed over for one with the correct ratio.
You need to adjust the tones of your image (the exposure, highlights, shadows, etc) so that it appears realistic, bright, and without distracting shadows.
Cameras are limited in how well they can captured bright whites and dark darks due and sometimes they’re unable to capture a scene the way we see it with our own eyes.
An example of this is when you use a white background that comes out looking more grey. A quick tonal adjustment can make a world of difference in a product photo.
Your colours need to be portrayed as true to form as possible so that when someone buys your product, they aren’t mislead into thinking they’re getting a blue shirt when the shirt is actually purple in real life.
You can take steps when actually photographing your product to encourage colour accuracy, but ultimately you may very well need to make adjustments when editing as well. Using the colour balance tool will allow you to balance colours in the image so that they are rendered as accurately as possible.
Related to reason #3, editing your photos in a proper editing program will allow you to embed a colour profile with your image.
If you’ve ever uploaded a photo to Etsy and noticed the colours are all out of whack, this is an example of what happens when a photo does not have a colour profile embedded. It can be a huge source of frustration for you and misrepresents your products to your customers.
Embedding a colour profile is very important. You can read more about that in this blog post.
When push comes to shove, it all comes down to looking professional and high quality. Professional product photos are edited. Yours should be too.
You want photos that are communicate quality so that customers see your products as high quality, and editing your photos a big part of having high quality product photos.
I know you might be feeling a little overwhelmed right now. That is A LOT of stuff and half of it you may have never even heard of. Don’t fear - I’m here to help! This is just the beginning of what I’m going to be discussing on my blog and my YouTube channel about photo editing. You’re in good hands. Stayed tuned.
Got a question? Pop it in the comments!
Until next time,
Go-to product photography instructor for creatives since 2017
I'm a photographer and I teach makers, artists, and creatives how to take beautiful, compelling, and effective brand and product photos for their business.
With my signature straightforward teaching style and affinity for blending the technical with the creative, I'll teach you how to not just take a nice photo, but how to LOVE crafting stunning, stand-out images that significantly elevate your creative business.
A free 3-part video series to bust you out of your product photography funk so you can start taking better photos, faster
Free 3-Part Video Series To Bust You Out of Your Product Photography Funk So You Can Start Taking Better Photos, Faster