I wanted to take moment to talk a bit about product photography. I’ve been crocheting since High School but have had an even longer running connection with photography. On top of running my crochet biz (and working my full time job) I also specialize in working with creative small business to help them capture images of their process & products to use on social media & marketing materials. For this reason, I’ve always done my own photography for my crochet products and feel that it might be helpful to share some of my advice and “secrets” when it comes to capturing good product photography that represents your brand and creates a cohesive feel to your social media presence, website and marketing materials.
Know Your Aesthetic. First thing’s first, you need to know what “look” you’re going for. Grab a pen & paper (and maybe your phone) and do some brainstorming. Do you want to be presented as bright & airy, dark & moody, colorful & bold, Minimalist & Modern? Start a Pinterest board for inspiration or create an “old-school” mood board using magazines and print outs. You can also take advantage of the bookmarking feature on Instagram- I use this ALL the time to bookmark ideas for photography, content, quotes, marketing, new product inspiration and more. Once you have an idea of your brand aesthetic, you need to ensure that your work space reflects that. If you’re going for a bright and airy look for your products, yet your work space is super colorful & bright or dull & dingy, you will have to work A LOT harder to figure out how to reflect that look in your photos (i.e. – spending money on backdrops & lighting or doing product photos in a whole other location altogether). Most people’s brands do tend to embody their own personal style and aesthetic so this may be easier to do than you think!
It took YEARS for my aesthetic to evolve into a cohesive look and every year my Instagram feed, Etsy shop, website & blog have begun to have a more cohesive feel! I spent a lot of time “stalking” other Instagram feeds for inspiration (see two of my favorites above), experimenting with lighting, angles, filters and “types” of images and at times it would feel like a lost cause. If you begin to feel overwhelmed like I did, don’t fret! This part of the process takes time and like everything else, practice, practice, practice. When you get frustrated, take a BREAK and don’t be too hard on yourself! We tend to be our own worst critics so I want you to be kind to yourself throughout this process but I also don’t want you to be LAZY when it comes to researching and trying out new things just because it feels overwhelming. In the end, our first impression is still VERY powerful- especially in such a social media driven world- and you want your brand to stand out and have a unique voice!
Lighting. Once you have ideas in mind for your images, you want to turn your attention to the quality of those images. Ensure that you’re seeking out the best light possible when taking photos for your products and marketing. If you work in a space with very little natural light, consider heading outside for your photos or invest in a cheap continuous lighting source like this one on amazon. When I work with clients to take branding photos we usually do a mix of indoor shots- taking advantage of windows and areas in the house with the most natural light. Sometimes this means making your workstation “mobile” by investing in a desk/bench on wheels that you can move around your house to position in spaces that have better lighting for the sake of better quality images. For my own personal process and “quick” social media photos, I seek out the areas in my home that have the best natural light and work with what I’ve got. When it comes to my “lifestyle” product sessions that will be used on my online store, website and marketing materials I shoot 100% outdoors- which also means planning around the weather!
Help. Seriously. Get Help. I don’t mean hire a professional photographer (obviously I am here if you ever need me, lol!) but I DO mean find a friend, family member, etc. to help you. To this day, you won’t see too many images of me or my process unless it’s a selfie of me with a “work in progress” in my lap along with a cup of coffee. This is because setting up photos of yourself without help is HARD and you may spend 30 minutes or more just trying to get ONE good shot. If you have someone who can be there to help focus and center the images, move around with the camera (or phone) and get up close & personal to document your creative process it can be a godsend! Especially when it comes to getting video clips of you working. Videos tend to perform REALLY well on Instagram so if you’ve been thinking about doing a time lapse video of a part of your process, DO IT – just find some help so it doesn’t end with frustration and a migraine! I finished and shared my first time lapse video EVER a few weeks ago and had my husband help me set the camera up, get it focused and afterwards he even helped me edit the video, add music and get it posted. I would NOT have been willing to try and conquer that process alone- just being honest here!
Finding a consistent look and feel takes time, trial and error, research and exploration! Don’t be afraid to try new things!
Plan on burning a full day. When I do product photos (even Ebay product photos!), it’s a PROCESS. No matter how nonchalant I may try to be about “grabbing a few quick photos of some new items”, I have to plan to spend at least a few hours to a full day to do so. You don’t want to have to do these sessions more than every few months because they’re WAY more time consuming than you may initially think, especially when you’re going for consistency in your images. Think about it… you’ll need to compile your list of needed product shots, gather your product together, get it to the shoot location (which may just mean moving it from one area of your house to another), set up/stage each individual shot, make sure the lighting is right, get a few different angles on the product (if you sell on Etsy or Ebay you already know you’ll want at least 6-10 different images to show as many details as possible), ensure the photos are correctly focused, put all of the product back where it’s being stored, clean up, cull & edit the photos and get them ready to be posted… (not to mention the actual process of creating new product listings, updating older listings and prepping content to use alongside the images for social media posts!)… It adds up FAST. When I schedule photography sessions with businesses, I highly recommend 2 hours of shoot time but I can guarantee that my clients spend at least a few hours before the session getting their space & items prepped, filling out a shot list for me and creating a shared Pinterest board for inspiration. After the shoot, they get to clean up and I get to head home to spend a few hours editing & uploading the images so that they can then start sharing and posting them. It may be a long process but in the end it is ALWAYS worth the hard work and effort you put in!
A few words on Cropping & Framing. Have you heard about the rule of thirds? It’s a great way to learn how to frame objects and people in photographs in a way that’s visually pleasing to the viewer. In short, you divide the image into thirds (both vertically and horizontally) and place the subject of the photo onto one of those sides, instead of in the center. The problem with this, is that social media & online stores tend to crop your images down to the center point of the image (I’m talking to you Instagram!). Because of this, you may need to get a few different photos of each product to ensure that you have the right “look” for each place you plan to share the image, whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Etsy or any other platform you may be planning to use when sharing these images.
Final Words of “wisdom”. Photography can be time consuming but getting it right can make a HUGE difference when it comes to how your brand is perceived online. Better images mean a better first impression, more clarity for customers looking to purchase your product and/or services PLUS a stronger brand identity! So… to wrap up remember these key things:
- Know your aesthetic
- Explore, research, try new things and PRACTICE
- Focus on good lighting
- Find a friend to assist you whenever possible
- Plan ahead and give yourself plenty of time
- Be sure to have images that can be cropped for the specific platform you will be using
Outside of that list just remember to HAVE FUN with it! If you aren’t having fun and it begins to stress you out and take away from what you actually love doing it might be time to outsource this particular part of running your business (which is OK too!). If you ever want to chat about getting a little help on this front, you can check out my photography services for creatives HERE! I am always available to answer questions and help out in any way I can. Please always remember that no matter where you are in your creative journey, running a business can be hard- but together we can create a strong community of creatives that support and champion each other every day!!