Product Photography 101: Taking Great, Super Basic Shots of Your Work

Cortney Heimerl - Pyragraph

Courtesy of Cortney Heimerl.

Originally published at

Yesterday I made a quick update to my online shop. I have been selling watchful eye patches that I hand embroider for about a year in person and I had a handful left over from different shows I thought I would upload and take a crack at selling them online. Not everything I make gets a spot in my shop—this doesn’t mean that I am not proud of it or I don’t want to sell it. It’s just that I enjoy selling in person so much better. It’s easier for me. I can actually speak to someone who is interested, I can show them little details and point out the craftsmanship as we both look at the object together. It feels nice when they buy something, but it also feels good to share my methods and hear their story. It is a very simple thing.

It’s really easy, but as a show coordinator I also see a ton of blurry photos.

Selling online is a completely different animal and it’s my second favorite. I’ve sold different things online now for years and I have had my successes and my failures for sure. It basically comes down to selling a photograph and describing the piece in a way that makes it sound special and unique and worth it to whatever buyer may come across it. Yesterday morning I had a little impromptu photo shoot and now I am nearly out of eye patches. I have three left if anyone is interested—but I thought I’d share my favorite fast way to take some high quality images to help sell your work. Because you can make it hard—or it can be pretty easy.

I always shoot outside if I can, but the weather has to be just right. Yesterday’s shop update was actually inspired by the weather. It was perfectly grey and overcast with just a little breeze. Too bright or too dark and too windy do not make for good outside photographs. The greyness of the day helps to reduce the awkward shadows and make the true color of the piece come through.

If the weather is just right, I grab my foam core board I bought at Target for about $2. It is about 2×3′ and I use it as my backdrop. I place this board on a bench on my porch. The bench is key—It is about 40″ off the ground, just regular bench height—but it is high enough so I don’t have to work off the ground and low enough so I can lean over the top of the board and take a shot.

Yesterday, I used my iPhone. I took three shots of each style of patch—then I took my phone inside, blew up each photo and picked out the one that seemed to be the clearest and trashed the rest. The best way to take an in-focus photograph is with your legs about shoulder width apart to help you balance. Use one hand to touch the screen to focus and your other hand to snap the photo. Easy, right? It’s really easy, but as a show coordinator I also see a ton of blurry photos—so I guess where your legs and your hands are could be worth noting. After I selected each photo, I uploaded them all into VSCOcam and used their basic editing tools to adjust the exposure, temperature, contrast, straightened it with the rotate button cropped it into a square and finally used the sharpen tool to give it a little kick.

I sent them to myself and used my computer to upload them into Big Cartel—it’s just a little easier to add descriptions on my laptop and then used the photos I took to announce the sale through Instagram. This whole process took about 40 minutes, give or take.

It’s not a good method for larger objects or objects with a lot of depth, but if you are looking for a quick way to take a shot of your small and mostly flat object I’d recommend it.

Included in this post are the images I created yesterday—and I left the product listing up in my shop if you’d like to see it in action.

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About Cortney Heimerl

Cortney Heimerl received her BFA in printmaking and art history in 2005 from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. She received her MA in visual communication from New York University in 2007. Since then, Cortney has co-authored the book Handmade Nation: The rise of DIY, art, craft and design and she contributes articles on art and craft to a number of magazines online and off. She is a Founder of Maker Market, as well as an annual maker fair called Hover Craft that encourages establishing and growing a strong creative community in Milwaukee. Cortney is a mother of two, a wife to one, and her dog is named Watt. 

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