Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo Makeover Series Part 1: Choosing Backgrounds

Hopefully you've had time to explore your shop photos and you now have a better idea what photos you would like to improve. So, where do we start our journey to better product photos? It's all about location, location, location!


Take this photo for example. Yes, that’s one of my very first crowns, and one of my very first product photo attempts. First, take a look at the chosen background. Wrinkled purple tissue paper and a rotary cutting mat serve as the backdrop for this photo. To top it off I took this photo at night under fluorescent light with a flash. I'm not ashamed to admit that it's a complete product photo nightmare!

What are you using for your photo backgrounds? Take a look at your shop photos. Look past the object itself and see what’s happening behind it. Past that adorable model showing off your latest creation, what do you see? Wait a that your husband lounging on the sofa next to a pile of dirty to a sink full of dirty dishes...and is that the dog digging through the trash? Oh, wait that’s my house! All kidding aside, it’s easy to have eyes only for the object we are photographing. Remember that backgrounds count too.

Do you have a busy and distracting background that might prevent a buyer from keeping their eye on your adorable item? Choosing a solid colored background is a great place to start. Dark colored items stand out well against light colored backgrounds, and vice versa. Experiment with cardstock, posterboard, foamcore, and scrapbooking paper. A well ironed piece of linen fabric, nature inspired backdrops such as wood, or a clean neutral colored wall can also make an attractive background. Photographing small items? Check out your local home improvement store for tiles in white porcelain or other neutral tones. Decorative ceiling tiles are another great option. And don't be afraid to experiment with contrasting background textures to see how they work with or against your product.
Natural light, in most cases is the best lighting for your photographs. If you are able, take your photos outdoors. If you are stuck indoors, start scouting the best indoor location for your photos. You want a place that provides the greatest amount of natural light. We’ll discuss lighting in more detail next month so don’t fret if you're not sure how to enhance your photos with lighting just yet.

Now, let's take a look at some examples of background mistakes:

Here’s an example where cropping can make a world of difference. Are you looking at the cape and crown in this photo, or are you distracted by the other kid in the background and the lovely flood around those gorgeous electrical boxes in my backyard?

Here’s another example of a
distracting background. Which shot best showcases this tea set? 

Is your eye constantly pulled toward the busy flowered table cloth in the photo on the left?

Things to avoid:
1. Cluttered or distracting backgrounds
2. Photos taken with your products on floors, carpets, or bed linens.
3. Photos taken with your products on wrinkled fabric or fabric/background with distracting colors and patterns.
4. Photos taken with a light source directly from behind can wash out details in your product. Set up your photos near a window, but angle your shots to ensure that the light isn’t coming directly behind or through your product. *NOTE this exception: When photographing beaded or gemstone jewelry back lighting can actually make your jewelry pop! Experiment with letting the light shine through the beads.
5. Photos taken with a flash.

Don’t let your background draw attention away from your product. Your product should be the star of the show!

Can you spot the photo background mistakes below that are keeping this cute hair bow from stealing the show?

This Month’s Challenge and Goals:
1. Do a visual inventory of your shop photos. What type of background are you currently using? Is it clean, crisp, and free of distractions?
2. Start looking around your house for the best location for your photos. Where can you find the best natural light and what is the best time of day to take photos in your new found location? Scout out locations for your photos outdoors, weather permitting, and again figure out what time of day provides the best lighting. Take sample pictures at different times of the day to see how the light affects your photos, and how the background works with or against your product.
3. Eliminate any blurry photos or photos taken with a flash. Start your photo sessions out by first turning off your camera's flash. You can conquer blurry photos by:
1. Adding more light
2. Avoiding camera shake: Hold your camera steady by firmly planting your elbows against your side. Rest your arms or camera on a ledge or lean against a wall or the surface you are photographing your product on. Tripods are another way to prevent camera shake.
3. Make sure that your camera is accurately focused.
4. Learn how to use your camera's Macro setting. Learn more here.
** Want to learn more? Read this article on avoiding blurry photos.
Want to read more? Check out these articles!

*To enter this month’s challenge, post a before and after picture of one of your current shop listings in need of a background makeover on our Facebook page. Be sure to post the listing URL in the comment box under the posted pictures. You can read more about how to post pictures on Facebook here. If you don’t have a Facebook account, please email your before and after pictures along with a link to the listing in your shop to with “Background Makeover” in the subject line.

This month’s challenge winner will be chosen based on most improved in the area of photo backgrounds. The winning photo, including a link to the winner’s shop, will be featured in next month’s post. The winner will also have their new and improved listing featured in an Etsy mini on the EKTT blog!
*You may enter as many background makeover photos as you like for this month's challenge.

**The DEADLINE for photo submissions on Facebook or via email is March 18th.**
Good luck and happy photographing!

**Miss an installment in the EtsyKids Photo Makeover Series? Click HERE for the entire series.


  1. Stephanie, I love how easy to implement this particular change is--it's something we might not think about a lot, but it's very important. I've noticed if the mistakes are made (like photographing on carpet or dirty bed sheets) that it makes me not want to purchase the item because I think it's not clean! Thank you so much for these helpful tips!

  2. I posted mine on FB. I have a few more however that I redid. Can I post those too??? :)

  3. Hi Nicolette! You may make as many entries as you like--post away! Thanks so much! xo-Loren

  4. This has helped me focus in on the changes I need to make to my pictures. Now to find my worst one and make it picture perfect. Thanks for this.

  5. I'm so glad that you are finding the series helpful, Tutu Cure and Moore! There's still time to enter the background makeover challenge! :)

  6. These are great tips/ techniques! I'm learning and trying to update my photos when I have time!
    thanks for the sharing ~ Cathy

  7. Haha! When I look at my very first sold items, I still shutter! At the time, I knew the photos were bad, but I was in too much of a hurry to post! A few months later, I drew inspiration from FeltPlayground (I loved her picnic blanket in every shot. To me, it showed consistency and went along with her shop theme SO well.), and picked a background that went along with my look and created the clean feel I wanted-in my case a notebook. I like the look it gives off, and for me, it works. I don't have to go outside to take pictures. I just open all the blinds, prop the notebook up (so I have a bottom and a background), turn off the flash and get to work. The size works for MOST of my pictures...I'm still trying to come up with an alternative for my larger items!