Tips on photographing items for sale online

You have your online shop all set. You have your DIY light box all made and now it is time to take those photos to sell your items! Here are my top 5 tips and tricks I have learned by trial and error. Even an amateur can take a beautiful photo, and hopefully these tips can help you do it too!

1) Research for inspiration

The truth is, most of us aren’t professional photographers and sometimes we need some inspiration to get us going.  Before we opened our store, I looked at other online shops to see how they presented their items and borrowed what I liked, and noted what I didn’t.  Think about what you are selling and what will highlight it best.  I personally think the photo should be about the item, not the model or the background, so keep that in mind. People are there to SHOP FOR YOUR ITEM, not the super cute rustic background you picked or the ultra hipster model you got to hold it.  Less is more!

2 ) Lighting

You took all this time to craft your beautiful item, be sure you show it off in the right light.  It can be the difference between someone looking at an item and saying, EH, or looking at it and saying WOW! Just look at the pictures below.  The one the left was taken on a white back ground outside (and it looks OK), but the one on the right was taken in my DIY light box with proper lighting and all of a sudden the handcrafted Mopane wood pen and it’s beautiful grain come out.

3) Backgrounds and displays

If you check out our shop (A Good Turn Colorado), you will notice I like my rock (as seen above). We sell a lot of pens and smaller items. The rock is a nice neutral (clean) element that can be great to prop up a pen or an ornament or just give some little bit of interest that doesn’t pull the focus from your item.  Tip in a tip: use poster putty to help balance items that don’t want to cooperate (you can see a tiny bit peaking out at the top of the pen – what can I say this was literally my second pic I ever took for the shop).

I said it above and I will say it again – people are shopping for your handcrafted item, not the ultra trendy model you have holding it or the rustic barn you hang your wreath on.  Focus on your item – not the background.  Keep it neutral! Seriously, I have gotten totally off track in my shopping when I see a model wearing a really cute top I love and I go searching for that and totally abandon my original search for handmade signs!  OK, maybe that is just me 🙂 But if I do it, someone else might and you want them focused on your item!

If I am photographing a pen, it is on a black background with my rock! If I am doing my ornaments, it is on a evergreen branch.  And my wreaths? On the front door. Simple. Easy. Neutral.

4) The sale is in the details

Let’s be honest, people are taking a chance on you and your items when they buy from your store.  So, BE HONEST and focus on as many details as you can!  Be sure to take pictures from all angles (front, back, side, etc.). If you have an item that isn’t standard (like my ornaments), be sure you stick a ruler in there and SHOW how big they are.  Believe me, it saves time when people know what they are getting and aren’t surprised. Not every picture you post has to be catalog beautiful!  Some just need to show your shoppers a detail you want to highlight.

5) Put your best photo forward!

This goes without saying, but I am going to say it anyways – your best photo should be your main photo! This is the “catalog” photo (as I like to call it).  It captures your item in a tiny thumbnail and brings people in to see more. Most people will first see your item in a tiny thumbnail on a page with a sea of other items, make sure that thumbnail actually SHOWS YOUR ITEM (not the background or the model).  It sounds simple, but go scroll through Etsy and you will see a lot of shops that are more enamored in their photographic scenes than their handcrafted items.  You want people to focus on your crafts (and buy them!), be sure your pictures highlight them in best way possible!


That is it! Go try some things and have fun. Photographing is a key element of a successful store, so take your time and do it right! It takes a bit to get the hang of what works for you and your store, but the more you go out and try it the easier it will get.



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