Australian expat Heidi Adnum lives and works in London as a photographer of children and families, though she takes any opportunity to photograph food. She has two shops on Etsy — heidiadnum and hellodarlingvintage. She also runs a photography and inspiration blog, La Isla Blogita.
Hello again, fellow Etsians! This is part two of your product photography questions answered. Find part one, covering colour, light and reflection here. Once again, we’ll look at some excellent product photographs and I’ll be offering some tips and advice to help solve sellers’ most common and specific problems — this time on backgrounds, props, composition and scale. My suggestions are straightforward and you don’t have to have a fancy camera or a huge budget to make them work for you.
Natural, neutral and simple “everyday” backgrounds work best. You probably have more suitable backgrounds in and around your home, garden, or local park than you realise. These include floorboards, decking, walls, wooden tables and chairs, laminate, firm flat fabric, tiles, bricks, stones and plants…the list goes on.
If you can’t find anything around the house, then make your own. Rescue an old piece of wood from a friend’s house, or even a builder’s skip!
Photo by PAWLING
Grab a pot of enamel paint, a piece of MDF and you’ve got an instant surface with a lovely sheen in the colour of your choice. Lay a sheet of glass or Perspex over a piece of card, felt or foam for an instant high-shine surface. Another low-cost way to achieve a high-shine surface is a sheet of tile/panel board, an off-cut of laminate or even a plain tile.
Photo by jessjamesjake
Bright white and jet black might sound like the perfect neutral backgrounds but they are very harsh and the high-contrast can be unflattering. The best way to use white as a background is to either shoot from a distance or put distance between your product and the background. This will make the white background look slightly grey. Light grey is easier on the eye than bright white and will be more flattering on your product.
Make your own white studio background using a sheet of thick white paper or matte white linoleum taped to the wall and draped down onto the floor. This creates a “runway” for a seamless effect. White fabric can also be used: however it is very important that the fabric is kept perfectly still and is free from any creases. The purpose of a plain, white background is to keep all focus on the item and not the background at all, so creases or marks are distracting and can look unprofessional.
Photo by Hindsvik
The best way to use black is to choose an “almost” black background, preferably with texture, such as a charcoal-coloured card.
Photo by locallibrary
Subtle patterns can be pretty and may complement your product.
Photo by sweetestelle
I love props. They’re bold and fun and can really bring photos to life. All you need to do is consider the look and feel of your shop and prop accordingly.
Photo by HelenRawlinson
Remember that models and dress forms are props, too. Using real models and dress forms can bring clothing to life and can seem more luxurious and inspiring to customers than dummies. If you’re selling a premium item, then your photos should reflect that. It might be worthwhile to invest in a trusted professional photographer and model to give your photos a sumptuous feel.
Photo by Hopeless
Grouping your products together can make them more eye-catching. This is especially true for small items.
Photo by byrdandbelle
Get up close and straight-on to your product. This perspective makes products look bold and impressive.
Photo by RoseLullabyDolls
Select an unusual crop or a particular detail and use this as your headline image. Potential buyers will be intrigued!
Photo by ThePaperAddict
Use depth of field to your advantage. Simply put, a blurred background, or foreground and background, takes the eye straight to your product. When you background is blurred you can use almost any background setting you like, as long as the colours complement your products. Try your macro setting to achieve this. Alternatively, if you are trying a manual set-up, select a small/shallow depth of field. For example, a low F-stop number, perhaps up to f5.0.
Photo by michellechangjewelry
The best way to show scale is to photograph your product in situ with a universal reference. I love in situ shots. They can really inspire potential customers. If you’re using a model, remember that they need to look comfortable and confident whilst using your product.
Photo by PegandAwl
Using the same space, crop or perspective for all of your product shots can also create scale. This can be achieved by simply using the same room or angle for every item and can be perfect for large items or supplies that you want to “stand alone” in the photograph.
Photo by michaelarras
Universal props to show scale include flowers in a vase, books, a children’s toy, a beautiful pencil or even your business card.
Photo by Ninainvorm
If you’ve got a good photo of your product showing its size and scale, but you want a great photo for the headline image, zoom in and get close up to the detail. This could be the arm of a sofa or the detail of a chair leg.
Photo by Bombus
Don’t be intimidated by fancy cameras that do everything except make you dinner — your trusty little digital compact “point and shoot” should serve you well. However, sometimes, whether due to its age or capacity, your camera simply may not be able to deliver the clear, sharp and vibrant product shots needed for success and you may have to upgrade. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune. There are a number of excellent digital compact cameras on the market for under £200 — shop around and you might find one on sale for as low as £75. Hopefully you will make your money back through increased product sales!
Check out Heidi’s Photography Tips Part 1, which covers light, colour and reflection here.