Product Photography & Styling

February 19, 2010

Do you want to know more about product styling and photography? A few days ago a reader commented on my most recent Etsy Take Five Tuesday column expressing frustration because she has a hard time taking good product shots for her store, and as a result felt overlooked by bloggers (like me) who are so particular about the images that we share on our sites.

Product Photography & Styling

I really appreciated hearing her thoughts and I felt bad because I know how it feels to be in that position as years ago I had no clue how to take photos and while I’m still not a professional, I have grown tremendously in this area in comparison to my humble beginnings and I wanted to let her in on how I made progress. I then thought that her frustration may be what others are feeling out there but who are too shy to say something — especially when their favorite blogs won’t feature their products due to photography that could be a bit more professional looking without breaking the bank. Truth is, I think anyone who has a home-based business, a computer, and a camera (point and shoot, DSLR, doesn’t matter) should pay attention to the photos that they are taking of their products because that is one of the major factors that can make or break their business. And it’s SO easy to quickly make improvements in this area… so why not try it?

In fact, in the class I am currently instructing with Leslie Shewring is covering many blog-related topics and one just so happens to be photography and styling for photos that appear on your blog (or web shop). Leslie does a beautiful job explaining things and students in our class seem to be gaining more and more confidence in their abilities to pretty-up their photos as the weeks go by. And though I cannot spill what we’ve been sharing in class, I can share some links that I’ve found personally helpful.

Some of these focus on food styling but that’s not the point, you can replace food with any object you’d like – the point is to examine the techniques shown. I want everyone to take pride in what they are sharing online, whether in their Flickr account, on Etsy, on their blogs, the point is that when you feel confident about the work you are presenting others will want to share it, too. So if you are frustrated and wonder about photography, styling, how to create a budget home photo studio for your small business then these links are for you:

As far as magazines and books are concerning, I can’t direct you there as much because quite frankly, most feel wayyyy over my head and bore me to death. But I just started reading Digital Photographer magazine and find their tutorials super helpful and perfect for all levels. It’s a British title that I think is available at large booksellers in the states because I first found it at Barnes & Noble, so check it out!

Hope these links help you! If you know of some other great websites, online tutorials, books, magazines… please share them with us because I’m sure lots of readers would be grateful for as much help in this area as possible.

(image: holly becker for decor8)


  • Reply thedoodlegirl February 19, 2010 at 9:03 am

    This is something I really want to be better at!!
    .-= thedoodlegirl´s last blog ..Silly Tooth Fairy Note =-.

  • Reply Brooke H February 19, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Thanks for all the great links!
    .-= Brooke H´s last blog ..Retail Therapy: Love Birds? =-.

  • Reply Tricia McKellar February 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

    Thanks Holly! I’m a photographer and I had a little bit of an epiphany with your last Etsy Take Five Tuesday: product shots, in-situ, are a huge not-yet-done item for my business.

    Should I have realized this earlier? Yes. Oh well, I guess we never stop learning…

    Sometimes the right nudge at the right time is what we need.

    Happy Friday :)
    .-= Tricia McKellar´s last blog ..water & sky: black & white =-.

  • Reply Jessica February 19, 2010 at 9:10 am

    This is some great advice. Thanks for all the helpful links you put out on a regular basis, Holly. I can’t wait to study up and incorporate some new techniques, as I know my product pictures could be much better with some more practice.
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..My Latest Creation: Reversible Leather Coasters =-.

  • Reply Diana February 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Holly what a great list!! I’m bookmarking. Is it OK if I share this post as a resource for more information/inspiration in my/Intarsia Concept’s Product Photo course that starts Monday?
    .-= Diana´s last blog ..A Belated Hump Day Happiness =-.

    • Reply decor8 February 19, 2010 at 9:11 am

      Diana of course!

  • Reply tiedupmemories February 19, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Great tips! Thank you! I’m going to take a class!

  • Reply My Owl Barn February 19, 2010 at 9:17 am

    Holly, thanks for the links. I’ll go through them over the weekend. I really needed some good photography tips.
    .-= My Owl Barn´s last blog ..French Connection Tee Giveaway! =-.

  • Reply Brandeye February 19, 2010 at 9:21 am

    I really needed this help for my shop photos. Thanks a million!

  • Reply Tara February 19, 2010 at 9:25 am

    What a great resource Holly, thank you for putting it together. I know a lot of people who will find this very useful and am off to share it with them.
    .-= Tara´s last blog ..Product Photography Recap =-.

  • Reply Clara February 19, 2010 at 9:25 am

    This is a hugely useful and practical topic for many of us who have blogs and/or sell our goods online. Thank you for the links. I’d also welcome hearing, on a regular basis, any tips that you’re willing to share with us based on your own experience.

    .-= Clara´s last blog ..A Life in Post-its =-.

  • Reply City Chic - Jamie February 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Thanks so much Holly! I just got a new camera for my birthday and am having trouble getting the shots I want, it’s funny how you can get so used to a camera and then get a new one and you feel like you are starting over!

    I think joining a flickr group for your camera is helpful as well, then you can ask questions related to your specific camera to people who have the same camera. And I’m always inspired and motivated when I see the awesome shots people take with my same camera. Have a great weekend!
    .-= City Chic – Jamie´s last blog ..Jamaica =-.

  • Reply Kim at EF eDesigns February 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Holly (or others!), this is somewhat related – Do you have any tips for improving the quality of photos of spaces? My partner and I are going to be putting together our portfolio shortly for our online decorating business, and this is definitely an area where the photo quality could either make or break the sale. The photos of your home on Haus Maus are always so lovely!

    Thanks for any advice you can offer!
    .-= Kim at EF eDesigns´s last blog ..Fashion Week =-.

  • Reply pleasesir February 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Thank you SO much for this post. Gives me the advice and push I need to start an Etsy shop!

  • Reply alison February 19, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

  • Reply Sarah February 19, 2010 at 9:54 am

    that was a lot of work for you to put together! thank you so much for the information. very helpful!

  • Reply Sherri B. February 19, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Holly, Thank you so much! I am a late starter (50 something) and have so much to learn and sometimes feel lost in your young world. These links will give me plenty to work with……..Bless you! Have a great weekend.

  • Reply Sarah Sarniak February 19, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your tips. It looks like your course is sold out, will you be having more of them, and how much are they? Thanks!
    .-= Sarah Sarniak´s last blog ..Major Budget Decorating =-.

    • Reply decor8 February 19, 2010 at 11:23 am

      Sarah I’m considering a September class, I’ll let everyone know for sure here on decor8 in August. :)

  • Reply Sandy February 19, 2010 at 10:20 am

    This is sooo sooo helpful! I definitely need some new tips on how to take better food pictures… and just pictures in general! I made a Homemade Lightbox too and it’s soo useful!

  • Reply Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I would recommend (no I’m not getting a commission for recommending!) or The Better Photo Guide to Photography. Better Photo has online classses with real instructors. The classes are a little expensive, but considering how much people spend on their cameras, it’s a relatively small investment. The classes are especially good for people who lack the discipline to learn on their own, and a great way to get feedback from professionals and other students.
    .-= Vanessa´s last blog ..Amy Butler Softwares: Aspen Branches Quilt =-.

    • Reply decor8 February 19, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Vanessa – Have you taken classes there? What did you think?

  • Reply Kristin ~ Bien Living February 19, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Love this! Great links as well, esp for the light box!

  • Reply mightyblonde February 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    I have been trying to find links like this for-e-ver.
    I am making the White Box today!

  • Reply Juliette February 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Great post – I have a friend in Chicago who is about to launch a food-related business and she’s having some angst about photography. I’ve told her a few things, but this post will be a great resource for her!

    Thanks for posting this! I’m emailing her now!

  • Reply Sam February 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

    What a wonderful post. As a writer and designer, I take images very seriously – in a way endorsing those that most clearly lines up with my style objective. However, I do believe that the beautiful thing about the blogging world is that everybody appreciates different things.

    Samantha @PrettyLovely
    .-= Sam´s last blog ..Balcony =-.

  • Reply jen jafarzadeh February 19, 2010 at 11:02 am

    thanks for these links, holly. i’m a big fan of picnik for altering my photos.
    .-= jen jafarzadeh´s last blog ..surprise party =-.

  • Reply Lisa February 19, 2010 at 11:04 am

    What a fantastic article! I’ve been struggling with my picture quality and these links are incredibly helpful. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog. Very insightful and very cute!
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..1-2-3 Giveaway! Part 1 =-.

  • Reply ishtar February 19, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Yes, I agree with sarah,
    THANK YOU HOlly for putting this post together! is really great to learn all this tips!

  • Reply Ivana February 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Thank you so much for the links, can’t wait to delve into them (and sometime, when I have more time, into your classes too…)!
    .-= Ivana´s last blog =-.

  • Reply Lady Ann February 19, 2010 at 11:31 am

    thanks so much for the great links Holly!
    .-= Lady Ann´s last blog ..veronicalovesarchie:Lou okay, i tried but could not resist the… =-.

  • Reply Trisha February 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Holly, I wanted to encourage all those out there who are struggling with this. You are so nice to give out all these lovely links! I have to say that over a year ago I started to dig for just such links, and found many of the ones you’ve mentioned. With much practice, and long hours, I finally made my way and I have YOU to thank for it. You’ve inspired me, and I’m thankful for your encouragement, and your featuring of some of my photos. It worked; I will be featured on Etsy’s Blog this Sunday for Etsy Finds Decor! It all seemed so unattainable a year ago…but because of folks such as yourself, and all the hard work I did, I’m acheiving a little dream of mine. So hang in there all of you in the trenches. It can happen to you too. Just stick with Holly, and you’ll do great. Blessings Holly, we all really appreciate your kindness….and this business decor8.
    .-= Trisha´s last blog ..Bubbly Bubbly Bubbly!!! =-.

  • Reply Emmie -Little Miss Wedding February 19, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    I only just found out about Picknik on our BYW course, and the answer to my prayers. (I have been struggling to find a program that would allow me to resize, make collages etc – that wasn’t PS which sounds a bit too much for me). I am finding the styling tips fantastic and learning more about taking great photos is exactly what I need for my blog. The collection of photos at the top of this post is exactly the sort of thing I want to learn, so I will be sure to keep practising and reading the articles you recommend. I am really loving this journey of discovery!
    .-= Emmie -Little Miss Wedding´s last blog ..Spring Wedding Flowers – Hyacinths all the way. =-.

  • Reply Vanessa February 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Holly, yes, I took 3 classes there. I think they are really good, and high quality. In terms of the learning principles, sure I think you could get those from any photography book. The difference is the feedback you get from instructors and looking at other student’s work. Every week you get a short lesson, and an assignment. For instance, in the beginning classes, one week you learn about shutter speed, another week it may be aperture or white balance. They focus on one skill at a time, then you have an assignment you complete and share with the rest of the class. Instructors provide critiques with helpful feedback, and students can comment on each other’s work. You can also ask your instructors questions at any time. I’m sure there can be some variation in quality based on instructor. One of the classes I took was with a husband/wife team – The Silvermans- and I would recommend their beginner course, if still available.
    .-= Vanessa´s last blog ..Amy Butler Softwares: Aspen Branches Quilt =-.

  • Reply Shay February 19, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    As a student in your Blogging Your Way class, the information you have given us has been priceless. I’ve been an amateur photographer for years , the info I’ve learned has truly been useful and relevant to product shots and blogging. I recommend for anyone to sign up for your class or one like it.
    Another idea is They have a class specifically for “Taking Great Product Photography” which I thought was helpful.
    Thank You for sharing your wealth of information and knowledge.

  • Reply amanda February 19, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    thank you for sharing! i put it in my today-post. just to spread the word ;-)
    .-= amanda´s last blog ..WhatchaWearingWednesday and Whats in your closet? =-.

  • Reply Kyla February 19, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    thanks for these great links!
    .-= Kyla´s last blog night 2010 =-.

  • Reply Vicky February 19, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Thanks for the list of links. We just launched and I am noting that my pictures need a ton of help. As a new business start-up I obviously cannot pay a professional. These links are so helpful for me:)
    .-= Vicky´s last blog ..Inspired weekend =-.

  • Reply rdeco February 19, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Excellent information for those who couldn’t be in your class.

  • Reply Alyssa Ballisty Photography February 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Your product images are beautiful! Thanks for the tips :)
    .-= Alyssa Ballisty Photography´s last blog ..foto friday =-.

  • Reply Jillian February 19, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    Hi Holly, thanks for sharing! I have struggled with this over the past year or so and think I’ve progressed quite a bit. My question is: when you are choosing items to feature here, do you prefer to see products featured on all white backgrounds or styled prettily with other items? I have thought about incorporating more styling and props into my jewelry shots, but I’m nervous about achieving the right balance and detracting from the pieces.
    .-= Jillian´s last blog ..Five Favorite Pieces: Side Chairs =-.

    • Reply decor8 February 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Jillian that is SUCH a good question. I think the key is to focus on the product in the photo and have a few other “supporting” items that convey a feeling or theme that matches the item you are trying to sell. Try to tell a story with these items but don’t let them overtake the photo is the point. Perhaps you can set your camera so that it blurs out everything except for your focal point. Not a heavy blur, just a soft one. That is usually a nice way to shoot, especially macro shots.

  • Reply rachael anderson February 19, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    this is WONDERFUL :) thank you so much for this post.
    .-= rachael anderson´s last blog ..New Favorite =-.

  • Reply Stacey February 19, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Thanks for the links! I’m a frustrated Etsy seller, too, because I know my scarves are pretty and well-made, but my pics aren’t the greatest, and I think that might be why they aren’t selling. So I’ll have to check out the links and work harder at my photography!
    .-= Stacey´s last blog ..Fill in the Blank Friday #4 =-.

  • Reply Amy February 19, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    thank you so so much for posting this! photography is such a mystery for a lot of us (including me) but so vital for our etsy shops… i have noted down this post and will be referring to it when i have time to. have a great weekend everybody :)
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Window Shopping… =-.

  • Reply Sarah February 19, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    So interesting and yes they were helpful thanks! I have been having a go today with a new painting! I hope you don’t mind if I share one of the links you shared (as well as a link to you obviously!) Thanks again.
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Thanks Anne! =-.

  • Reply Meredith February 19, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I, too, feel like I’ve come a long way from where I started with photography but I’m just not quite where I want to be yet. There’s always room for improvement.

    Here’s another great article on photo styling from the design blog, Mint:
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..fabric flowers =-.

  • Reply Molly @ thecreativemaven February 19, 2010 at 5:53 pm

    THANK YOU for this, I just went through some of the info… and the tip on the macro setting just changed my life. I was testing it out with a magazine sitting here next to me at the computer and it makes a HUGE difference in the photo!
    .-= Molly @ thecreativemaven´s last blog ..Peanut Butter + Chocolate = A Perfect Match =-.

  • Reply Jillian February 19, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks, Holly! I’ve received conflicting advice about whether to use light backgrounds or darker backgrounds as well. I think jewelry tends to pop more on darker backgrounds, but I’ve heard many bloggers only like white backgrounds for their inspiration boards. A couple of the links you posted had great tips on post processing white backgrounds, so I am going to give them another go.
    .-= Jillian´s last blog ..Five Favorite Pieces: Side Chairs =-.

  • Reply Gosia February 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Everyone who hasn’t been in Holly’s e-course yet! I’m in now and it’s marvelous! I learn so much and in so many fields: styling, photography, public relations, human relations and many more! It is really worth taking, all the students are head over heels for Holly’s and Leslie’s hard work!
    .-= Gosia´s last blog ..The Warsaw Photoplasticon Postcards =-.

  • Reply this humble abode February 19, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Thank you so much for addressing this. My wife just bought me my first DSLR so I signed up for a local 6 week beginning photography course. So very excited for it! Here’s to hoping it helps my little company grow.

  • Reply Aimee February 19, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    I’m such a newbie at product shots. I know what I like but sometimes get overwhelmed with “trying to set a scene”. Thank you for the links Holly.
    .-= Aimee´s last blog ..found :: teresa robinson =-.

  • Reply Laura February 20, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Thank you Holly. You are a very generous and giving soul. I was wanting to do a course, but could not afford it, and then you post all these wonderful links, and give of your experience. Thank you, thank you so much.
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..My Crush =-.

  • Reply Su February 20, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Hi Holly, thank you so much for sharing all these valuable information!
    .-= Su´s last blog ..Thoughts =-.

  • Reply Kristi February 20, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Holly, what a wonderful post full of knowledge. I so appreciate you sharing these sites with us. ?
    .-= Kristi´s last blog ..Emma’s blessing day =-.

  • Reply Danielle@LiveLikeYou February 20, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    WOW…that was super helpful! There are times when we are unable to hire a professional photographer and it is so great to have some resources to help us. Thanks!
    .-= Danielle@LiveLikeYou´s last blog ..Summer house =-.

  • Reply Ana February 22, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    The info given at BYW classes is totally priceless. It adds a new meaning to blogging and taking pictures. You really get involved in all the process and come to the conclusion that your blog is almost your mirror.
    And I can’t wait to check these links you’ve posted Holly. Thanks so much for everyhting!
    .-= Ana´s last blog ..Blogging Your Way e-course – Week 3 =-.

  • Reply andrea February 23, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Brilliant!I just wrote a post about this! I just took a product photography course a couple of months ago that was absolutely priceless. I learned so much about the differences in everyday snapshots and shooting product specifically. I don’t know that much about photography, but some of the things I learned about how to use light and the different types of light he made very simple to understand (I hope I passed it on in a way that makes as much sense as he did) and has made a HUGE difference in my photography. I have been looking for a good lightbox tutorial and here it is! Thank you for posting the etsy sites as well, might as well dive in with both feet :)
    .-= andrea´s last blog ..The Camera LOVES Ya Baby! =-.

  • Reply Gosia Maj February 23, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Thank you for the useful links. I so wanted to participate in your BYW workshop, but I did not have a blog then yet and though I set it up just days later, it was too late to join your BYW group. Next time, I hope. In the meantime, however, I ogle beautiful blogs like yours and devour the info every time I stumble upon photography-related info. Thank you, Holly, for making this point – I absolutely agree, images on one’s blog, will make or break that blog. When are you planning to have your next BYW?
    .-= Gosia Maj´s last blog ..Picture a Day: Favourite Day =-.

  • Reply Beth February 23, 2010 at 6:07 pm

    Excellent tips…thanks for sharing such awesome information! Photography…definitely the hardest aspect of the indie business. Beth
    .-= Beth´s last blog ..Crafty Tattoos…what say you? =-.

  • Reply dahlila February 24, 2010 at 9:45 pm

    Thank you for this great collection and reminder article. Photos are my biggest issue. I work w/a mid-level digital camera & I’ve started to feel like it was the camera. The working w/digital cameras article was VERY helpful. Will now try using manual settings and not just automatic. Also, I’ll experiment with back lighting for sharper contrasts.

    I never thought about head shots, studio shots, either. This would be good to keep ready, just in case. :-)

    More to read, thank you again, dahlila xxoo

  • Reply gnomeangel March 2, 2010 at 8:32 am

    OMG! THANK YOU so much for this post. It’s just what I have been looking for. Amazing! It’s such a hard thing to understand and now I have some places to go and improve on my product shots. Thank you, it’s brilliant.

    Do you know if you’ll be running another course after this one?

  • Reply Gisely Chessed March 2, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    I can´t thank you enough!

  • Reply The Final Touch March 14, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing these links. They will help me out so much. I will be passing this on to help others. Thank you again!

  • Reply vector artan July 28, 2010 at 10:06 am

    I am a fan of Leslie Shewring. The art pf photography is not as simple as some might think. When is your next BYW workshop?

  • Reply Jamie Knop February 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Some sound advice on product photography. It is very much a production and the advice you give will help people eager to learn somewhat.

  • Reply Eric {Red Lotus Baby Photography} July 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm

    Holly, tyvm for the great share!! Kinda stumbled into decor8 from google today while looking because of an etsy client that we will be shooting for next month. Thanks again!

  • Reply josh November 9, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    great images they look like stock and i mean that as a compliment

  • Reply Jessica December 15, 2011 at 3:20 am

    This was so very helpful. I very, very much appreciate you taking the time to write this post. Thank you SO much. It came at the perfect time. I needed a dose of inspiration and a little direction as I’m inching into pretty product photography.


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