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How to Take Great Product Photos

Once you have the proper equipment, it’s time to take a few photos. A good product photo is almost identical to an artistic still life, and requires the same set of skills. You need good lighting to show off the product, and to highlight its details (both good and bad—you need to show the flaws as well). The photo has to represent the item to potential customers online, so it needs to be both accurate and flattering.

You’ll get the best results when you pay particular attention to the lighting. You should always use diffuse light from an angle; never use your camera’s built-in flash. (The flash will create glare off of shiny surfaces; it’s particularly bad when shooting shrink-wrapped items.) And always mount your camera on a tripod; it’s the best way to ensure against blurry photos.

Don’t worry too much about artistic composition. The key thing to remember is that your craft needs to be big in the frame. This means getting the camera physically close to the item, or using a slight zoom to accomplish the same effect. For smaller products, this may mean using your camera’s macro mode.

When creating photos for online viewing, don’t obsess over high resolution. The photos displayed on Etsy or eBay are big enough to display comfortably in a web browser but no bigger than that. Whether you do it in the camera or afterward in a photo editing program, reduce the resolution to no more than 2000 × 2000 pixels, and a little lower is probably okay.

Make sure the product stands out by using a plain black, white, or gray background behind and beneath the item. That doesn’t mean that a product photo has to be boring, however. If it’s a grayish, visually boring item, it’s okay to put it against a brightly colored background. For that matter, there’s no rule against accessorizing the item with a brightly colored item. Use your imagination, and remember that the photos are being used to sell the item. You want to make that product as appealing as possible.

Finally, while it’s okay to adjust brightness and color to a small degree in Photoshop, it’s not a good idea to perform wholesale touchups after the fact. Customers want to see what the product really looks like, not a vision of the ideal product. Use Photoshop to correct for poor shooting conditions, not to touch up flaws in the product.

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