Beautiful product photography for your online shop: styling & props
product photography dos and donts
Product Photography

When you buy things online, exactly what is it that compels you to press that “BUY” button? Especially when you can’t pick stuff up, turn it over in your hands, feel its weight, feel its texture? There are of course a number of reasons, but online, a big part of that ‘thing’ is the product’s IMAGES.

When you’re a maker, it should go without saying that your product image should be well lit with no harsh shadows; horizons and other alignment is straight, and there is ample space around the product so that the picture doesn’t look too cramped. There are tons of tutes out there on how to get all the technical stuff right; I’ve written about it over here, and I also particularly like this one from Jess over on Handmadeology, or this excellent one on the Etsy blog.


photography tips

easy peasy infinity ground


A good camera won’t instantly make you a brilliant photographer.


You’ve got to have a good understanding of what you’re doing and have a clear idea of the result you’re after in order to get consistent results from your camera. Conversely, even if you’re only working with your smartphone, you’re still capable of achieving some very good results.


Please don’t ever think that taking one snap and uploading it direct is a thing.


Before you get even close to uploading your pics to your shop, you need to figure out a few things about your image style.

Start by thinking about your business personality.

Consider what the lighting is like in those images. Is it strong and clear, soft and romantic, or somewhere in the middle? What’s the composition like – are they full and busy, or serene and uncluttered?

Most of the time, a lot of props and/or a complicated background are a bad idea. They confuse the image, and the viewer doesn’t know where to look. Also, if your style is modern and minimal, you’ll probably want to keep things simple on a plain background.

Always always always keep your business personality in mind as you go through the different aspects of product photography below.

Composition. The first thing to remember about your photograph is that it’s in a frame, and therefore it’s a composition (remember that word from high school art classes?). So, you need to think about how to purposefully compose your photo. As noted above, don’t make your item too large in the shot (it looks cramped and uncomfortable) or too small (it looks lost), and keep props to a minimum.

When you’re cropping, keep in mind your pictures don’t have to be the standard height to width ratio! You can crop them to square, or shorter or thinner – whatever suits your object. Cropping also allows you to easily get rid of extraneous detail at the edges (like the edge of the verandah, that lens cap you left on the bench…), as well as allowing you to rotate the image to straighten up slightly crooked horizons. (YES. Please make sure your horizons are straight!)


Props. The most important rule is always Less is More.

photography - whats for sale

Seriously, what’s for sale here?
(Hint: it’s the shirt. But you looked at everything else first, didn’t you?)

So what’s wrong? Let’s see…. Think about what draws your attention first – it’s the white teacup, because it contrasts with the busy florals. The pink bangle stands out for the same reason. And not only is the shirt is only partially shown,  but the background floral is just as busy as the pattern on the shirt, and therefore it just gets lost.


Now you’ve got that, we can move on 😉

Props can play a wonderfully supporting role in your image. You might need to hang your earrings from something, or you might want to spice up your simple block of handmade soap with some fresh herbs or a flower, or put your kids toys next to a floor rug.

Whatever you do and however you set up your shot, look through the camera lens critically and ask yourself, “Does this look too busy? Is it obvious what the thing for sale is?” If it’s too busy, keep on taking things out until you’ve got the absolute minimum props (…just like your mum told you about wearing jewellery when you were young, “Take one more thing off”).

The trick is to make everything in your photo look like you’ve thought about it.

When choosing props, always go back to how you described your brand personality to decide what mood you’d like to convey. If it’s bold and sassy, you might try adding a touch of black or red; if it’s super soft and feminine, you might try adding in some tiny flowers, and use pastel backgrounds.


Editing. In my experience, most images require editing of some description. I ALWAYS adjust contrast and brightness; the aim is to have bright, clear images where it’s easy to see colour and detail.

If low light is a problem for you, digital editing is great for adjusting brightness and contrast, and correcting colour. (However, nothing can fix a blurry photo, so use a tripod or stand for your camera if shake is a problem for you.)

You can also change the colour balance to get rid of colour casts (like when your pic looks too blue or orange), and use the rubber stamp tool to get rid of minor blemishes (such as that bit of fluff you didn’t notice when you were shooting!). I use Photoshop, but if you don’t have it, there are lots of free web-based photo-editing programs out there, such as PicMonkey or GIMP.


Adjusting lighting to suit your style. While I don’t encourage you to alter the colours of your images so that it misrepresents what you have for sale, you can still tweak things to suit your brand style.

For instance, if your style is warm and beachy, you might make your pictures a touch brighter than normal, and tweak the colour slightly to bring up the yellow and orange hues. If your style is mystical, you might want to make your photos slightly darker with higher contrast. Or, if your style is shabby chic and romantic, you might like to soften the contrast, and brighten the image.

Once you’ve figured out your image style, stick with it. As I said earlier, most importantly your images should be in focus, well lit, and not cramped. Tweaking your images should be just that – tweaking – and certainly nothing that’s going to misrepresent your product.


Mixing it up. OK, so now I’ve got you all clicking along happily, feeling comfortable and confident, it’s time to mix it up again by adding in a bit of variety.


This is purposeful variety that fits with your brand, and is designed to add the personal touch. Including real people in your photos can be a big help – for instance, if you sell beachwear, have a couple of shots of happy people wearing your creations at the beach. If you sell jewellery, have a couple of pieces displayed on the body. On your shop’s main page, a couple of people pics amongst 20 or so other product shots will not only demonstrate what these things look like on the body, but because people relate to people, will also add some friendliness/approachability to your shop.

Of course, not every product is suitable for this – you can’t wear graphic design, or furniture. You could however include images of people using your products… or not! Do some research and check out other shops in your niche and see how they style their pics. Which images do you like? Why? How can you extract elements of that and put your own spin on it?


Improving your photography takes a little bit of knowledge, some good hard thinking, and practice practice practice – you’ll ONLY get better with the doing!

Whatever you do, I’d love to see some befores and afters!! If you’ve been around a while and would like to show off your pic from a couple of years back, and your (vastly improved) one from more recently, drop me a link.  If you’d like have a think about some of the points above this afternoon, do some planning, and have a go at it tomorrow, let me know how it went.  If you’re still feeling stuck and you can’t think of any other ways you might make them better, drop me a comment below with a link to your shop/website.

Wishing you snap-happy goodness,
Julie x


Creative ways to get your brand noticed
Creative ways to get your brand noticed:
how to get your brand noticed

Guest Post by Lilly Adams

Today’s market is teeming with competition, and businesses both big and small must strive to stand out. Some brands have become so well-known that their names now replace the generic terms that used to denote similar items. Achieving such a pinnacle of brand awareness is a daunting task, but also the goal that is worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.

The road to success most often requires you to go step by step, but those who step up can make leaps and bounds. So, it is time to get your creative juices flowing and capture the imagination of the customers. Get the word out and plug your personality and business identity wherever you can, both in the digital and the physical realm.

Silence is not golden

Your products speak for you and your business, so you need to make sure they possess a golden tongue. Do your best to create a captivating design, and send free samples to influential bloggers and industry influencers for a review. A product sampling campaign is a great way to enhance the online visibility and make your brand recognizable. Word of mouth promotion can get your small business off the ground, but digital realm is only one part of the strategy.

One must not forget about the real world, and make an effort to make products visible in it too. Car wraps are one of those items that can feature a great customized design. They can cover the whole car, and that sure attracts a crazy amount of attention. So, wherever you go, you can take your brand’s visual identity with you. Do not hesitate to wrap your personal vehicle as well and turn it into a four-wheeled moving piece of promotional magic.

Think outside the promotional box

One of the brilliant examples of nailing a creative promotional product involves the legendary toy brand Lego. Kids adore those little building pieces, but they can turn the room into a minefield that causes pain to their parents. That is why Lego launched specially-designed slippers with thick, Lego-proof soles. They also look like one of the coolest pair of slippers I have ever seen, making them a perfect Christmas gift.

Everyone likes free stuff, there is no doubt. But, I think that we are all fed up with boring, generic gifts and want something that is not only functional, but also unique and adorable. Not many people know, for example, that you can make a personalized visa gift card which features your favourite picture, message, brand, logo, etc. Turning mundane objects into charming items customers are going crazy over is an ultimate art of promotional marketing.

Create stir in social media

Social networks are an immense ocean of opportunities for low-cost and effective marketing. You can use them as a megaphone to shout from the rooftops. So, create a contest and ask people to submit their photos or videos, and vote for their favorites. It is likely that many participants will share their content with friends and family to increase their chances of winning. That way you are building brand awareness effortlessly and in a combined effort with other people, which is a win-win scenario. Embrace trends as well, because things like going green can help you steal the show these days.

Now, do not spread yourself too thin on social platforms and choose those that suit your particular needs. Or to put it in other words, be where your audience hangs out. Surprise them with striking how-to videos and multimedia content. Small businesses in the creative industries can also profit greatly from focusing on Instagram or other photo-heavy websites such as Pinterest. You might have to dig into some analytics and see where your referral traffic is coming from.

Convey a story, add humour

The bulk of memorable brands has attained their present position through the craft of top-notch storytelling. This is the greatest tool of communication we humans have been blessed with, so get familiar with its incredible power. The trick is to connect with an audience on a deeper, emotional level and touch their hearts and soul. One of the best ways to do this online is to make good use of blog posts and boost the online organic traffic with fresh content.

Now, this does not mean you need to be dead serious about it. It is always a good idea to inject some humour and lightheartedness into your efforts. Show a fun aspect of your brand identity and introduce a dose of comedy. Take the example of a hilarious Old Spice commercial or Dollar Shave Club. These promotional videos went viral, and were shared across social networks. When that happens, you can expect your sales to go through the roof.

Finally, establishing a lasting connection and building the essential trust of customers is within your reach.


Lilly J Adams has worked for six years in different marketing agencies across Australia. Her specialities are advertising, digital marketing, marketing for small businesses and consumers behaviour. She loves art, books and watching crime TV dramas. She’s a regular contributor at BizzMarkBlog.

It’s the little things : how to make your brand sparkle
How to make your brand sparkle
brand sparkle - god


“God is in the details” said the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

I’m inclined to agree. Structure is essential, and having an overall plan is a must, but the thing that makes it sing is in those little bits at the edges of perception – so, so good when you find them. It’s not just choosing the right font, the perfect colour; it’s how you use them, it’s what you add, it’s what you alter in a subtle way, it’s those bits that’ve been thought about, it’s how it’s finished.

When it comes to branding, I’m talking borders, overlays, underlays, textures. Not to mention devious twists.

Whatever you choose to add in, ALL of it should be filtered through your brand personality first. Of course, when you’re using colour – use your brand colours! Beyond that, when you’re choosing your flourishes and your curlicues, always ask yourself, what fits?

Before we go any further, Mies Van Der Rohe had something else to say.


Less is More.


Now you’ve got that, we can move on 😉

Let’s take a look at one of my favourite sites on blogging – Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog.

Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog

Design Your Own (Lovely) Blog


Marianne uses blocks of colour in her sidebar to group things together – not only does this separate it effectively from everything else, it also draws attention to different aspects of what she has to offer. And of course, she does it in her brand colours of coral, aqua and grey. Another way she adds interest is to use circles to draw attention to specific things on her site – her profile photo, and the word “lovely” on her blog header.

You can add life to your own site by adding in simple blocks of colour in strategic places – across the bottom of your website banner, as the headings of your sidebar sections, on your business cards and stationery, and on any press releases, e-books or other material you publish.

If you’d like something a bit more delicate or homey, use a fancy border style instead – zigzags or scallops add instant fun. Here’s an example of a very pretty WordPress theme from my friend Libby at Crimson Pear.

brand sparkle - crimson pear

The ‘Eloise’ WordPress theme from Crimson Pear


Or, try this sweet sewing border detail across the top of the beautifully clean yet feminine SewSewShoppe.

It's the details! Love the zigzag stitch border on SewSewShoppe

It’s the details! Love the zigzag stitch border on SewSewShoppe


Another idea to tie all of your design together is use a simple overlay. The immensely talented Jo Klima at The Darling Tree uses her own snowflake mandala-style geometrics to overlay images, with a wonderful result. Note too, the matching triangles in both the Menu tab and the shapes within her geometric. She always uses lots of white to offset the stronger main brand colours of purple and magenta and accents  with tiny bits of black.

one of Jo Klima's offerings at The Darling Tree

one of Jo Klima’s offerings at The Darling Tree



Special effects are also a great way to add in personality – try watercolour or goldleaf.

watercolour themed home page for

watercolour themed home page for

Watercolour’s been around for a little while, but I don’t see it going away any time soon. ReverieMade is the website for a New Jersey event manager.

Adding gold leaf (or any other texture – basketweave, crumpled paper, grass, velvet…) to an image is very easy if you want to add that kind of sparkle to your site. Marianne’s got a fab tutorial over at DYOB here.

how to add gold leaf (or any other texture) to text and images, on DYOB

how to add gold leaf (or any other texture) to text and images, on DYOB


Of course there are a zillion more ways of adding interest  your site; try googling a term like “feminine website design inspiration” to find plenty more inspiration!




Have you seen any great details on sites recently, big or small? Tell us about them! Share your inspiration around, and help make the world a prettier place for everyone.

Julie X

avi daisies circle crop


For all my life I’ve heard the beat of a different drum.

But I only danced to it when nobody was watching.
Because I was always told that Art as a career was not an option.
I was told it wasn’t a “real job”. I spent my time living in the “comfort zone” – squeezing myself into other people’s suits, fitting whatever creative pursuits I had into the space at the sides of my life. Except my comfort zone wasn’t really all that comfortable – it always smelled of dissatisfaction.

I changed jobs a lot; I shifted focus. I partied a lot too.

One day, I went to a networking event. It had the usual array of inspirational talks and pictures of big houses and fancy cars, and I came away thinking


“Wow, I can do anything!”


– I just had to follow their method. I spent time dreaming big – the clothes, the shoes, the lifestyle…

But those riches were always so disconnected from my reality; forever unattainable. And their ‘method’ was beyond me. So I didn’t. Deep down, I never believed I could ever get “there”. So, more jobs.

But the push to Art kept on pushing me. I took the plunge and went to uni as a mature-age student; several years and a scholarship later, I emerged with a PhD in Fine Arts. I was happy as a clam. All that time, I dreamt of afterwards when I’d be teaching adults in the halls of academia. I had purpose, and it was blissful.

Funding at the university shifted; the course changed, and I never got that job.

I taught high school instead. (Please don’t ever put me in front of a group of angsty teenagers again; I have the utmost respect for those of you who can do this.)

I welcomed babies into my life. Parenting is a joy – and a mixed bag of frustrations, with its constant focus on the details of daily life. I needed something outside. I started an Etsy shop. I started a blog. I started another blog.

I joined too many groups, read too many business articles titled “three easy steps”, because of course they had the answer that I didn’t.

Blog/join/read, and repeat.

I’d tried so many things in my life. “Real” jobs were dissatisfying (or worse), and making money as an artist/maker seemed too hard and slow. So I’d kept moving, feeling ever more hopeless about my inability to stick to anything.

But I did go to another conference. And when the speaker asked “Who says you need to stop? ” it floored me. How could I be so tough on myself? Why was I holding myself back?

Why was I such a wimp? I never used to be.

Right there I discovered I didn’t have to stop.
Right there I discovered I could be me.

And I discovered my “thing”. It’s Beauty.


Beauty is my mission.


Beauty takes a million forms; each one no more or less lovely than another, and each one true to itself.
Beauty is my boat on the sea of life; it carries my every dream, and it carries my every passion.
Beauty is my weapon. It’s my swiss army knife, my light sabre, and my ‘force’.

Because beauty makes us happy, and happiness is worth having.


So here I am, full of life experience, and full of vision. Because I can be me.

I’m a teacher, a facilitator and an interpreter of sorts. And as much as I can make things beautiful for you, it’s not going to make as much change as if I teach you how to do it for yourself.

I truly want the world to be a prettier place. So I give my skills to you, because you can change the world.